Head coach Zac Taylor decompresses with Bengals.com senior writer Geoff Hobson off the Super Bowl run and discusses how to avoid the Super Bowl hangover, the beauty of Zoom as they look to rack up their third straight great draft class and his relationship with Bengals president Mike Brown.
GH: Have you written into your coaching journal yet what you learned from Super Bowl LVI?
ZT: No, not yet. I'm just relaxing. There are still things we have to tie up, but I'm trying to do my best to decompress right now. Maybe next week when I'm on vacation.
GH: Is that something for the beach?
ZT: It's possible.
GH: You said you've only watched the game once. Anything that lingered with you when you shut it off?
ZT: Just how close we came. That's how a lot of teams feel in their final game. Just how close it was and you're going to reflect back on a play call or a situation or anything over the course of the game you could have done differently that might have put you in a different position. But that's just the nature of it for any team that finishes the final game with a loss.
GH: Will you look at the last drive and take it apart like everybody else in the world is doing?
ZT: It's everything for us. We just have to look at the entirety of the game and see where we can improve.
GH: They talk about teams having a hangover from the Super Bowl. They say the Rams did after losing it three years ago. How do you prevent it from becoming a they-didn't-win-the big game albatross?
ZT: These are things we have to work through. I think the thing we have to do is step away and re-charge our batteries a little bit. Maybe while we step away you have a chance to formulate a plan on how all that is going to take place. But right now it's just tying up loose ends from the season. In these days immediately after the season, take a little bit of a vacation, re-charge, come back ready to attack the next season and make sure we give ourselves a great chance to be successful.
GH: Forget about the offensive line and protecting Joe Burrow. Probably your biggest charge as a team is trying to stay hungry and don't let this loss linger.
ZT: It's impossible to predict how people react, but I know what's at the core of this team. I think they'll come back and respond the right way.
GH: My sense is you feel like you have some young, promising players on the offensive line and are looking to develop them as well as adding new linemen in the offseason. You did draft three last year. It seems like the club thinks it can go into battle with some of these guys eventually, maybe at different positions.
ZT: I think we're well situated. And like every offseason we have to evaluate how we can improve our team. We certainly have a strong core of players we believe in. That's a big part of the future. There are a lot of young players we feel like have a lot of potential. We need to continue to develop them and continue to have patience with a lot of very young players.
GH: How much of the pass protection stuff is tied to the scheme? Do you have to back and look at that?
ZT: We believe in what we're doing and the players we have in the building and we have to continue to look at everything to make sure we're putting our players in the best situation.
GH: How do you think Burrow played in his first Super Bowl?
ZT: I think he did some really good things for us to put us in positon to win. I don't want to speak for other players on the team or other coaches on the team. But we probably walked away from that game, every single one of us, saying, 'I could have had a better call,' and all the players I'm sure would agree. 'Man, if I just made that one play.' I think everyone falls under that umbrella. That's why we were where we were.
But you have to look back on all the great plays he made and the other players made that put us in position to be talking about any other play at the end of the game. They were tremendous plays our guys made to allow us to be in a position where people can be critical of what happened at the end. That's just part of being a professional athlete, professional coach. Any time you come out with a defeat, people are always going to question everything that happens. We accept that. We embrace it. That's just the nature of the business
GH: You've got some key players who are free agents. Jessie Bates III, C.J. Uzomah, Larry Ogunjobi, B.J. Hill, just to name a few. Are these guy priorities? Must Haves? How would you characterize them?
ZT: I think we had a great team this year. The people who were a part of it were a big part of it. We'll just continue to have those conversations as we move forward.
GH: Preparing for the draft and free agency is truncated because your last game came two weeks before the NFL scouting combine. But the scouts have been doing it all year. The thinking is it won't take long for the coaches to catch up.
ZT: Even on vacation Zoom is still available. We'll continue to use that as a tool to make sure we don't miss a beat in doing what is necessary and the conversations we need to have. (Director of player personnel) Duke (Tobin) has been doing this for so long, he keeps the ship sailing right along. And we get on board whenever we get the chance to do it.
GH: You guys have drafted so well since they started using Zoom in 2020. Burrow, Tee Higgins, Ja'Marr Chase, Evan McPherson. Just to name a few. No one has drafted better.
It just allows you to gather all the information you need on these players. It's different than it used be. It isn't just go to the combine and bring in a player on a top 30 visit and go see your player at a workout and those are your three personal interactions with the player. Now you really get a chance to get to know them a lot more thoroughly.
It does take the pressure off the interview portion of the combine where probably Super Bowl teams in the past had to quickly put their ducks in a row before they talked to those players. It's only 18 minutes at the combine. But now we feel good about our Zoom process and the way we can interview players and get all that information post-combine.
We think it's a tremendous group and the credit first and foremost goes to Duke and his staff.
GH: What is your relationship with Bengals president Mike Brown? Is it grandfather-grandson? Boss-employee? Coach's son-coach's son?
ZT: It's two people that are on the same page. Communicating is easy. I really appreciate it's not a once a month conversation because you have too much to talk about when you're part of organization as big as this. The fact we're able to have these conversations like we do, it allows for things not to kind of get swept under the rug or conversations that we miss. It just allows everyone to be on the same page all the time. Anyone that is in this building, I think Mike and the family really do a great job of treating them as best they can like family. I certainly feel part of that as well.
GH: What is the biggest myth you heard about Mike Brown and the Bengals before you got here?
ZT: I can't speak to all that. I don't pay attention to that. What I know is that he's one of the most genuine human beings I've ever been around. He cares about everyone in this organization. He cares about the fans and he wants nothing more than having a winner out on the field. I can't imagine anybody works harder than he does. He's here every single day. He's at every practice. He cares about winning and he cares about this city and our entire fan base and I think that's a special thing to have.
GH: When you signed your extension (Wednesday), was that the first time you talked to him after the game?
ZT: No, I've seen him multiple times every day.
GH: How is he doing? He was probably making sure you were OK.
ZT: I think we're all in the same boat. We have to find a way to reflect back and appreciate the great things that we did this season.