Zac Taylor doesn't coach his first Bengals game at Paul Brown Stadium until August. But he already had the faithful leaving the building a week before the draft pumped up Tuesday night after a question-and-answer session among season ticket holders and business partners gathered in a club lounge featuring a sun setting behind the downtown Cincinnati skyline as Taylor's reign begins to rise.
That will happen when you take questions for nearly an hour from some of the estimated crowd of 800 to 1,000. And then with your wife waiting, patiently holding an impromptu reception line for photos and autographs. When he signed the back of Mongo's jersey, which appeared to be between the name "Mongo," and the No. 54, Mongo asked him to "Take us to the promised land," as several wished him well and told him they were glad he was here.
"Thank you. I'm ready," was always the polite answer from the fresh-faced 35-year-old head man, whose jeans and boots are becoming his standard attire.
What's also becoming standard is his steadiness. Long-time Bengals Radio Network analyst Dave Lapham, who MC'd the event, complimented him on the even keel that keeps surfacing whenever he appears publicly. Take the answers from his introductory news conference, his NFL scouting combine interviews and last month's appearance at the coaches media breakfast during the annual NFL meeting in Phoenix and hardly a semicolon diverted on Tuesday night.
For instance, he stayed true when Lapham asked him about running back Mark Walton's release after three off-field incidents.
"It wasn't a statement," Taylor said. "I prefer to highlight guys in the building doing it the right way."
Taylor also said enough to get the fans ready even though he won't coach his team on the field until next Tuesday on the first day of the three-day voluntary veterans minicamp:
On differences fans will see in all three phases: "I can't speak to the differences. I can speak to what we'll be going forward. We'll be disciplined and we'll hold our players to a high standard. Every team runs very similar plays. It's all out there. There are no secrets. Everyone does similar stuff. It's the technique and standards you hold your players to. And the standards the players hold each other to. That's what really makes this thing go. We're excited to get that process going on Tuesday."
On standards and culture: "It's hard for me to put (standards) into words. Our players will recognize it. They'll learn what's not acceptable. I'm not even talking about practicing on the field or in games. I'm talking about the meeting room, I'm talking about walk-through, I'm talking about little details. We're leaning on the veteran players, and we have a lot of them, to show these young players who are very talented the level of detail you need. Our players will develop good habits."
"Last year (best culture he's ever been around) we had a great culture (with the Rams). Players encouraged as opposed to finger pointing. We want guys that encourage. That's the culture to me. Encourage others while not just trying to get to the Pro Bowl. Culture is a collective effort playing for each other."
On what he learned as the offensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati in 2016: "Any coach faces a lot of adversity in their career and that was probably when the most growth happened over the course of my career. Having that tough season and trying to find ways to score points. You really reflect on a season like that. You try to figure out ways that you can improve. I learned a lot from that experience and when I got to L.A. and I used all of it to try and make us as successful as possible. It was a really good process because a, we fell in love with the city and b, I learned a lot of good coaching lessons during my time here."
Lapham told a terrific anecdote at the outset that went back to Taylor's days as the Nebraska quarterback in 2005-6, when Lapham was doing TV for Big 12 games. He said that Taylor and Texas quarterback Major Applewhite were the two most impressive QBs talking the game.
"This guy knew the offense as well or better than the coordinator, the head coach. Football acumen extradonaire," Lapham said.
Lapham introduced Taylor's wife to the crowd and then turned around a question to her when someone asked her husband how many hours he'd work a day during the season.
"No, you can't work 30 in a day," Taylor answered her.
Taylor reiterated he felt it was an advantage being the last NFL head coach hired because he didn't have to compete for assistant coaches. He also said the number of assistants he brought from the college game (ten of his 21 assistants were in college last season) has given them an advantage in the draft process because they know, coached or coached against many prospects.
All of those 21 assistants, the most the Bengals have ever had, have their own office thanks to a massive renovation of the players and coaches spaces spurred by Taylor. That's just one of the things Taylor points to when he talks about the support from above. He elaborated Tuesday when someone asked about the perception that ownership doesn't give head coaches enough latitude to win.
"In the two months I've encountered nothing to think championships are not possible here," Taylor said. "It's been nothing but unbelievable support from everyone. Mike Brown. It's been unbelievable ... and seeing they want to win as much as anybody. It's been a great process the last two months. All I know is what I've experienced and I'm very encouraged. We've been given everything as a coaching staff that we could possibly need to succeed. So there'll be no excuses."
Taylor is building his program on his people skills. He summed it all up adroitly when asked what's the best thing about being in Cincinnati: "The people."
When Lapham asked the crowd at the end of the session to deliver Taylor the loudest Who-Dey of all, the people agreed.