Bengals.com senior writer Geoff Hobson sat down with head coach Zac Taylor to discuss the move back to Andy Dalton from Ryan Finley and trying to balance winning now with the big picture. And he saw something Sunday he had never seen.
What went into the decision to go back to Andy Dalton as the starting quarterback?
It's never an easy decision. There's not any defined reasons why. Sometimes you just feel like let's make a change, go back to Andy. We've got confidence in Andy to help us get a win.
How many times did you watch the film before you made the decision?
I watched it many times. After the game that night. I watched it the next morning. It's a tough business. It's hard because it was a tough environment for the quarterback to play in. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut a little bit.
You almost have to say Ryan faltered for the same reasons Andy faltered.
Yeah, it's not like there are people running wide open. Sometimes he gets some pressure in his face trying to make a big throw. It's not easy.
Was this your decision or did you have input from the front office?
I always keep them abreast of any big decisions we're making. Everyone trusts what we're trying to accomplish here.
You've had so many challenges with injuries. Have you considered changing your scheme?
We evolve the scheme every week. We're trying to get points on the board and figure out ways to be explosive. There are no egos here in this room. It's trying to figure out the best ways to utilize the guys that we've got and play to their strengths and find ways to score points.
Andy has the same challenges Ryan had, but I guess he gives you some savvy.
Sometimes a veteran presence helps you in games like this. We've got full confidence in Andy that he'll help us go get a win.
With Ryan, was it a question of maybe don't get him shell-shocked? Sit him down and don't crush his confidence?
It's not an easy decision because he's a confident guy. He's got full faith in his abilities. It's not fair necessarily to any quarterback this happened to this year.
It would certainly be understandable if you were to make sure he didn't lose his confidence.
That may be for someone else to say. We're just trying to give ourselves the best chance.
It looks like you and Andy have worked through the initial decision, when he made it plain he disagreed with the benching.
It's always frustrating when something like that happens. I don't blame anybody or their feelings. That's just where we're at. He's been great through the whole process. He's been a pro. He's always been ready to help this team in anyway. As the backup or the starter.
It seems like you're not thinking past that last game on Dec. 29.
No, trying to win a football game. Trying to win as many as we can. Starting with this one. You always have to balance the big picture, but in this case we're trying to do everything we can to win the game this Sunday and win the one after that and so on.
Did you come to that realization?
No, if you're a competitor in any shape or form, you're just trying to do everything to win.
Is it a question of culture, too?
We want a winning environment and we want to win championships and losing doesn't help that in any way. Our whole mission is to win every single game we play.
You turn to a guy in Andy that may not be here next year.
These aren't even things we worry about. We're just focused on trying to beat the Jets.
The defense has played well enough to win the last two weeks. What do you think has been the difference?
I think these guys have really honed in on the fundamentals and fit the runs like we've asked them to do and that's been encouraging. They've done a good job in the red zone. They've been very good against the run outside of a couple of runs. That's been really encouraging to see those guys step up and play the way we know they can play.
You'll be going against a good defense this week with the Jets.
They've presented a lot of problems for the offenses they've faced, these last couple of weeks particularly. They disguise a lot of their looks on first and second down. They do a great job against the run. They're number one in run defense in the league right now. Outside of the first week of the season against Buffalo, they haven't given up more than 3.5 yards per rush, which is impressive. These last three weeks, they've really evolved their system and they won the last three games. They're playing more two-high than they were earlier in the year. It's something (defensive coordinator) Gregg Williams has done a lot in his past and he's had a lot of success with it.
Do you think they'll put more guys in the box to stop the run and force Dalton to make plays, the kind of stuff Finley saw?
They're a little bit unique in that way that they get the safeties out of there a lot of times. They do a great job with the front and the corners in the run game. It's been really impressive.
How do you attack their defense?
We've got to put together a great plan to run the ball, because that's something that we have to be able to rely on. But they've certainly had a lot of success, particularly these last three weeks, so we've got to put together a great plan that will challenge these guys.
You scouted Jets quarterback Sam Darnold. How has he improved?
He's a creator. He does a good job making plays that aren't always there. Sometimes that gets a young guy in trouble, but I think he's really working his way through that. He's been really solid and efficient the last couple of weeks, particularly taking care of the football. Now he's 11 weeks into that system, he's got a better understanding of what they're asking him to do. He's played really well.
Is he one of these young guys that can run?
He's athletic enough to hurt you with his feet when the opportunity is there. He's somebody that you have to be aware of. On third down he can take off and run and go get the first down.
You've got some leaders stepping up. Guys are playing hard. Shawn Williams is playing with a broken bone. The offensive line seems to be working through the Cordy Glenn situation.
Everybody's been on the same page. We're all working towards the same thing. If you just watch the effort and the emotion these guys are playing with these last couple of weeks that tells you all you need to know.
Have you ever been anywhere in a season like this? Seen anything like it?
The guy you decide to start at left guard last week, Alex Redmond (because Billy Price has a back issue), tears his bicep and is out for year. On the last play of warmups. And Billy has to play.
The first I've seen that.
Do you feel like you're going to get a bunch of breaks coming your way?
We're stocking them all up. You get a chance to really see the leadership in the locker room when you're facing a bunch of different challenges that come out of nowhere. Who flinches? Who stays the course and tries to persevere through it? We can count on a lot of guys right now in all three phases.