CINCINNATI (AP) — The Bengals went more than a month without a coach after firing Marvin Lewis. The Super Bowl’s over, and so is their long wait to bring Zac Taylor to town to size him up as the successor.
They’ve targeted the Rams quarterbacks coach as Lewis’ replacement, but they weren’t able to close in on a deal until LA’s season ended with a 13-3 loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl on Sunday night.
After three straight losing seasons and 28 years without a playoff win, the Bengals decided to join the wave — looking for a young, offensive-minded coach. They and the Dolphins were the last two teams waiting to hire new coaches — Miami was expected to hire the Patriots’ Brian Flores on Monday.
For Taylor, it’ll be a return visit.
The 35-year-old coach already knows about the town’s affinity for chili parlors. He was offensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati in 2016, when the Bearcats finished 4-8. Coach Tommy Tuberville was replaced after the season, and Taylor headed back to the NFL.
He also knows about the professional football team’s long-standing futility, too. During his one year in town, the Bengals were starting their streak of three straight losing seasons that ultimately cost Lewis his job after 16 seasons without a playoff victory.
Taylor would be the Bengals’ youngest head coach since they hired Dave Shula at age 32 in in 1992. Shula went on to lose 50 games faster than any coach in NFL history, finishing with a mark of 19-52.
Taylor is only four years older than Andy Dalton and five years older than A.J. Green, the core of an offense that has been sapped by injuries and finished among the least productive in the league the last two seasons. Taylor is taking a cue from his father-in-law, a former NFL head coach, in how to handle such situations.
“My father-in-law, Mike Sherman, coached a long, long time, and he just said, ‘Be true to yourself. Be who you are, and people will follow you,’” Taylor said during Super Bowl week. “And I found that way to work for me.”
The next head coach’s challenge is reminiscent of what Lewis faced when he arrived in 2003. He’ll be counted upon only to win games, but also to win back fans turned off by the owner’s aversion to change.
Mike Brown was loyal to Lewis and stuck with him despite an 0-7 mark in the playoffs, the worst in NFL history for a head coach. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season under Sam Wyche, tied with Washington for the fifth-longest streak of postseason futility in league history.
Since then, Shula, Bruce Coslet, Dick LeBeau and Lewis failed to get a playoff win. They managed only seven winning seasons combined, all by Lewis.
Crowds at Paul Brown Stadium have shrunk each of the last three years, with the Bengals finishing second-to-last in the NFL attendance last season. By bringing in an outsider as head coach, the Bengals hope to send a message that things are changing.
It won’t be easy in the short-term.
Last season, the Bengals had their youngest team in Lewis’ 16 years, and the inexperienced showed. Even though the Bengals kept Lewis all these years, they’ve been unsettled at the coordinator positions in recent years, adding to the challenge. Dalton will be working under his third different coordinator in the last three seasons. The defense will have its fourth coordinator in three years — Lewis moved into the role last season after firing Teryl Austin.
Taylor’s work with quarterbacks made him a head coaching prospect.
He wasn’t much of a quarterback prospect himself. Undrafted out of Oklahoma, he played one year as a backup with Winnipeg in the CFL.
He joined the Dolphins in 2012 and helped Ryan Tannehill develop into one of the league’s top passers. He took over as offensive coordinator for five games in 2015 after Bill Lazor — the Bengals’ coordinator last season — was fired. After the one season at the University of Cincinnati, Taylor hooked up with the Rams to work with Jared Goff.
Now, he’s being looked at as someone who could run an entire team.
“A lot of things stand out about him, but Zac is so good at communication and being open and honest,” Goff said. “He’s a lot like Sean in that way. He’s got a bright future.”
AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Atlanta contributed to this report.
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