The NFL playoffs have been an interesting experience for a couple of teams who were never a part of it this season. Both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Miami Dolphins, who fired their head coaches already in the offseason, are anticipated to be targeting assistant coaches on the staffs of the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots, respectively, and because of that, they have had to wait to make it official, since a team’s season must come to a conclusion before another team can officially hire one of their coaches.
It’s both good news and bad news—good in the sense that you know that you are bringing in a coach who was a part of a successful organization that you obviously feel contributed to that success, but bad from the more practical perspective, as it delays almost everything about your offseason process.
It’s generally a disadvantage for teams who make deep runs into the postseason with respect to how it sets up their preparation for the next season; you’ve probably seen Bill Belichick grumble about how playing in Super Bowls prevents him from getting a leg up on the next year all the time (such a burden).
Now the irony is that two teams in the bottom half of the league are being forced into that same disadvantage of a waiting game because the coaches that they have earmarked as being capable of leading their teams still have jobs with teams whose seasons continue.
It’s been an open secret for several weeks at this point that the Bengals’ target of choice is Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor, and they have almost entirely gutted their coaching staff in preparation for bringing him in, giving him the luxury of filling out his own group. But that, too, has had to wait because of the Rams’ success.
From what I understand, teams are allowed in some way to ‘declare’ their intentions to sign a coach following the conference championship round and speak to their intended coach again, which could allow them to make some preparations over the course of the next two weeks, but their time will understandably be limited as they prepare for the biggest game possible in the sport.
The Bengals and former head coach Marvin Lewis elected to mutually part ways after 16 seasons. He ends his career on a streak of three consecutive losing seasons, but he reached the postseason, including a couple of division titles, in five straight years prior to that—which is longer than any streak the Pittsburgh Steelers have had since the early- to mid-90s.
The Bengals have been an organization of stability in inconsistency and chaos for over a decade and a half, so making this change at head coach will be a major shakeup. Lewis was very complicit in bringing in players with off-field troubles and covering for them. Will Taylor be tasked with changing that culture?