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Taylor-Made Takes: For Openers, Be Yourself

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor looks on from the sideline during an NFL preseason football game against the New York Giants, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019 in Cincinnati. (AP Photo / Joe Robbins)
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor looks on from the sideline during an NFL preseason football game against the New York Giants, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019 in Cincinnati. (AP Photo / Joe Robbins) senior writer Geoff Hobson will sit down with head coach Zac Taylor every week for some quick Taylor-Made Takes off the last game and heading into the next one. Here are some of his thoughts on the verge of his first game as a head coach Sunday (4:05 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) in Seattle.

What are you thinking about before kickoff? Are you going to get sentimental?

I'm going to think about what adjustments we're going to have to be ready to make as soon as the game starts. That will probably be what is on my mind.

Your dad is a former coach. Does he have words of advice for you?

Call good plays and win the game. He's coached me from the first day of my sports career. It's always just be tough, be humble, lead by example and people will follow you. That advice has carried over my entire career.

Other than your dad, who was the best coach you had and why?

I learned a lot from a lot coaches. Mike Sherman taught me a lot early in my career (in his first job at Texas A&M). Mike taught me how to set the foundation for an organization and a football team and keeping everyone accountable and disciplined. He always let players know where they stand. There was always that great honesty with him. Also I thought he was very sound schematically. He was able to make a lot of adjustments, so I learned a lot of that stuff from him.

Bill Callahan (Nebraska head coach when Taylor was his QB), our offensive coordinator's dad, really taught me the timing of quarterback play and how critical that is. He helped project you as a leader in front of the team. I think that's important for the team to feel the confidence they have in the quarterback.

When is the first time you realized you wanted to be an NFL head coach?

Every year I've been a coach, it's been my ultimate dream is to be a leader and be a head coach. As my coaching career went on, I learned to focus less and less on that and more just on the job that I was in at that moment. Fortunately I was at a place I loved for two years. All I had to focus on was making players better at their position. When you're at a great organization and you win, good things happen to those coaches. Fortunately I was able to be in that position for this to all work out for me.

Are there any other coaches you've reached out to as you prepare for your first game as head coach?

I've talked to a couple of guys, guys that I've coached with in the past. We like to bounce things off of each other. Not necessarily head coaches all the time. There are plenty of position coaches and coordinators around the league that I've got good relationships with.

(Rams head coach) Sean McVay has been great. (Packers head coach) Matt LaFleur has been great. (Cardinals head coach) Kliff Kingsbury has been great.

Do you feel an affinity with guys like LaFleur and Kingsbury who are also NFL head coaches for the first time?

They're friends of mine. Guys I've either played with in the past or coached with in the past, so you've got those deeper relationships.

What were some of the major things you wanted to take away from your time with McVay?

The way he drove the culture and expectations and standards he set for the team. They met those standards with the veterans we had in the locker room. It leads to a lot of wins when you've got guys doing things the right way. He treated everybody the same. He made sure that you felt the value he placed on you. You felt it all the time. So he got the most out of everybody that was working for him and playing for him.

Who is the best coach in the NFL?

I think there are a lot of great coaches. I don't think it's fair to say that somebody is the best coach in the NFL. Everybody has their nuances. The important thing is you don't try to emulate somebody just because you think they're best. They've got a different style that's their own style.

You look at teams that have won over time. Sean is doing great things in L.A. The Patriots have won for a long time. Andy Reid is someone who's able to evolve his system over time. To go from a true West Coast to whatever you want to call that they're doing right now. He's a guy that takes the talent that he thinks is going to work in this era of football and he finds the scheme that's going to be very difficult to stop.

Any words of coaching philosophy that hang with you?

The best advice has always been be yourself. We just want to make sure the players have confidence in themselves and confidence in what we're asking them to do. Since day one, that's been the task of the coaching staff to clearly communicate what our intentions are in everything that we do in this program. Our players seem to understand that. Now it carries over to the game plan, making sure it's clear, concise and there's no gray, so our players can go play with a ton of confidence on Sunday.