When Andrew Whitworth departed the Cincinnati Bengals in the offseason leading to the 2017 season, it took them more than two seasons to find a suitable successor. And, really, No. 77 leaving marked the slow Bengals decline seen at the end of the Marvin Lewis era.
Much like Justin Smith, Whitworth has enjoyed two incredible chapters to his career, wherein similar accolades came in both the early and later parts of his incredible 16-year NFL run. He now gets set to face his old team in the Super Bowl, leaving him with a myriad of emotions.
Whitworth undoubtedly wants to ride off in the sunset with a Super Bowl win, but also has a soft spot for his former employer. Along with talking about how happy he is for Cincinnati, “Big Whit” also gushed about a couple of current Bengals figureheads with whom he is familiar for different reasons.
In 2017-2018 with the Rams, Whitworth was introduced to a fresh-faced NFL assistant coach named Zac Taylor. In that time, the veteran offensive lineman came away impressed with the young coach.
Big Whit always classy and awesome. Here’s his response to our question about his impressions of #Bengals HC Zac Taylor when he was an assistant with the #Rams & just how good he thinks Joe Burrow is from the #SuperBowl opening night presser pic.twitter.com/YoLLkJc027— Orange&Black Insider (@BengalsOBI) February 7, 2022
“Well, with Zac, it’s one of those things that, when you’re around him, he has a special demeanor about him, a special calm,” Whitworth said of his former coach. “I always said it was like those accomplished backup quarterbacks in the NFL, like, ‘I understand the game’, and a little bit of that killer instinct. Just knowing when and where to push peoples’ buttons, when to have certain intensities and all of that.”
Now, Taylor’s tenure in Los Angeles didn’t have him working as an offensive line coach (quarterbacks and assistant wide receivers coach), but his impact on a grizzled veteran leader like Whit was palpable. It’s why No. 77 knew big things were in store for Taylor down the road and why he gravitated to him so much that both men's wives are close friends to this day.
As it goes with Joe Burrow, stop us if you’ve heard this before: Whitworth is flat-out impressed with the Bengals’ franchise quarterback.
“With Joe, the few times I’ve been able to be around him, nothing shocks me with him,” Whitworth said of his fellow LSU alum. “His mentality and mindset about the game of football is so special and so rare that he’s going to be a really, really good one for a lone time. I think the people of Cincinnati will be able to experience this (the Super Bowl) a few more times as long as Joe is quarterback.”
Most would agree that the Bengals arrived at this current destination a year or two earlier than expected, but that Burrow had “the stuff” to make the Bengals a potential perennial contender. The hope is that the 2021 season is the tip of a dynastic football iceberg for years to come.
While it seems that way and even appears as if Whitworth agrees with the sentiment and now suits up for the opposition, it’s hard not to root for such a great player and person, such as No. 77. Then again, maybe I’m just partial to the big guy and personally super-sentimental as to how this year has played out.