The 2019 season for the Cincinnati Bengals could be subtitled as “Murphy’s Law”. Rookie head coach Zac Taylor has had numerous obstacles in his way of success this year—both inside and outside of his control sphere.
As his first year is mercifully coming to a close, Bengals.com editor, Geoff Hobson, sat down with Taylor for a “State of the Union” type of interview. Taylor’s answers ranged from the predictable, to terse, to even unexpected.
Of course, the first and foremost item on everyone’s minds is when the Bengals are set to get a victory and just how committed the team is to that process right now.
“No, trying to win a football game,” Taylor responded when asked about eyeing the conclusion of the season. “Trying to win as many as we can. Starting with this one. You always have to balance the big picture, but in this case we’re trying to do everything we can to win the game this Sunday and win the one after that and so on.”
The subtle motive behind the question, of course, was to see if there would be a soundbite that alluded to a tank job by the team. Taylor wasn’t biting, even if he’s keeping tabs on Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and/or Tua Tagovailoa in the periphery.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Taylor made the controversial decision to give the starting job back to Andy Dalton this week. This came after Ryan Finley went 0-3 as a starter and showcased those oh-so-familiar rookie struggles.
“It’s never an easy decision. There’s not any defined reasons why,” Taylor said about the move back to the veteran. “Sometimes you just feel like let’s make a change, go back to Andy. We’ve got confidence in Andy to help us get a win.”
Taylor also lauded Dalton’s professionalism during this tumultuous time and noted that the decision didn’t come easy. He also admitted that neither quarterback hasn’t had a truly fair shake for a variety of reasons this year.
One of the theories behind the move back to Dalton and sudden urgency to win games is in ownership possibly intervening. Taylor nixed that idea, saying that he consults with the front office about all major decisions and the group “trusts what we’re trying to accomplish here”. The rookie coach also brushed off a question about Dalton’s long-term status with the club.
Much of the interview had elements of “coach speak”, where Taylor remained focused on the task at hand—namely the Week 13 clash against the Jets. However, as Hobson asked about his familiarity with a lot of things that have transpired with the Bengals this year—issues both big and small—Taylor admitted that much of it is foreign to him.
When asked if he had ever been a part of any season like this, at any level, Taylor gave a gruff “Never”. He also seemed to be scratching his head on how Alex Redmond suffered a season-ending injury on the final repetition of pregame warmups last week. That odd sequence of events is quite reminiscent of A.J. Green’s severe ankle injury towards the end of the very first training camp practice.
When it’s all said and done, Taylor has had to endure a stretch of bad luck many other coaches haven’t had to experience in their first season. The heat has been turned up with a historically-poor start to the season and the urgency to collect wins these final five weeks has been ratcheted up over the past week.
We’ll see if his evolving approach to game plans and move back to Dalton achieve those not-so-lofty goals that have to be set with the club sitting at 0-11.