The Cincinnati Bengals won six games in their first two seasons with Zac Taylor as their head coach. They’ve won nearly as many playoff games in the subsequent two years. Going into his fifth season, however, the 39-year-old believes he’s the same man who first stepped into the building in 2019 to take on the job.
“I understand how to do the job better”, he told the team’s website recently about the growth he has made over the course of his stay in Cincinnati. “I hope people would see the same person from five years ago”.
Five years ago, he was the quarterbacks coach for the Los Angeles Rams under Sean McVay, whom he would later face in the Super Bowl at the end of the 2021 season. Taylor had the edge for much of the game, but McVay’s Rams secured the title with a last-minute, game-winning drive.
Taylor began his coaching career at the age of 25 as a graduate assistant at Texas A&M in 2008. He was a college quarterback himself, playing for Wake Forest, Butler, and finally Nebraska under Bill Callahan, whose son, Brian, is now his offensive coordinator.
“He does a really good job with staying the course and handling things that make some guys lose their minds. He never loses his”, the younger Callahan told the Bengals’ website. “He’s the same guy every day he walks into the building. You never see him rise or fall. He handles adversity as well as anyone I’ve ever been around”.
Callahan cited the team’s 0-2 start to the 2022 season just a year after making it to the Super Bowl and how they turned things around to nearly reach the Super Bowl a second year in a row. They went 12-2 for the final 14 games of the regular season before beating the Baltimore Ravens and the Buffalo Bills (the latter on the road) in the postseason, narrowly losing to the eventual champion Kansas City Chiefs in the conference finals on a last-second field goal.
The team that Taylor inherited in his first year certainly looks very different to the team of today. That is due primarily to the drafting of Joe Burrow in 2019, after the Bengals held the top pick in the draft following a 2-14 season. Another struggle helped them land wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase in the following draft.
The two now largely define the Bengals’ offense, and perhaps sensing an actual future, the owner and front office have finally begun to spend to the cap, serving as active participants in free agency, which they’ve used primarily to populate their defense.
Taylor may not have changed from his first 2-14 team to his 12-4 team of last season, but the Bengals certainly have under him. After all, he doubled the franchise’s postseason win total already, though the first Super Bowl championship remains elusive.