LINCOLN — Zac Taylor was willing to talk to anybody. That's what you do when you need a job.
But Taylor also knew where he wanted his next coaching stop to be, if the opportunity presented itself.
“I wanted to go to the NFL, whether it be as an intern, assistant coach, whatever,” he said.
Taylor got a taste of NFL coaching as a Nebraska quarterback working under former head coach Bill Callahan and offensive coordinator Jay Norvell, who had been together with the Oakland Raiders for a Super Bowl season. He got another taste in his four years at Texas A&M with Mike Sherman, the former Green Bay coach who was offensive coordinator with two other NFL teams.
Taylor loved the stories. Absorbed the knowledge. Daydreamed what it might be like.
“It just always intrigued me,” Taylor said. “I just felt like I needed to see what that was about.”
Taylor, 29, now is on the doorstep of his first NFL season as Miami prepares for its opener Sunday at Houston. And it's already been quite a ride for the Dolphins' first-year quarterbacks coach who was hired Jan. 31.
Taylor works daily with the Dolphins' hope for the future, rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. He spent August logging more time on HBO's “Hard Knocks” than he ever would have imagined. And he's back with Sherman, his father-in-law, now the offensive coordinator for Miami coach Joe Philbin.
he couldn't have drawn it up any better eight months ago.
“I was talking to some different people, looking at a lot of different opportunities, and then this one came up,” Taylor said. “Coach Philbin offered me a job, and it was a no-brainer. It was the best situation I could have fallen into.”
Above all else, it might be the chance to help groom Tannehill, the No. 8 overall pick in the April draft who won the Miami starting job in training camp. Tannehill was the starting quarterback at Texas A&M when Taylor was a graduate assistant.
Tannehill's time with Sherman in College Station brought him to Miami with a “great base,” Taylor said.
“So we didn't look at him as a typical rookie quarterback coming in,” Taylor said. “He knew this offense. Now it's just a matter of getting experience in the NFL.
“But what's great about working with him is that every day he's trying to learn something new and constantly working on his mechanics and fundamentals. Every day he's trying to get better.”
Taylor also found himself coaching one Miami quarterback who was older than him (David Garrard) and another just a tad younger (Matt Moore). It worked, Taylor said, because those two were willing to make it work (Garrard suffered a knee injury in camp and recently was released).
“It could have been different, very easily,” Taylor said. “I could have gotten quarterbacks in the room that didn't want to hear what I had to say, but that hasn't happened at all.”
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Many got to hear Taylor and see him in action, thanks to the Dolphins' role as featured team on “Hard Knocks” during training camp. HBO used a number of clips with Taylor on the field and in his position meetings.
Taylor said it wasn't unusual during training camp for the text messages to be rolling in if a new “Hard Knocks” episode was airing when the Dolphins staff was still hard at work.
“When the new ones are on, we're usually at the complex or in a meeting, and my cellphone is vibrating away,” Taylor said. “I'm like, ‘OK, what's it mean?' You've got a camera in the room 24 hours a day, and you don't know what 30 seconds they decide to show.
“But HBO does a great job — they're the best at what they do — and I don't think anyone would have any complaints about being a part of it.”
Taylor will be on the Dolphins' sideline Sunday, taking the play call from Sherman in the press box and relaying it to Tannehill on the field. They'll talk between series and go over photos to study what the Texans' defense is doing.
Taylor used to be pretty good at it as the starting quarterback at Nebraska in 2005 and '06, the year he was voted Big 12 offensive player of the year. The native of Norman, Okla., is the Huskers' all-time leader in passing yards (5,850) and touchdowns (45).
After getting cut by Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent in 2007 and briefly trying the CFL, Taylor wasn't necessarily heading down this path until Sherman was hired at Texas A&M.
“I really didn't think (my future) was going to be in coaching, to be honest with you,” Taylor said. “But when I stepped away and realized that football wasn't there for me, I had to think, ‘OK, what am I good at?' I felt like I was good at football, and it was everything that I had been around all my life.
“It was then that I realized, probably more so than I did when I was playing, the effect it all had on me.”
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