Zac Taylor

AFC North Notes: Taylor, Bengals, Ravens, Steelers

When questioned regarding the report of Cordy Glenn‘s eventual suspension, Zac Taylor stated that the tackle is “dealing with an internal discipline issue” and he would not be commenting about it further, relays ESPN’s Ben Baby. This coincides with the Bengals and their official statement regarding Glenn the following day. Taylor was also questioned regarding much maligned offensive line coach Jim Turner, and denied that there was any sort of rift between the players and Turner, despite the speculation that the argument between Glenn and and unnamed coach was indeed Turner. Taylor would go on to show his support for Turner, stating that he supports the way Turner has handled the Glenn situation, relays The Athletic‘s Paul Denher Jr. Turner is no stranger to controversy, as he was Miami’s offensive line coach during the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito bullying scandal, and was eventually fired in 2014 after an independent report indicated he participated in harassment of players. He was also suspended by Texas A&M in 2016 after using sexually-charged presentation slides during a women’s football clinic. The 0-6 Bengals take on the Jaguars this Sunday.

Here are some more developments out of the AFC North:

Bengals Notes: Taylor, Turner, Casey, Martin

New Bengals head coach Zac Taylor will call his own offensive plays, as he told reporters at his introductory press conference on Tuesday (Twitter link via Richard Skinner of WKRC-TV). Taylor was hired on the strength of his offensive acumen, so it’s no surprise that he’ll direct Cincinnati’s offense, leaving new offensive coordinator Brian Callahan to serve in a game-planning role. Taylor, for what it’s worth, doesn’t boast much play-calling experience: he led the Dolphins’ offense for a half-season in 2015, and coordinated the University of Cincinnati’s offense the following year. Under former coordinator Bill Lazor, the Bengals’ offense ranked 17th in scoring, 19th in DVOA, and 26th in yardage in 2018.

Here’s more from the Queen City:

  • Taylor will hire Texas A&M offensive line coach Jim Turner for the same role, reports Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Turner has worked with Taylor at three different stops, so there’s obvious familiarity between the two. He’d be replacing Frank Pollack, with whom the Bengals parted ways despite his excellent efforts in 2018. Turner, notably, was Miami’s offensive line coach during the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito bullying scandal, and was eventually fired in 2014 after an independent report indicated he participated in harassment of players. He was also suspended by Texas A&M in 2016 after using sexually-charged presentation slides during a women’s football clinic.
  • Former Texans tight end and current University of Houston tight ends coach James Casey will join the Bengals in the same role, while Ben Martin — who had recently been hired as an assistant offensive line coach at Brown — will take over as Cincinnati’s assistant OL coach, per Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Casey is only 34 years old, and was still playing as recently as 2015. He joined Houston as an offensive assistant in 2016 and became tight ends coach the following year. Martin, meanwhile, worked at Texas A&M with Taylor.
  • Among the Bengals coaches who are expected to be retained under Taylor are Alex Van Pelt (quarterbacks), Dan Pitcher (assistant quarterbacks), Bob Bicknell (wide receivers), Robert Livingston (secondary), Daronte Jones (secondary), and Brayden Coombs (assistant secondary), per Dehner. Coombs, notably, was thought to be a candidate for the Packers’ special teams coordinator position, but he’ll instead remain in Cincinnati.

Bengals Officially Hire Zac Taylor

The Bengals officially have their new coach. On Monday, the Bengals announced the hiring of Zac Taylor, the former quarterbacks coach of the Rams. 

I am happy and fortunate to join the Cincinnati Bengals as head coach,” Taylor said in a press release. “This is a great organization with good people and a rich history, and I am excited to get started. I am looking to add to that history by setting high standards, and holding everyone here accountable to those standards. There is a lot of work to do, and this is day one. We’re going to attack every day with enthusiasm to get this team ready to go.”

Taylor’s Rams fell flat in the Super Bowl, but he had a major role in overseeing one of the league’s most potent offenses in 2018. The Rams won the NFC West with a 13-3 regular-season record and reached new heights, despite their overall youth.

Zac is a bright coach with an offensive mind and background, which is important to have in today’s NFL,” said Bengals president Mike Brown. “And he’s young. He embraces new ideas and new ways to do things, which will be a good thing for us. I believe our team will be exciting and fun to watch with him at the helm.”

Taylor is now the tenth coach in Bengals history, replacing the long-tenured Marvin Lewis.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Staff Notes: Bills, Taylor, 49ers, Ryan, Eagles

Another former Panthers assistant will land a job on the Bills‘ coaching staff. Buffalo hired Ken Dorsey to be its quarterbacks coach. A former Miami Hurricane standout, prior to his days with the 49ers and Browns, Dorsey spent five seasons as the Panthers’ QBs coach. In 2018, the 37-year-old coach was on Appalachian State’s staff. Dorsey will take over for David Culley, who is now on Baltimore’s staff. The Bills also promoted Chad Hall to wide receivers coach. The 32-year-old former NFLer spent his first two seasons in coaching as a Bills offensive assistant. Another hire the Bills announced this week: bringing in Terry Heffernan to be their assistant offensive line coach. Heffernan has NFL coaching experience, being a Lions staffer earlier this decade, but spent the past three years at Division I-FCS Eastern Kentucky. Heffernan coached under new Bills offensive line coach Bobby Johnson in Detroit.

None of the offensive coaches who have been hired or promoted have a direct tie to second-year OC Brian Daboll, Mike Rodak of ESPN.com tweets. Here is the latest from the coaching carousel:

  • Two teams have yet to hire their head coaches, but the Bengals will look to finalize their agreement with Zac Taylor soon after Super Bowl LIII. The Rams’ quarterbacks coach will travel to Cincinnati on Monday, with NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweeting the parties will make their pending partnership official.
  • Rob Ryan initiated the process that ended with him becoming the Redskins‘ new inside linebackers coach. The former defensive coordinator said Kirk Olivadotti‘s decision to take a job with the Packers prompted him to reach out to the Redskins about a job, Ryan said on NBC Sports Washington‘s Redskins Talk podcast. Ryan interviewed with the Redskins twice in the past but has never worked with the franchise.
  • Kyle Shanahan was a bit surprised teams aggressively pursued members of his coaching staff, considering the 49ers went 4-12 this season. “It was a little unexpected,” Shanahan said during an interview with KNBR (via NBC Sports Bay Area). “I didn’t think our staff was going to get raided after a 4-12 year, so that caught me off a little bit.” The Broncos did the main raiding, hiring Rich Scangarello and T.C. McCartney. The Packers also hired Adam Stenavich to become their offensive line coach. Shanahan also denied permission for the Vikings and Packers to interview Mike LaFleur and did not allow Mike McDaniel to speak with the Cardinals, citing neither offensive assistant being up for a play-calling role with one of those teams.
  • San Francisco also lost another assistant, but this time to the college ranks. Defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley will become the co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State.
  • The Eagles will swap out assistant offensive line coaches. After Eugene Chung‘s contract expired, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Dave Zangaro notes the Eagles will hire Roy Istvan to replace him. Istvan will come all the way up from the NAIA level, having coached most recently at Florida’s Keiser University. However, he spent time with Philadelphia offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland in the distant past, playing for Stoutland at Southern Connecticut in the 1980s and then breaking into coaching during Stoutland’s stay as that program’s OC. This will be Istvan’s first NFL job.

Poll: Which Team Made Best HC Hire?

With the NFL now in the two-week waiting period until its final meaningful game, 30 of the 32 teams are going through offseason motions. And some of those teams are still deciding on coordinators.

Unless another Patriots assistant reneges on an agreement post-Super Bowl, or Zac Taylor makes an 11th-hour decision to remain in Los Angeles rather than taking over in Cincinnati, the eight NFL teams in need of head coaches made their choices.

So, which franchise best positioned itself for long-term success?

The trend being offensive innovation to keep up with some of the ahead-of-the-curve offenses, six of the eight teams hired offensively oriented coaches.

By a substantial margin, the Cardinals won the outside-the-box trophy. After washing out as an NFL quarterback in the mid-2000s, Kliff Kingsbury spent more than a decade as a college coach. The 39-year-old groomed some sought-after NFL talent in Patrick Mahomes, Case Keenum and Davis Webb, while also bringing Baker Mayfield to Texas Tech for a short stay. But he finished his stay in Lubbock, Texas, with a sub-.500 record. The Cards added Vance Joseph and Tom Clements to be his top assistants. Because of their unconventional hire, the Cardinals will be one of the most interesting teams in 2019.

Bruce Arians‘ CBS stay lasting one year will bring one of the more interesting coaches in modern NFL history back to the sideline. Tampa Bay’s new coach is the oldest ever hired, at 66 years old. Arians will be tethered to Jameis Winston, and it does not sound like he has issues with that. Arians hired several former Cardinals assistants to help him attempt to snap the NFC’s longest active playoff drought. Arians led the Cardinals to their best season, record-wise (13-3 in 2015), since the franchise has been in Arizona but is also barely a year removed from retiring.

The Packers and Browns opted for OCs, the former seeing a major difference in Matt LaFleur‘s vision than those of the other coaches that interviewed. Cleveland made the biggest continuity move of this year’s HC-seeking octet,promoting Freddie Kitchens over candidates with more experience.

LaFleur’s Titans offense regressed from Mike Mularkey‘s final unit, with Tennessee ranking 27th in points scored last season. But the 39-year-old coach, who will be working with ex-Jaguars assistant Nathaniel Hackett in overseeing the back end of Aaron Rodgers‘ prime, trained under Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. Kitchens rose from position coach to head coach in less than three months, but Mayfield’s performance in the second half of the season was obviously different from his play under Hue Jackson and Todd Haley.

Taylor and Adam Gase round out the offensively geared hires, the former being perhaps the highest-variance candidate among the non-Kingsbury wing.

Although Taylor was the Dolphins’ interim OC in 2015 and McVay’s quarterbacks coach this season, he spent 2016 running a Cincinnati Bearcats offense that ranked 123rd (out of 128 Division I-FBS teams) with 19.3 points per game for a 4-8 team and was the Rams’ assistant wideouts coach as recently as 2017. Gase led the Dolphins to the playoffs in 2016, but Ryan Tannehill‘s issues staying healthy and living up to his draft slot limited the former Broncos and Bears OC. The Jets saw enough to add the formerly in-demand assistant, who may be ready to bring longtime coworker Dowell Loggains with him to the Big Apple.

Denver and Miami went with defense, with the Broncos having no competition for 2018’s assistant coach of the year and, arguably, this decade’s top DC.

The Dolphins cancelled their Vic Fangio summit, and he will be in charge of elevating a Broncos team that finished with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since the early 1970s. John Elway‘s plan to reinstall Gary Kubiak as OC also hit a snag, with the longtime friends’ disagreement on staffing leading to the Broncos hiring 49ers QBs coach Rich Scangarello. The Dolphins will become the fifth franchise to hire a Bill Belichick-era Patriots defensive coordinator (or de facto DC, in Brian Flores‘ case), following the Browns (Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini), Jets (Mangini), Chiefs (Crennel) and Lions (Matt Patricia). Flores helped the Patriots to yet another top-10 ranking in points allowed — their 15th in the past 18 seasons — and another Super Bowl berth.

Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Rumors: Cowboys, Gruden, Bengals

The Cowboys‘ offensive coordinator position is now vacant after the team parted ways with Scott Linehan several days ago, and we learned that tight ends coach Doug Nussmeier may be the favorite to replace Linehan. However, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com suggests that Dallas could look to promote quarterbacks coach Kellen Moore — whom Rapoport described as “fast-rising” and “impressive” — to the OC job (Twitter link). If that happens, RapSheet suggests that the team could add another one of its former QBs to the coaching staff by hiring Jon Kitna, most recently the offensive coordinator for the AAF’s San Diego Fleet, as the new quarterbacks coach.

As Jerry Jones mulls the coaching credentials of his former signal-callers, let’s take a look at other coaching rumors from around the league:

  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports believes that the Redskins‘ failed pursuit of Todd Bowles and Gregg Williams does not bode well for head coach Jay Gruden‘s future in Washington. La Canfora writes that owner Dan Snyder put the “full-court press” on Bowles, and if Bowles had said he would only join the Redskins as a head coach, Snyder may have gone for it. Gruden will return in 2019, but if he does not lead the Redskins to a playoff berth, La Canfora would not be surprised if Snyder reaches out to Bowles and Williams again, perhaps to discuss a head coaching position.
  • If the Patriots prevail in today’s AFC Championship Game, the Dolphins will meet with New England de facto defensive coordinator and future Miami head coach Brian Flores during the week before the Super Bowl to discuss staffing and other issues, per Rapoport (via Twitter). The Fins can formally commit to Flores as their next HC at that time.
  • The Bengals have been very hands-off with their presumptive new head coach, Zac Taylor, but Rapoport (video link) says that is only because the team is closely adhering to league rules regarding coaching hires (Taylor, of course, is the Rams’ quarterbacks coach, and the Rams’ season isn’t over yet). Rapoport says Cincinnati still fully intends to hire Taylor, and he names Jack Del Rio as a potential defensive coordinator on Taylor’s new staff. La Canfora agrees that Del Rio is a DC target, and he adds John Fox as another possibility. Both JLC and RapSheet say that Raiders QB coach Brian Callahan is a top choice for offensive coordinator.
  • Former Cardinals tight ends coach Jason Michael will join the Colts in the same capacity, a source tells Albert Breer of The MMQB (on Twitter). Michael served as the Titans’ offensive coordinator from 2014-15 and was the team’s QB coach from 2016-17.

Bengals Likely To Hire Zac Taylor As HC

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Rumors: Raiders, Chargers, Broncos

The 49ers aren’t the only club with interest in former Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, as the Raiders also want to speak to the ex-Indy exec about a front office role, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (Twitter link). Oakland is rebuilding its front office after firing general manager Reggie McKenzie and top lieutenant Joey Clinkscales. Grigson would join a front office that now includes first-time GM — and former NFL Network analyst — Mike Mayock, who was hired earlier this week. The 46-year-old Grigson was fired by the Colts in 2016 after a tumultuous five-year term as GM, and has since worked with the Browns and Seahawks’ front offices.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two West divisions:

  • Two of Sean McVay‘s top assistants will take their interviews with the Bengals on Friday. Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor and pass game coordinator/tight ends coach Shane Waldron will meet with Cincinnati ownership tomorrow, tweets Tom Pelissero of NFL.com. Nearly every candidate in which the Bengals have expressed interest thus far have come from the offensive side of the ball, with the only exception being former Broncos head coach (and ex-Cincy defensive backs coach) Vance Joseph. The Bengals were turned down by Josh McDaniels, but they’ve also asked to meet with Bucs OC Todd Monken and Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, among others. Bieniemy’s interview with the Bengals — originally scheduled for Friday — will now take place on Saturday, tweets Pelissero.
  • After being designated for return from injured reserve and participating in seven-on-seven drills at the end of December, Chargers tight end Hunter Henry took first-team snaps in practice this week, Los Angeles announced. However, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn still declined to commit to Henry playing against the Ravens in the first round of the NFL postseason, as Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com tweets. If Henry does play, he’ll be on a “pitch count,” meaning fellow tight ends Antonio Gates and Virgil Green will still see time. Henry tore his ACL in May, but Los Angeles held out hope he’d be available if the club made it to the playoffs.
  • Rams center John Sullivan collected a $1MM bonus by being active for at least 15 games and Los Angeles ranking as a top-five scoring offense and making the playoffs, per Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Sullivan, 33, actually started all 16 games for the Rams in 2018, and has started 31 contests since joining the club last offseason. LA’s line was elite in 2018, finishing No. 1 in adjusted line yards and No. 6 in adjusted sack rate, but Sullivan graded as just the NFL’s No. 32 center, per Pro Football Focus. The Rams hold a 2019 option on Sullivan which would pay him $1.75MM in base salary in addition to a $2.5MM roster bonus.
  • Currently being run by a trust headed by team president Joe Ellis, the Broncos are in need of a permanent owner. That’s likely to eventually be Pat Bowlen‘s youngest daughter, Brittany Bowlen, tweets James Palmer of ESPN.com, who notes Brittany will join the organization “at some point.” Bowlen, 28, could potentially take over in 2021 after a new collective bargaining agreement is put into place, speculates Mike Klis of 9News.
  • 49ers left guard Laken Tomlinson suffered a torn MCL on Sunday, according to a team announcement. That’s relatively good news since the longtime starter was carted off of the field, leading to fears that he had suffered a torn ACL. Tomlinson will not need surgery, so he should be good to go for offseason activities. Tomlinson is under contract with San Francisco through 2021 thanks to the three-year, $18MM extension he signed last summer.

Coaching Notes: Vikings, Fins, Bills, Broncos

When Mike Zimmer signed a Vikings extension in the 2016 offseason, the terms were not disclosed. But the sixth-year Minnesota coach revealed Thursday 2019 is the final year of his contract. While another extension could be on the way, Zimmer is, as of now, a lame-duck leader. The 62-year-old coach said he would not resign nor retire until his contract was up. It’s not unheard of for a coach to venture through a contract year, but it is obviously abnormal. The Vikings have qualified for the playoffs twice in Zimmer’s five years but were one of this season’s most disappointing teams, falling short of January football despite a roster full of extended veterans.

Here is the latest from the coaching circuit:

  • Elsewhere on the Vikings’ staff, the team is working to re-sign special teams coordinator Mike Preifer, Alex Marvez of Sirius XM Radio reports (on Twitter). Minnesota is, however, exploring alternatives in case a re-up is not finalized. Preifer has been Minnesota’s ST coordinator since 2011. Preifer did not sign the rollover option after last season, per ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin (Twitter link), making him a coaching free agent next week.
  • Brian Flores is set to meet with four teams in the coming days, and the Patriots linebackers coach’s first stop appears to be Miami. The Dolphins are making Flores their first interview, which Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald tweets will begin Thursday night and last into Friday. Flores is slated to meet with the Browns, Broncos and Packers as well.
  • Another coach up for the Broncos‘ job, Zac Taylor is not the favorite going into the interview process, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. That could be expected of a 35-year-old position coach, and it could indicate the Broncos are serious about bringing Gary Kubiak back to the sideline as their OC. John Elway said a coaching role for Kubiak was being considered. A Taylor hire would seemingly impede this, but former Broncos running back C.J. Anderson said the similarities between the Rams’ offense and Kubiak’s Denver attack helped him assimilate quickly in Los Angeles. Mike Klis of 9News wonders if this could make a Taylor-Kubiak setup possible, with Klint Kubiak moving up to quarterbacks coach.
  • Flores’ Broncos interview will occur Monday. So will Vic Fangio‘s, per ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold. Taylor and Mike Munchak will interview for the job on Friday. The Broncos finished their Chuck Pagano meeting Wednesday.
  • The Bills are moving on from two assistants, including special teams coordinator Danny Crossman, per ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak (on Twitter). As ESPN’s Seth Walder notes (via Twitter), Buffalo finished this season with the NFL’s worst special teams efficiency rating. Buffalo also fired wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie, Marvez tweets. Twice an interim head coach, with the Redskins and Browns, Robiskie just completed his 37th season as an NFL coach. He’s been a wideouts coach for five teams; Crossman was a pre-Sean McDermott-era holdover, joining the Bills’ staff as ST coordinator in 2013.
  • Detroit will move on from another offensive assistant, firing Derius Swinton, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (on Twitter). Just 33, Swinton has already been an NFL assistant for 10 seasons, serving as the 49ers’ ST coordinator in 2016. Although he helped in that area in Detroit following Joe Marciano‘s midseason firing, his primary role was on offense. The Lions and OC Jim Bob Cooter parted ways this week. Despite serving under Cooter, Swinton was a Matt Patricia hire.

Cards, Broncos To Interview Zac Taylor

Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor will interview for the Cardinals and Broncos head coaching positions on Saturday, Albert Breer of The MMQB hears (on Twitter). Taylor, 35, will also interview with the Bengals on Friday, so he may wind up as the latest 30-something assistant to ascend the ranks. 

Taylor moved up to QB coach under Sean McVay in 2018 after Matt LaFleur left for the Titans. The results, for the most part, have been outstanding. The Rams finished out 13-3 and will have an opportunity to rest before their first playoff game on Jan. 12 thanks to their bye.

Outside of the past year with the Rams, Taylor’s resume is not especially flashy. He was the Rams’ assistant wide receivers coach in 2017 and served as the University of Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator in 2016 before moving to sunny Los Angeles. However, young offensively-minded coaches are the in-thing, and Taylor is garnering serious interest.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.