Cincinnati Bengals fans would have been forgiven for having doubts when, on February 4, 2019, the team announced that they were hiring Zac Taylor for the first head coaching gig of his career. They’d have certainly been forgiven for having doubts when his debut season saw the team slump to a 2-14 record and the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Fast forward to the present day, though, and the Bengals are a completely different outfit. With Joe Burrow at the helm, the team finds itself in the AFC Championship Game. They’re just one win away from their first Super Bowl appearance since 1988. While the Kansas City Chiefs are favorites, the Bengals have already defeated them once this season and will be confident of doing so again.
Zac Taylor’s coaching career
Taylor’s first foray into coaching was as a graduate assistant at Texas A&M. He worked under former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman, his father-in-law.
His first NFL coaching job was with Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, joining as an assistant quarterbacks coach in 2012. Taylor was then promoted to QB coach for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. When Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was fired during the 2015 season, Taylor stepped into the interim role for the remainder of the campaign.
Taylor would land his first job in Cincinnati in 2015, although this was with the college Bearcats. He served as the team’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator under Tommy Tuberville. Taylor stayed for just one year before returning to the NFL, this time as the assistant wide receivers coach for Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams. He impressed enough in his lone season in the role to earn a promotion to quarterbacks coach ahead of the 2018 season.
Becoming Bengals head coach
Taylor was one of many coaches sought-after due to his involvement with the new school of offensive geniuses.
While he may not be held in the same regard as McVay, Kyle Shanahan, or Matt LaFleur yet, he looks sure to extend his stay with the Bengals beyond the end of his first contract, which expires after the season.
Bengals owner Mike Brown has shown patience in the past. After a rocky start, Taylor looks to have built a team that can compete for the foreseeable future.
His regular-season coaching record is now 16-32-1 but has improved every year. The Bengals followed up his 2-14 debut campaign with a 4-11-1 second season. This year’s 10-7 saw him earn his first postseason berth.
Coaches’ salaries arent always widely published, but Taylor’s reported salary is $4.5 million. Entering the 2021 NFL season, Taylor’s salary ranked 17th, which at the time seemed high. Prior to the start of this season, Taylor was 6-25-1.
Zac Taylor’s playing career
Taylor entered the 2007 NFL Draft as a quarterback out of Nebraska but wasn’t selected. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed him as an undrafted free agent, but he could not make the team. Taylor then moved north of the border, joining the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. He was a member of the team’s practice roster for the 2007 season but didn’t play a game.
After an uninspiring playing career, Taylor appears to have found his place as a head coach. The Bengals have lost their previous Super Bowl appearances. The San Francisco 49ers lifted the Lombardi Trophy on both occasions. With the 49ers facing the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship game, both teams will hope to meet for a third time on February 13.