The Bengals have this sneaky edge over the Titans

Kristen Wong
Zac Taylor, Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Zac Taylor, Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

Forget Burrow and Chase. The Cincinnati Bengals’ most dangerous (and secret) weapon against the Tennessee Titans will be…Zac Taylor.

Taylor spent a total of eight years working with Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, dating back to 2008 when Taylor helped coach Tannehill at Texas A&M. At the time, Taylor was just starting his coaching career, and he eventually got a more hands-on role with the quarterback in 2012, when Taylor served as the assistant quarterbacks coach for the Miami Dolphins.

In Miami, Taylor got his best intel on Tannehill’s strengths and deficiencies, and he’ll get the opportunity exploit the latter on Saturday in the AFC Divisional Round playoff game.

Taylor coached Tannehill for four seasons with the Dolphins, and he claims he may know Tannehill better than Tannehill even does:

Let’s hope those tapes have stayed fresh in Taylor’s mind.

This Bengals-Titans matchup will feature the master and his pupil, Obi-Wan and Anakin, as Zac Taylor attempts to topple Tannehill’s No. 1 seeded Titans.

Cincinnati Bengals HC Zac Taylor and Ryan Tannehill go way back

Saturday marks only the second time Taylor will face Tannehill in the league. In their last meeting, Taylor’s side upset the Titans 30-21 in 2020. The Bengals only won four total games that season, and Tennessee has since made drastic changes on defense.

But Cincinnati also got a makeover, namely acquiring Ja’Marr Chase and upgrading its offensive line. The two teams have adopted new identities in 2021, and the game could see a number of tantalizing showdowns: Derrick Henry vs. the Bengals run defense. Chase vs. the Titans secondary. And Zac Taylor vs. Ryan Tannehill.

Taylor recently lavished praise on his former pupil in a press conference:

"He’s a really impressive, smart quarterback who always seems to put his teams in the best position. He’s a great athlete. I think he could have played wide receiver in the NFL had he not played quarterback. He can diagnose a defense and put his offense in the best position."

Taylor still holds respect and admiration for Tannehill, as he should, but there’s no question who’s the better quarterback in this matchup — Joe Burrow has Ryan Tannehill beat in almost every statistical category.

In the passing game, Tannehill’s throws average nearly two yards fewer than Burrow’s league-leading 8.9 yards per attempt.

Whereas Burrow has revolutionized the Bengals franchise, Tannehill merely balances the Titans, who have long relied on the unstoppable rushing attack of Derrick Henry.

But Tannehill does carry a special skillset of his own, marked by his athleticism and mobility which allows him to play outside of the pocket. Despite being one of the most disrespected No. 1 seeds in NFL history, the Titans didn’t get this far by a total fluke. They embody a solid, well-rounded albeit gritty team that could beat any team in the league on any given day.

It’ll be up to Zac Taylor to throw a giant wrench in Tennessee’s well-laid plans and spoil their glistening playoffs hopes.

Next. Bengals 3-round mock draft. dark

This is the Cincinnati Bengals’ year. No hard feelings.