When Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com sat down with Zac Taylor this week, there wasn’t a yard sale sign to be found. He says there’s no talk of a fire sale and the only flame burns for a win in Baltimore. He also reflected on a phone call with Bengals Super Bowl head coach Sam Wyche, plus advice he got from one of his old coaches and the man he calls “my best resource.”
Like players and other media, I was impressed with what you did in the locker room after Sunday’s game. You embraced who was ever left, pretty much, and it sounded like it was something instinctive. A from the gut thing.
We’re in this thing together. We genuinely care about each other. We’ve put in a lot of work and so far we haven’t seen it pay off yet. If you stay the course and you believe in what you’re doing and you believe in the people you’re doing it with, good things are going to happen. We know good things are coming our way. We just have to keep working.
Have you ever had a coach do that to you after a tough loss?
I’ve certainly had coaches who made a big impact on me. After you lose a tough game, whether they call you or come see you after the game, that stuff has happened over the course of my career.
Your head coach at Nebraska, Bill Callahan, who just got a promotion on Monday as head coach in Washington, sounds like he would have done something like that.
I always appreciated the way he coached me. He was up front and honest. I always felt like I became a better player because of the way that he taught me.
I know you’re not a big noise guy. You’re pretty insulated, but when a team with a lot veterans starts out like this, the noise is saying: “Let’s blow it up. The trading deadline is three weeks away.” Do you think you’re in that phase right now?
No. We’re in the phase where we’re just trying to win a game. We’re doing whatever we can to win this game. That’s where all our efforts are. That’s where all our focus is. Sometimes it’s nice to be insulated. You don’t deal with all that stuff. Our focus remains the same it has been for the last five weeks.
That seems to be management’s message, too.
We’re all on the same page here. Everyone is expecting that we’ve got to win this game. That’s our only approach.
But do you have to deal with it from a team perspective? In this day and age guys are going to hear noise. Do you have to jump out in front of that and say we’re not ripping it up?
We do talk. It’s about us. It’s about the people in this building. You’re going to get a lot chatter outside after the first loss or after the fifth loss. It’s usually all the same. You just have to make sure you keep your focus on what it should be and try to make your guys a better player and this team a better team.
Do you feel like you have to tell veterans that you’re not looking to trade them?
We talk to the leaders on a regular basis to make sure the ship is being steered in the right direction.
I mentioned to you after Sunday’s game that Sam Wyche, one of the Bengals Super Bowl coaches, started his coaching career here in 1984 at 0-5 and that Bengals team went 8-8 and you said that he gave you a call last week. That had to give you a lift.
It was good. He seems like a great man. Certainly he’s got a lot experience in this profession. He’s been through some ups and downs. It’s always good to hear from a veteran guy like that. I really appreciate him reaching out.
Did he hearken back to his first year?
He did. He said he got a similar phone call from Joe Gibbs when he started out 0-5 and Joe Gibbs told him he started out 0-5. Just hang in there. Things get better. Just stay the course. If you believe in what you’re doing, stick with it and good things will come your way. You hear a lot of stories of stuff like that. And we believe. We just have to keep fighting for it.
Are you thinking of changing anything up personnel wise? Alex Redmond, who started 15 games at right guard last season, is eligible to play for the first time this Sunday. Will he be in there at left guard?
We evaluate all of our positions up front. He’s certainly a guy with a lot of playing experience. We’ll see how he factors in the equation. We’ll continue to talk through (Tuesday) for all positions, but those are conversations that we always have each and every week.
It sounds like Lou Anarumo wants to give some young guys a shot on defense.
Again, I think that’s what we’re evaluating. Every single position to try and figure out how we can get the best guys on the field that give us a great chance to win.
In the last two weeks your defense has faced offenses that gave you different looks. Pittsburgh with that zone read. Arizona went more with 12 (two tight-end) personnel groups than usual. Copycat league. Did that get you thinking about your depleted wide receivers corps and how maybe you can go with double tight ends or two backs (21 personnel) instead of three receivers (11 personnel)?
I think every single week we try to find the best approach that helps us be successful. Last week we needed to come up with seven points instead of three a couple of times. We didn’t get it done. Scored on five of the nine possessions. We have to keep making sure that we’re doing the right thing to put us in the best position to win.
With the way you’ve been decimated at wide receiver, one argument is to ditch the three-receiver sets for more tight ends and two backs since you have more of those. And good ones, too. Yet you stuck with three receivers most of the way with the reasoning being, I’m sure, that gave you the best matchup.
Yeah. And in the second half we got those two touchdowns at the end of the game out of 11 personnel. Every single week we look to see if we’re doing the best thing.
Philosophically, 11 is seen as a good base offense because it’s flexible, right?
You get a lot of 12 personnel formations out of 11 personnel groupings. A lot of times you can have a pretty good sense where they’re going to be on defense based on your formation. But if we have to be in 12, 13 10, whatever it takes to win, we’re going to do it.
What is the message to the defense after giving up its second 500-yard game of the season?
Make sure we’re working above and beyond. Let’s make sure we’re all professionals doing our best during the course of the week in meetings and practice. If there’s anything extra you can do to make sure you’re a better player on Sunday, then we’re looking at it. Coaches and players. Everything. The players have responded really well to that.
Besides Sam, have you heard from anybody else?
I hear from all sorts of people I respect. Other coaches in the profession. There a lot of people. You see them in moments like this when things are difficult. The people that reach out are people you can typically depend on. Guys that have a lot of experience in this league. Guys I have a ton of respect for. You always appreciate hearing from guys like that.
Any quote that you’ve held on to from them?
Don’t compromise those things that are important to you. Stay the course. That’s the common theme from anyone that’s faced adversity and been through tough times. Don’t change who you are.
Your dad is an old coach. What has he said to you recently?
He’s the best resource I’ve got. He’s always been there for me. He’s always got good words of wisdom. Just be true to who you are. Believe in what you’re doing. The time is going to come. Just stay the course.