Zac Taylor - Cincinnati Bengals
Zac Taylor, head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, at the NFL Combine

The Cincinnati Bengals named Zac Taylor their 10th head coach in franchise history. It didn’t take long though for the cracks in the foundation to start appearing. This hire is going to be great or a disaster – there is no in-between.

The Cincinnati Bengals are in trouble. No, it’s not because they took an ill-advised chance on Zac Taylor, whose most significant accomplishment on his resume is his association with Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay.

It’s because they were turned down by multiple candidates for their defensive coordinator position. With an offensive-minded head coach, this is arguably the second most important position on the coaching staff. This is especially true as the Bengals need to rebuild their roster this offseason.

A former interim defensive coordinator who was the seventh choice

Before we go back in time, let’s begin by saying that Taylor finally did find his defensive coordinator in former Miami Dolphins and New York Giants secondary coach, Lou Anarumo. Anarumo appeared to be in a race with Rams defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant. It was likely the former experience with Taylor in Miami that secured the job for Anarumo.

Anarumo previously served as the defensive backs coach at Purdue under Joe Tiller and Danny Hope from 2004-2011, the Dolphins from 2012-2017, and the Giants in 2018.

While he is a respected coach around the league and has interim defensive coordinator experience, he wasn’t their first choice.

Or their second choice. Or their third, fourth, fifth, or sixth choice. He was their seventh choice.

Jack Del Rio – the one that would have made the most sense

You can say that Taylor’s search began with now Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. However, he was never really a real option as he was passed up for the head coach position.

In reality, Taylor began the search for a new defensive coordinator by talking to former Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio. Jack Del Rio is well-respected around the league and has plenty of experience. All things equal, he would have been a perfect fit for someone like Taylor who is inexperienced. Del Rio would have been able to bring his experience around the league and help stabilize this franchise.

However, it didn’t happen. While Del Rio wanted the job, Taylor did not want him. The word on the street is that it wasn’t a great fit. What could have possibly gotten in the way of this marriage? Yes, you want to make sure you fit, but sometimes you have to overlook warts. This is especially true if you can land someone who has over 20 years of coaching experience in the National Football League.

Thank you, but I’ll pass

After Taylor moved on from Del Rio, Taylor tried to lure University of Florida defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham. After it appeared that he was headed to the Bengals, he reversed the script and decided to stay at Florida. He also tried to reel in Ohio State’s Jeff Hafley, co-defensive coordinator of the powerhouse Buckeyes, but he declined to interview.

He then tried to talk to New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. This was likely never going to happen, and it was confirmed when the Saints denied permission. The Saints didn’t want to lose Allen, but it’s also likely that Allen didn’t want the Bengals. Why go there when you have it made in New Orleans?

After that, Taylor then tried to talk to Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn, but the Saints blocked that move as well.

Rejected by Grantham, Hafley, Allen, and Glenn, it appeared that maybe Taylor would be saved. That’s because a report surfaced that Dom Capers was a candidate for the position. This was big because Capers has decades of coaching experience, and was likely the second best option behind Del Rio. Would the planets align for Taylor? No. Capers decided to join the Jaguars as a senior defensive assistant. This was after he and Taylor agreed they weren’t fit for each other.

What’s the problem with Taylor?

There has to be something under the surface. Taylor didn’t like Del Rio and four candidates rejected him. Capers couldn’t see himself fitting in. What was Taylor telling these candidates in the initial contact phase and during the interview?

It is also concerning that Taylor was rejected by this many candidates for another reason. When you go into a head coaching interview, you are supposed to have a list 3-4 names deep of possible candidates for your top positions. It is apparent that Taylor did not have a good handle on this. While Bengals fans may overlook this, they shouldn’t. It’s a big red flag.

Note that these were the names that were made public. We don’t know who else he reached out to that didn’t become public.

A series of unfortunate events

While we shouldn’t judge a head coach less than one month into the job, it hasn’t exactly been a great start. The Bengals have much work to do. Relying on an inexperienced defensive coordinator when you’re a first-year head coach raises many eyebrows. Here’s hoping, at least for Bengals fans, that Taylor and those around him can figure this out. If they do, this defensive coordinator search will only be a blip on the radar.