It’s an interesting time in Who Dey Nation. Great optimism has eroded into familiar cynicism, based on the team’s recent inability to get initial coaches for various positions on their wish lists.
As the weeks have passed on the new Zac Taylor era, there is a sentiment of the new coach settling for lesser-desired coaches. One of the callers on this week’s Orange and Black Insider asked about the possible damage to Taylor’s reputation in the wake of so many assistant coach candidates declining offers to potentially work for the Bengals.
We all assumed that Taylor had lists prepared for possible assistant coaching candidates during his interviews, and while there’s little reason to believe otherwise, the amount of “no’s” have been alarming. What is going on in Cincinnati to dissuade coaches from taking somewhat-prominent positions on the staff?
Is it the “Mike Brown effect”? Do coaches see the proverbial writing on the wall with a young coach and conservative owner behind him? Is it the aging roster on the defensive side of the ball? Do more tested NFL coaches oppose the notion of being under a young, first-time coach?
In truth, each coach who passed on a job probably checked at least one of these boxes, as well as other opportunities heading their way. However, the entire situation surrounding Taylor’s difficulties in finding assistants has the fan base wondering if this is a sign of long-term trouble.
If you’re asking a guy like Paul Daugherty of The Cincinnati Enquirer, it reeks of 1993. It’s easy to immediately go there, given the drought of success this franchise and its fans have had to endure.
Can we give the guy at least a few games before we throw him on the scrap pile, though? Sure, the plethora of “thanks, but no thanks” responses are not a good look at the moment, but Taylor still seems confident in the combination of innovative youth and needed experience on his staff.
“Trusting the process”, even in the uglier moments, is what the Lewis-to-Taylor transition is about. So, while we all sit and wonder what exactly is going on with all of the declined coaching offers as Taylor’s reputation takes a couple of bruises, they can heal up quickly with notable progress and in-season wins. Plus, if you really want to go tongue-in-cheek about it, the defense has nowhere to go but up from 2018—regardless of who the coordinator is this season.
This coaching change is what the fans have asked for since at least the 2015 Wild Card loss, after all. It’s not likely that immediate, immense success will come for the Bengals in the transition, but if it does, nobody is going to readily remember Taylor’s issue in rounding out his staff.
Speaking of Taylor, the quarterback position has been a hot topic of late, The team has made a point of showing the veteran signal-caller and rookie head coach being chummy, and, if you take any stock in this, Andy Dalton has been part of the “New Dey” marketing bits.
In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, Taylor once again propped up Dalton by referencing his scouting of him from No. 14’s days at TCU.
“I do,” Taylor told Breer about Dalton being a good fit for his new Bengals system. “I’ve watched Andy for a really long time, dating back to his days at TCU. I’ve always been impressed with the way he plays the game. I’ve always known he’s a smart guy. We haven’t had a chance to meet on football or anything like that. But I do know that he’ll be able to quickly master this offense. He gets the ball out on time, he’s accurate, he’s got good athleticism.”
But, is it genuine?
We’ve seen coaches come in and laud tenured veterans many times before. Sometimes it’s because they truly value the player, while in other instances, it’s a way to quickly endear themselves to the locker room. And, sometimes, it’s just a charade and nothing more than “coach speak”.
As we sit here today, Taylor’s words seem like some sort of mixture of all of the facets. We don’t want to sit here and say that the team’s new head coach is disingenuous, but it’s obvious that Taylor likes “his guys”.
Whether it was in the hiring of Brian Callahan and Jim Turner on the offensive staff, or in the other candidates who declined offers, Taylor has shown a penchant for hiring guys in which he’s comfortable. And, while he’s said the P.C. things when it comes to Dalton, new coaches almost always want to bring in their guy under center.
Ryan Tannehill’s name has been tossed around as a veteran option because of his previous connection with Taylor in Miami. However, one has to wonder if that is any kind of upgrade over what Dalton already gives them—especially when it seems that Dalton and Jared Goff has some similarities as NFL quarterbacks.
Dalton could very well be Taylor’s guy in 2019. We’ve seen No. 14 play at a very high level when the talent around him is replenished and healthy. Those are obvious priorities for the team this offseason.
But, not every NFL coach gets 16 seasons and two shots at a franchise quarterback like Marvin Lewis did from 2003-2018. It’s very possible that Taylor’s leash is far shorter than that of his predecessor, and with Steve Wilks’ one-year Arizona stint in Taylor’s periphery, the new coach might want to take a shot on a rookie in this year’s class.
For now, we’ll believe Taylor in his supposed belief in Dalton being the Bengals’ quarterback going forward. But, Dalton’s leash may be even shorter than Taylor’s.
As teams are gearing up for the NFL Combine, mock drafts and rookie profiles become commonplace this time of year. We recently received a five roundfan mock, which we felt was very interesting.
Here is what the OBI listener came up with:
- Round 1, Overall 11: Devin White, linebacker, LSU
- Round 2, Overall 42: Dalton Risner, offensive lineman, Kansas State
- Round 3, Overall 72: Jeffrey Simmons, defensive tackle, Mississippi State
- Round 4, Overall 110: Tyree Jackson, quarterback, Buffalo`
- Round 5, Overall 149: Dakota Allen, linebacker, Texas Tech
Obviously, this would be a pretty nice haul and would go a long way in remedying a lot of the current roster issues. White and Risner are day one starters, while Simmons can take a redshirt year to nurse an injury. The Bulldogs defensive tackle would have been a first round pick, had he not tore his ACL this winter.
Risner is interesting because in early mocks, he was a frequent top-15 pick. Lately, however, more and more pundits are pushing him lower and a team like the Bengals could benefit atop the second round as first round talents slip through the cracks.
Of course, the most interesting pick is the quarterback. Jackson isn’t a guy who you hear much about this year, as names like Dwayne Haskins, Kyler Murray and a glut of others are getting early round attention.
There is a lot of clay to mold with Jackson, as they say. His 6’7”, 245-pound frame is more than ideal size for an NFL signal-caller, and he had a 3,000-yard passing season to his name in 2018.
Jackson also has a big arm and while not a scrambler, per se, he moves very well for his size, can pop the occasional big run and often eludes pressure in the pocket. Have a look:
He also had a great showing in the Senior Bowl, garnering MVP honors for the South squad. In the game, he went 13-of-21 for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
The negatives? Jackson has an odd delivery and seems to sometimes “push” the ball, rather than truly letting it fly. On a more macro scale, his career 55.8 completion rate is very troublesome and screams of his being a project at the NFL level.
Still, the Bengals need a backup quarterback this year. Jeff Driskel has some tools, but doesn’t seem to be a long-term viable option, so the Bengals could use a mid-round pick on another developmental guy in Jackson.
This especially makes sense if the 2019 plan includes a bridge year for Dalton. While some think Taylor might want to get his new quarterback right away, he may opt to use a high pick on one in 2020, while allowing Jackson the opportunity to develop, or maybe even compete.
Of course, the positions could vary, based on what occurs in free agency. We don’t know if Taylor is going to push the team to be more proactive next month, as they could grab a starter on the offensive line and/or linebacker.
Regardless, you have to like the value and addressed positional needs in this mock.
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