The Bengals’ “preferred choice” for head coach is Rams’ quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor, according to Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
Taylor, who interviewed for the position last week, can’t be hired until Los Angeles is eliminated from the postseason. The Rams are preparing for a divisional round game against the Cowboys, and could potentially be tied up into February if they reach the Super Bowl. But Cincinnati’s head coaching job is reportedly Taylor’s to lose, per the ESPN scribes. As of yet, the Bengals have not held any negotiations with Taylor, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
Given that he’s only 35 years old, Taylor would mark a departure for the Bengals, who had relied on veteran coach Marvin Lewis since 2003. But Cincinnati’s entire coaching search, which involved interviewing numerous young offensive minds such as the Chiefs’ Eric Bieniemy and Taylor’s Rams colleague Shane Waldron, represented a stark change for the club.
Taylor has only called offensive plays at the NFL level for a half-season: in 2015, he was promoted to offensive coordinator in Miami after the Dolphins fired Bill Lazor (who coincidentally is currently the Bengals OC). The following year, Taylor spent time in the Queen City, serving as offensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati before joining the Rams as QBs coach in 2016.
Taylor’s decision to take the Rams’ job proved to be fortuitous, as Los Angeles head coach Sean McVay‘s disciples are quickly claiming head jobs around the NFL. Matt LaFleur, who served as the Rams’ OC in 2016, just landed the Packers’ head coaching gig. And other young coaches with offensive backgrounds (Kliff Kingsbury, Freddie Kitchens) also received HC jobs.
In Cincinnati, Taylor will be tasked with improving an offense that ranked just 19th in DVOA a season ago. Andy Dalton is likely locked in as the Bengals’ starting quarterback for at least one more season, but Cincinnati could draft another signal-caller for Taylor to develop. Elsewhere on offense, the Bengals have a solid set of weapons that includes wide receivers A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd, plus running back Joe Mixon. 2017 first-round receiver John Ross, meanwhile, could represent something of a rehabilitation project for Taylor.
Reports earlier this evening indicated the Bengals were likely to hire an external candidate after interviewing a group of incumbent staffers that included Lazor, special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons, and special assistant Hue Jackson. Cincinnati also began dismissing some of its assistant coaches, which could be a sign Taylor has told the club which staffers he’d like to retain.
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