After watching the NFL play out in typical wackiness during last week's bye, head coach Zac Taylor talks perspective with Bengals.com senior writer Geoff Hobson as he gears up for his first playoff run as a head coach.
GH: Last week when you met with your team after the Cleveland game, you outlined exactly where you were in the playoff picture to let them know it is all in their hands. I would imagine after last Sunday's games and even more AFC standings turmoil, did you even have to do that this week?
ZT: No, the comment I made is it doesn't get any easier from here. How we handle things. How we handle success. How we handle adversity down the stretch. Some teams will handle it well. Some teams won't. We need to be the team that handles it well and good things will be ahead for us.
GH: It's even more open that it was last week with your division not getting a win. You gained ground without moving off the couch. I have to believe your guys were watching that.
ZT: It's hard to know if all were or some were. But I think the message is we want to earn our right to do all those things that we put goals in front of. We don't want to just stumble into them and have other teams give them to us. We want to win games and earn our place at the table at the end of the season. That starts with being fresh off the bye, having a great week of practice and putting on a good performance out there in Las Vegas.
GH: I thought you had a good answer when you told the media that every team is different and every bye week is different from year-to-year and offensive coordinator Brian Callahan made a good point when he said being in the playoff race has a lot to do with it. Suffice to say this isn't the same team that you took out of the bye the last two years (2-13-1 combined before losing the first game off the bye by a combined 85-23). No comparison. This team is one win out of the playoffs.
ZT: It might be a different mindset for some guys. They know we're right in the thick of it. Everybody on our team is ready to move on from some of the performances we had the last couple of weeks and putting our best foot forward.
GH: It couldn't have broken any better. Did you watch the games?
ZT: I did. It's hard for me not to. You're there. The weather was what it was this weekend. You find yourself sitting on the couch watching those games with my boys and wife. I think the good thing for players and coaches who didn't have a dog in the fight was you could see what this game really looks like on a Sunday. Teams that will maybe have had a good couple of weeks stretch and all of a sudden they find themselves dealing with a tough loss. There are teams that weren't having a great stretch that find themselves at the top of the pole again. It gives us a chance to get some perspective, to sit back and watch what a typical NFL weekend looks like instead of being so engulfed in playing a road game and what comes with that. It's good to sit back and watch other teams go do it.
GH: I would think it would show anybody that watched that most every team has some problems and if they don't, they soon will.
ZT: Everything is always so focused on yourself and our team and how we feel. It's a good chance to come back and have some perspective on the league.
GH: You've never been in this position as the head coach of a contender in November and December. Do you talk to Sean McVay much and other guys you know that have done it or do you rely on your own experiences when you were on teams in the playoff hunt?
ZT: I've got recollections of my time in LA when we made the playoffs and my time in Miami when we didn't and were in good position to. It's just coming out of the bye week every team is different and you have to handle that team differently.
GH: In the first half of this season your offense changed slightly from last year in the sense you are running a bit more heavy formations and going under center a little more than last year. That's just two examples of adaptations. How did those self-scout?
ZT: I think it's important to evolve over the course of the season and try to keep defenses on their heels as best we can but not stray too far from some things our guys are really comfortable with and confident in. You're always trying to find a balance between those two things.