Despite a dismal showing against the Raiders in Week 11, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor decided to stick with quarterback Ryan Finley the following week against the Steelers, saying: “we feel like he’s going to give us an opportunity to win this week.”
When Taylor finally did make the move back to Andy Dalton for their Week 13 game against the Jets the following week, it was because “we just want to win.”
Well, if Taylor truly wants to win, maybe it’s time to make another change. Maybe it’s time to let someone else, like offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, call the plays for an offense that is stuck in quicksand—partly because of poor play calling by the head man.
Cincinnati went into its game against Cleveland Sunday as one of the worst red zone offenses in the NFL. And things only got worse.
The Bengals made their way into the red zone five times against the Browns and managed just one touchdown, a one-yard run by running back Joe Mixon, and three field goals. A final time, Cincinnati turned the ball over on downs on Cleveland’s two-yard line after perhaps the worst decision of Taylor’s short career.
Facing fourth and goal from the Cleveland four, and down by a score of 24-16 with 7:20 left to play, Taylor inexplicably decided not to go for a field goal that would have pulled the Bengals to within five points. Instead, he called a designed quarterback draw that ended up with Dalton two yards short of the goal line.
“We were down eight. We felt like we were in range there where we need to score the eight points and get us back on track.” Taylor said after the game. “If we didn’t get it, we were going to have them backed up and get a stop there, which we didn’t end up doing that. It felt good on the fourth-down call. We ended up getting to a draw. We have a five-man box. We should walk into the end zone. We have to do a better job of executing there.”
Cleveland drove all the way down the field and tacked on a field goal that effectively ended the game. Cincinnati got the ball back with just over a minute left to play. But, instead of being down by eight with an opportunity to tie the game and send it to overtime, the Bengals were down by 11, and all hope was gone.
On the possession before that, Cincinnati had put together a sterling 13-play drive that began inside their own 20 and moved to a first and goal at the Browns’ two-yard line. Mixon had been nothing short of brilliant during the drive, accounting for 49 of those yards, including a nine-yard reception. But, instead of going back to Mixon, Taylor called for three-straight passes and settled for a field goal.
On the ensuing drive, the Bengals drove to a first down at Cleveland’s \seven-yard-line. This time, Taylor called for two straight runs that gained only three yards. An incomplete pass preceded the fourth down fiasco.
Cincinnati dominated in nearly every area, other than the scoreboard. The Bengals had 27 first downs to 17 for the Browns. Mixon finished with a career-best 146 yards rushing on just 23 carries, an average of 6.3 yards per carry. Cincinnati amassed 451 total yards to 333 for Cleveland and owned a 34:31 to 25:29 edge in time of possession.
But the one area where the Bengals should have owned a distinct advantage got turned on its ear. Cincinnati came into the game as one of the least penalized teams in the NFL, while Cleveland was one of the most penalized. Surely, the discipline factor would work in favor of Cincinnati.
Not this time. The Bengals were flagged eight times, including at least three personal fouls, for 99 yards, while the Browns were called for just six penalties for 30 yards, and none in the second half.
“Normally we’re a pretty disciplined team and some penalties, especially in the first half, really set us back,” Said Taylor. “To the ones that we could control, whether we weren’t playing the rules or losing our tempo, it set us back and put us in a tough spot.
The flags are one thing, the play-calling is something else entirely. It’s a variable the coach can control. Only Taylor can strip this power away from himself, and by doing so, he’d show an incredible amount of accountability while also sacrificing a good chunk of job security in the process.
It may not be a clear-cut decision to make, but what say you?
Should Zac Taylor continue to call plays on offense?
This poll is closed