Zac Taylor long ago developed a list of potential assistants he would want to try to hire should he ever become an NFL head coach.
Now, as the Cincinnati Bengals new coach, he’s working off that initial list to develop his staff.
Taylor wasn’t ready to divulge names or confirm any of the rumored hires Tuesday when he met with the press in Cincinnati for the first time, but said he is close to being able to make some announcements.
“You always have in mind the people that are critical if you ever get an opportunity,” Taylor said. “Over the years you always have a list. It’s not always on paper, necessarily, but you always have an idea. Then when this process unfolds you quickly put five or six names at every position to start with. Never in a particular order. You’re painting a picture of what you want. As this process unfolds and I knew I was going to get this job, I started honing in on it. This person is a good complement to that person and that’s the way we’ve approached things.”
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The Los Angeles Rams’ former quarterbacks coach believes having an idea of what his staff could look like helped him earn the job. It’s already well-documented how connected he is among NFL coaches, and the Bengals likely had confidence he would be able to bring in some quality assistants.
Taylor is the son-in-law of former Green Bay Packers coach Mike Sherman. Taylor’s brother, Press Taylor, is the quarterbacks coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Zac has worked under some of the top coaches in the league, including 33-year-old Sean McVay in L.A.
“That’s a big part of it,” Taylor said of coming into the interview process with an idea what his staff could look like. “And it wasn’t as much the people as it was the vision, I think, that we have for each role. The people may change over the course of the process, and it’s important I think to establish a vision for every position and what you’re looking for, how they’re going to influence the team, and then you find the right people that fit that vision.”
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden broke news last month that his quarterbacks coach, Brian Callahan, was leaving to become the Bengals offensive coordinator, and originally it appeared former Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio was going to be named defensive coordinator before reports surfaced it had been deemed he was not a good fit.
Taylor said he plans to call plays and the offense will likely look similar to what the Rams did this year – “it works,” he joked – but the defense remains wide open, depending on what kind of a coordinator he brings in and the best fit for the players.
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“You never want to pigeon-hole yourself on something, but (I’m looking for) a sound teacher who buys into the way we want to build this culture — a great communicator who gets the most out of his players, because we have talent on that side of the ball,” Taylor said. “A guy that lets these guys play, understanding what they do best. I feel very comfortable we’re going to find the right person to lead that defense.”
Texas A&M offensive line coach Jim Turner has been rumored to be assuming that same role with the Bengals to replace Frank Pollack, who reportedly left the team, but Washington Redskisn offensive line coach Bill Callahan also has been reported as a candidate.
According to multiple reports, the Bengals already decided to keep special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons and determined not to retain offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, special assistant Hue Jackson, tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes, running backs coach Kyle Caskey and linebackers coach Jim Haslett.
“When you see the people that are definitely going to be here, they’re all good people,” Taylor said of those staying on board. “They’re all good coaches. Some I’ve known, some I didn’t. But people I trust, I’ve always spoken highly of these people and I always get a chance to talk to them first and feel good about the people we’ll have on the staff.”
Putting together his staff is the first priority before deciding on which players to re-sign that are heading into free agency.
The Bengals were the last of the eight teams with head coaching vacancies to name a head coach, but Taylor said he isn’t worried about being behind or having a smaller pool of candidates to choose from at this point. He won’t rush through any decisions just for the sake of filling out his staff, he said.
“We need to make sure the right people are here coaching these players,” Taylor said. “There’s a lot of really good coaches out there, so we’re going to find the right people. We’re urgent in assembling the right people, but we’re going to take our time and make sure that everyone is a perfect fit for this place. We’ll take our time with the process, but I have no concerns that we’re going to get the right people in this building.”