Bengals: Zac Taylor is showing legitimate signs of improvement

Head coach Zac Taylor of the Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Head coach Zac Taylor of the Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

Is Cincinnati Bengals’ head coach Zac Taylor showing genuine improvement or have his wins over the Steelers and Texans been a fluke?

As the Cincinnati Bengals’ 2020 season has progressed, there has been no shortage of criticism of head coach Zac Taylor, with plenty even calling for him to lose his job at times. However, with recent wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers and Houston Texans, there have been some signs that Taylor may be starting to figure things out. I’m not ready to eat crow just yet, but the second-year head coach is making a strong case for himself.

When Joe Burrow went down with a season-ending injury in November, it looked like the Bengals wouldn’t win another game for the rest of the year. Losses against the Giants, Dolphins, and Cowboys made it look even more likely that Taylor would end his second season with a 4-27-1 record. Then everything changed on Monday Night Football against the Steelers, who were 11-2 entering the contest.

Taylor and the Bengals didn’t just beat the Steelers, they dominated. With his third starting quarterback of the season in Ryan Finley, Taylor worked with what he had and called a great game. Focusing on an unlikely running duo of Finley and Giovani Bernard, the Bengals scored 27 points, the most they have put up against the Steelers since 2006.

Not only did they impress on offense, but the defense did a great job of stopping Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense. Big Ben only completed 20 of his 38 passes, with talented receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool combining for just 6 catches and 69 yards.

This dominant victory was important for a few reasons. Taylor not only got his first win over the Steelers but the franchise’s first win against their bitter rivals since 2015. They also won this game in primetime, where the Bengals have been notoriously bad over the years. Taylor pulled this all off with his third starting quarterback of the season.

Zac Taylor proved the MNF showdown wasn’t just luck

After the Bengals’ big primetime win, many considered it a fluke. The narrative coming out of the game was that the Steelers had lost the game, not that the Bengals had won it. However, Taylor showed the following Sunday that he was getting the hang of winning when he made a trip to Houston.

With Brandon Allen at quarterback, the Bengals beat the Texans 37-31. Allen completed 29/37 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns, and the offense had a whopping 540 total yards, which was the highest such total the franchise has gained in a single game since 2016. Not only did Taylor coach a stellar offensive game with a backup quarterback, but he earned his first career road win in the process.

Taylor is not totally in the clear, as he has still shown himself to have some major flaws this year. However, he is a young coach who seems to finally be putting things together. With another offseason to build the team, refine his coaching staff, get Burrow back, and develop his young quarterback, he could have the tools to right the ship and be the coach the Bengals hired him to be.

Next. Bengals' slide in draft position is a non-issue. dark