Those who had reservations were concerned that Taylor barely has any experience as an offensive coordinator. The year and a half of experience he has between the NCAA and the NFL does not instill much confidence in his play calling abilities.
But there is a common thread among the NFL’s best head coaches and offensive coordinators that Taylor shares: he is a great quarterbacks coach.
Most offensive coaches in the NFL were quarterbacks at one time in their careers.
Some coaches, like Doug Pederson and Jason Garrett, were former NFL quarterbacks (albeit not very good ones). Other coaches like Andy Reid and Bill O’Brien never played quarterback at any level, but served as quarterbacks coaches before being promoted to head coach.
Of all active NFL coaches, Taylor would be the only head coach to be promoted directly from quarterbacks coach to head coach aside from Sean Payton, who was the Cowboys’ assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach before taking the Saints’ head coaching job in 2006.
Other former quarterbacks or quarterbacks coaches who are active head coaches are Freddie Kitchens, Matt Nagy, Frank Reich, Kyle Shanahan, Bruce Arians, Jay Gruden, Adam Gase and Kliff Kingsbury.
This seems to be an effective strategy because not only has nearly half of all NFL head coaches spent time in the quarterbacks room, but five of the head coaches to make it the divisional round of this years’ playoffs fit the bill.
What is it that makes quarterbacks such good head coaches?
For the most part, it has to do with the playbook. Quarterbacks have to learn the ins and outs of the whole playbook so they can run the offense and adjust accordingly in-game. Not only do quarterbacks have to throw the football, but they have to know all of routes and all of the blocking schemes.
So usually, if a head coach or offensive coordinator is not a former quarterback, odds are they were probably a center at one point in their careers, since they also have to know a great wealth of the playbook.
Also, when quarterbacks arrive at the line of scrimmage, they have to be able to read the defense and identify what they are throwing at him. So not only are they best positioned to run an offense, but they also are good with defensive schemes.
Zac Taylor is a former quarterback himself. In his senior year of college in 2006, he lead the Nebraska Cornhuskers to the Big 12 Championship game while also earning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. That season, Taylor threw for 3,197 yards with 26 touchdowns and only 8 interception, completing 59.6 and earning a 146.1 quarterback rating.
Taylor failed to make his mark in professional ball. After he was cut by the Buccaneers in 2007, he became the fourth-string quarterback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL.
After serving as a graduate assistant for three years, Taylor got his first shot at coaching quarterbacks with the Miami Dolphins in 2012. After one season he was promoted from assistant quarterbacks coach to quarterbacks coach. He kept that job until the Adam Gase regime cleaned house and Taylor went on to call the plays for the Cincinnati Bearcats for a season.
Taylor combined his offensive coordinator duties with coaching quarterbacks in 2016. The next season, he was hired as Sean McVay’s wide receivers coach for the Rams, which would be his only stint in professional football where he was not involved with quarterbacks. Then of course, his title was changed to quarterbacks coach for this past season.
While the joke is going around that anyone who has shaken hands with McVay is getting head coaching opportunities, Taylor is actually a strong candidate on his own. His experience with quarterbacks is one key factor in a formula that leads to success.
But why would the Bengals hire such an inexperienced coach?
They seem to think highly of Taylor, and believe he really his the next big thing. The Bengals didn’t want to miss their opportunity to hire the up-and-coming wunderkind. So his experience with quarterbacks will have to do for now. But that is nothing to scoff at, since most successful NFL head coaches were once in his shoes.