It is no secret that this year’s offseason OTAs and training camp will be very different than ones in recent history.
Zac Taylor is taking over as head coach after the team parted ways with Marvin Lewis this offseason. It isn’t a secret that Taylor and Lewis are very different from each other.
Taylor is a young offensive mind that just spent two seasons learning the most modern ways to attack NFL defenses in Los Angeles with the Rams. Lewis was an old school defensive mind who was responsible for one of the greatest defenses in NFL history during his time with the Ravens. Lewis was also the second-longest tenured coach during his time with the Bengals, and Taylor has never even been a more than an interim offensive coordinator in the NFL.
Bengals players were able to get on the field with their new head coach recently, as the NFL allows teams with a new head coach to start a few weeks earlier than other teams. One of Cincinnati’s longest tenured offensive players, wide receiver A.J. Green, noticed the difference in the way Taylor ran things pretty quickly.
“Playing with coach Lewis, it’s all about the defense,” Green told Chris Simms of Pro Football Talk. “You don’t show up the defense at practice. But Zac is like, ‘OTA one, we’re going to kick the defense’s butt.’ That’s what we like to hear. I love the way he teaches. He’s not yelling at you, he’s teaching every little detail and having you understand why we run it this way.”
Green obviously didn’t say this with any malice (even though he probably should have). He is just protecting his new coach. He even talks about how refreshing that the offensive staff is so “high energy.” It is obvious he likes his new coach, but it isn’t necessarily an attack on his old one. Green is too good of a guy to do that.
I, however, am not above such standards. It seems absolutely ridiculous that an offensive player, especially one as important as Green, would ever feel like the head coach doesn’t want one side of the ball to show up the other. Whether Lewis verbalized these feelings or it was a vibe Green was picking up is pretty unacceptable.
A coach is obviously going to favor the side of the ball he comes from, but insinuating that you don’t want the offense to beat up on the defense too bad creates all sorts of problems with the team. The offense won’t try as hard, and the defense gains a false sense of confidence. It really explains why sometimes the Bengals struggled to have that killer mentality in games, that extra little push to pull of close games.
A head coach needs to ride that fine line of celebrating whichever side is having a good day, but also able to give constructive criticism to the side losing. While Taylor is an offensive minded guy, you can also tell he brings a fresh sense of energy to this team that Lewis had clearly lost over his time with this team.
Taylor may not be able to be as detail oriented with the defense, but his energy seems like it has become infectious over the entire team.