Brooks Taylor, eight years old and flipping a Bengals orange and black rubber football in his hands as he joined his family for Monday’s walk-through Paul Brown Stadium on his dad’s first day as the head coach, didn’t blink.
His favorite player?
“Andy Dalton,” the kid said as easily as if it were the names of his three younger siblings.
Which is no surprise to Zac Taylor even though he worked on the offensive side with Rams quarterback Jared Goff the last two seasons.
“Madden,” Taylor said shaking his head, one of the rare times it was away from a phone on Day One. “He plays Madden all day, every day. He knows all the players here. It was a quick transition for him. I hope Jared doesn’t hear that because for two years Jared was his favorite player. There was no coaching with that one. He knows all about Andy Dalton and he’s excited to meet him.”
Like father, like son. One of the many reasons the Bengals are staking their future on Dad is because of his knowledge deep down the roster and his admiration of Dalton. Zac Taylor has been watching Dalton as long as Brooks has been alive.
“I saw about every snap he had at TCU,” Taylor said. “In Miami I watched the Bengals quite a bit as an AFC foe and we played the Bengals quite a bit. I’ve always thought very highly of Andy and I think he’ll thrive in this system. Smart players will do well in this offense. And I know Andy is a very smart player. He’s got all the tools to be a great quarterback in this league and he’s been doing it for a long time. And we’ve seen that from him.”
Busy, but in a brief first interview behind his desk he reflected on that furious first day and what’s ahead. (He’s already re-arranging office space and making plans for more):
Brooks’ walk-through ended with the meeting of two football families at the office of Bengals president Mike Brown, the son of a coach.
While Brown broke the ice in a conversation with the father of his new one, Sherwood, an Oklahoma safety who coached at his alma mater and Kansas State, his daughter, executive vice president Katie Blackburn, offered six-year-old Luke some of the ever-present candy in her office. Zac’s mother held the youngest, Milly, while wife Sarah clutched Emma Claire, complete in a Bengals cheerleader outfit.
“My dad’s an old ball coach. He loves to talk football. He’ll fit right in here,” Taylor said. “You like to be around people that understand football and understand what you’re going through. The family knows what it’s like to be around football your entire life. That’s how I’ve been brought up. That’s how they’ve been brought up. I think it works well together. It’s all about people and I can tell there are really good people in this building. I’m excited to get to know all of them.”
And he won’t waste any time. He’ll stop by to say a few words to staff members before Tuesday’s introductory news conference. If it looks like he’s comfortable, it’s because he has been ever since he sat for his first interview with the Bengals search committee headed by the Brown family and director of player personnel Duke Tobin.
“I felt very connected with ownership here and Duke,” Taylor said. “It was a great fit for me, great fit for my family. There’s great talent in this building. This definitely feels like home. This feels like the right place to be. The staff we’re assembling is going to be top-notch. They’re going to be great motivators and great teachers. I’m just excited to get to work.”
Another reason he’s here is the Bengals sensed he wanted to be here because of the roster.
“There is a lot of talent with rookies and second-year guys,” Taylor said. “And good veterans to have great influence and that are really talented players. It’s a good blend. I’ve been studying the Patriots, the Saints and the Cowboys during our play-off run and now I can start delving in deeper.”
Not many humans get to experience what Taylor did in 12 hours the last few days. On Sunday night he was in a losing Super Bowl locker room stunned that the Rams’ high-powered offense didn’t score a touchdown in history’s lowest scoring Super Bowl. Twelve hours later he was greeting his new quarterback in another NFL locker room that was now his own.
“You’re conflicted on how to feel to be quite honest with you,” Taylor said. “You put so much hard work into this season with those players and coaches and to come up short is very disappointing. But today you have to be ready to flip a switch and it’s an exciting time here. I’m very excited to be here. Walking into this building and seeing these people, I know there are great people in this building and all of us joining together for the same goal.”
The Bengals are banking on the 35-year-old Taylor’s new age approach and ideas to get them back to where predecessor Marvin Lewis had them a few years ago as a perennial play-off team and Super Bowl contender.
“As long as you can help make the players better, they’ll do anything for you,” Taylor said. “Everything we’ll do will be with sound reasoning. We’re going to have an attacking mindset. These players are going to be excited to walk in the door every single day they’re around us. We’re going to hire people who are really good coaches, think outside the box and are really pushing these players to the max and get the most out of them. I think the players will be excited to be around these guys.”