Bengals president Mike Brown didn’t say much Tuesday when he introduced Zac Taylor to the chair his father first had and is now occupied by a son of the Midwest not much older than his grandchildren.
But at 83 years old he said it all for an offensive guy that has been chasing a Super Bowl title since he was, well, younger than the 35-year-old Taylor. Brown knows that’s not his game being played out there these days and so he did what he’s never done before and entrusted someone else to head the search to find a guy that can coach it as NFL offense careens into what looks to be “The Roaring ‘20s.”
And he sounded quite pleased Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin helped him find Zac Taylor.
“Zac is a guy who grew up on the offensive side of the ball. That’s where he coached throughout his career. He was a quarterback in college, so he thinks in that way,” said Brown, who quarterbacked Dartmouth the fall Dwight Eisenhower got re-elected to the White House. “That’s the trend in the National Football League these days, and we’ll be following that trend.”
On Tuesday, Brown does what he always does and cut to the chase quickly. He’s looking for the same kind of offensive innovation that gave birth to pro sports’ most successful expansion team 50 years ago and revived it 30 years ago. He’s also looking to modern the culture that Marvin Lewis built so well to make them relevant again with six post-season berths in the previous decade. He’s also listening to his fans. They were looking for new and fresh. So was he.
“Marvin is my friend, and I’m not going to get into any comments that would seem in any way to disparage him,” Brown said. “He did a wonderful job while he was here, but it just was in my opinion, and perhaps in the opinion of others, time to give us a new direction. We had lost some of the faith (from) our fan base — that was clear. That sent a loud message. I think we’ve done it at the appropriate time. We tried to give every opportunity for it to grab hold otherwise, but that’s behind us. I want to look toward the future, and I think we’re starting that now. Our fan base wants that.”
Tobin led ownership through a search that focused on offense, culture and philosophy and the flashlight beamed on one of the league’s up-and-coming head coaches and teams in Sean McVay’s NFC champion Rams. Like all good scouts, Tobin believes a team is only as good as its offensive line and Taylor’s background with schemes crafted by line gurus like Bill Callahan, Mike Shanahan, Gary Kubiak, not to mention his father-in-law Mike Sherman was a tremendous sell.
It also helped that Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth, one of the greatest offensive lineman in Bengals history, was a big advocate for Taylor.
“The way it’s going now, sometimes you have to get coaches before everyone wants to go get them,” Whitworth said. “You’ve got a guy that’s been around a system that’s been successful. He’s seen a guy that a lot of people agree is special in Sean and how he runs things and gets things done.
“He’s been around things at a high level … He’s a sharp guy … He’s somebody the guys will respect. I think he understands this day and age the young players and how things are different.”
But it was Brown and Taylor that had to say yes and even though they’re 50 years apart, there’s a lot of common ground there. Even before the four-hour interview, Taylor said he felt a connection with the family during breakfast. In Whitworth, he could turn to a guy that actually climbed the golden stairs to negotiate personally with Brown.
“In my conversations with Whit, what was clear to me was his love for this organization, for this city, and how much he valued his time here and the appreciation he had for the Brown family,” Taylor said. “Those were the things made crystal clear to me. Just having those conversations let me know that this was a place for me.”
Sherman, the former Packers head coach, is another guy that Taylor turned to during the process. Despite being the victim of the fan that swiped the ball from Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre on the 2005 game’s last drive in a 21-14 loss, Sherman thinks Paul Brown Stadium is a good place.
“Fortunate for him he’s with the Brown family, a great family. Unbelievable organization,” Sherman said. “I think he’ll have some tremendous success there because he has the support of that family. All they care about is the Cincinnati Bengals and winning football games and taking care of their fans. I think he’ll do well there.”
Brown doesn’t like change or words. But on Tuesday he had his say.
“These young guys are energetic, open-minded, up with the trends, open to new ideas, and they listen,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing.”