He’s been in Cincinnati for a little over 24 hours, but Zac Taylor has been saying all the right things.
Those faithful to the Cincinnati Bengals have been dealing with a unique dichotomy for the past month. There was enjoyment and genuine relief that the organization was conducting a legitimate search for their next head coach, while skepticism and edginess existed simultaneously.
What if they’re just looking at average coaches that happen to be associated with great ones? What if they’re willing to bypass valuable experience for sheer potential? What if they’re going to be tied to the next Dave Shula instead of the next Don?
New coaching hires are essentially impossible to judge, but Taylor has done his best to appease the masses. Propping up his new quarterback Andy Dalton was a smart first move.
“I saw about every snap he had at TCU,” Taylor said to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “In Miami I watched the Bengals quite a bit as an AFC foe and we played the Bengals quite a bit. I’ve always thought very highly of Andy and I think he’ll thrive in this system. Smart players will do well in this offense. And I know Andy is a very smart player. He’s got all the tools to be a great quarterback in this league and he’s been doing it for a long time. And we’ve seen that from him.”
A good portion -- some would say the majority -- of Bengals fans would like Taylor to come in immediately and present the organization with a win-now plan. That would obviously involve Dalton and the rest of the core players he’s played with for the better part of a decade. Whether or not that is the actual strategy, well, we have weeks of the offseason to go.
Of course, what else what he supposed to say? His own son said his favorite player was Dalton. He’s clearly been well-trained too.
Regardless of Taylor’s plan, the base of the Bengals’ roster is the dozens on players drafted in the past few years. There’s still untapped potential there, and Taylor knows it.
“There is a lot of talent with rookies and second-year guys,” Taylor said. “And good veterans to have great influence and that are really talented players. It’s a good blend. I’ve been studying the Patriots, the Saints and the Cowboys during our playoff run and now I can start delving in deeper.”
If the perception of Taylor’s hiring surrounds his relation to Los Angeles Rams’ head coach Sean McVay, the Bengals’ brass can’t do anything about that. What they’ll tell you, and what Taylor will confirm, is that the two parties felt they were on the same page from their very first meeting. The McVay connection just happened to be an added bonus.
Don’t forget, Duke Tobin was a part of the search team, and Taylor and him seemed to be speaking the same language in the process.
Taylor is a coach that the front office can trust, but can the fans do the same? Marvin Lewis has coached some good players over the years, but his shortcomings have surrounding the undeniable lack of player development. The great ones don’t need that extra coaching, but an NFL roster isn’t full of all great players. Taylor made sure to make this a point of emphasis yesterday.
“As long as you can help make the players better, they’ll do anything for you,” Taylor said. “Everything we’ll do will be with sound reasoning. We’re going to have an attacking mindset. These players are going to be excited to walk in the door every single day they’re around us. We’re going to hire people who are really good coaches, think outside the box and are really pushing these players to the max and get the most out of them. I think the players will be excited to be around these guys.”
No matter what you think of the this hire, there’s a dose of optimism to counter your doubt, and vice versa. For the Bengals’ specific circumstances, they’re hiring their first new head coach since the beginning of the century and haven’t experienced a playoff win in close to 30 years. We’re in innocent-until-proven-guilty territory.
And that’s perfectly okay, because Bengals fans need a reason to hope again. Taylor will do for now.