Former Husker quarterback Zac Taylor was announced Monday as the new coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.
This is Taylor's first head coaching job. He served as the Rams' quarterbacks coach this past season, helping lead the Rams to the Super Bowl.
Taylor, 35, takes over a Bengals franchise which hasn't had a winning season since 2015. Former coach Marvin Lewis was fired after his 16th season in Cincinnati, but he won less than 52 percent of his games and went 0-7 in the playoffs.
“I am happy and fortunate to join the Cincinnati Bengals as head coach,” Taylor said in a press release. “This is a great organization with good people and a rich history, and I am excited to get started. I am looking to add to that history by setting high standards, and holding everyone here accountable to those standards. There is a lot of work to do, and this is day one. We’re going to attack every day with enthusiasm to get this team ready to go.”
Sign up for Big Red Today news alerts
Get a daily Husker news roundup, recruiting updates and breaking news in your inbox.
Taylor is the Bengals' youngest head coach since they hired Dave Shula at age 32 in in 1992. He's also the first Husker player to become an NFL head coach in more than 60 years.
Taylor reached a deal with the Bengals on Monday, a few hours after L.A.'s 13-3 loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Cincinnati had to wait until after the title game to make his hiring official.
Taylor became a hot commodity for teams in need of a new head coach this offseason. He interviewed with at least two other teams — the Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos — and was also linked to openings for offensive coordinators.
Taylor has been credited as a key cog in the Rams' explosive offense that produced the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. Los Angeles finished the regular season fifth in the league in passing yards per game, and quarterback Jared Goff threw for 4,688 yards (fourth) and 32 touchdowns (tied for sixth) in 16 games.
“Zac is a bright coach with an offensive mind and background, which is important to have in today’s NFL,” Bengals president Mike Brown said in a press release. “And he’s young. He embraces new ideas and new ways to do things, which will be a good thing for us. I believe our team will be exciting and fun to watch with him at the helm.”
Taylor embarked on his coaching career not long after leaving Nebraska, where he started every game as Nebraska's quarterback in 2005 and 2006, winning Big 12 player of the year as a senior. He then played one year in the Canadian Football League before becoming a coach.
He got his start as a graduate assistant at Texas A&M for his now-father-in-law Mike Sherman. He then worked for the Miami Dolphins from 2012-15, eventually rising to offensive coordinator for the final five games of the 2015 season. He spent 2016 in the collegiate ranks with the Cincinnati Bearcats before returning to the NFL in 2017 on head coach Sean McVay's staff in Los Angeles.
He joined the Rams as the assistant wide receivers coach and was elevated to quarterbacks coach for the 2018 season.
"A lot of things stand out about him, but Zac is so good at communication and being open and honest," Goff said. "He's a lot like Sean (McVay) in that way. He's got a bright future."
Now Taylor is going to run an entire team.
Taylor's former teammates aren't surprised to see him reach this level of the coaching ranks.
“There’s something innate about him that makes him special,” said Greg Austin, Nebraska’s offensive line coach who played with Taylor at Nebraska. “He’s a good leader, a cerebral guy. ...
"When I heard he was getting the Bengals job, I thought there was not a better person, better man, better leader than Zac.”
His challenge is reminiscent of what Lewis faced when he arrived in Cincinnati in 2003. He'll be counted upon not only to win games, but also to win back fans turned off by the owner's aversion to change.
Brown was loyal to Lewis and stuck with him despite an 0-7 mark in the playoffs, the worst in NFL history for a head coach. The Bengals haven't won a playoff game since the 1990 season under Sam Wyche, tied with Washington for the fifth-longest streak of postseason futility in league history.
Since then, Shula, Bruce Coslet, Dick LeBeau and Lewis failed to get a playoff win. They managed only seven winning seasons combined, all by Lewis.
Crowds at Paul Brown Stadium have shrunk each of the last three years, with the Bengals finishing next-to-last in the NFL attendance last season. By bringing in an outsider as head coach, the Bengals hope to send a message that things are changing.
It won't be easy in the short-term.
Last season, the Bengals had their youngest team in Lewis' 16 years, and the inexperienced showed. Also, they've been unsettled at the coordinator positions in recent years, adding to the challenge. Quarterback Andy Dalton will be working under his third different coordinator in the last three seasons. The defense will have its fourth coordinator in three years — Lewis moved into the role last season after firing Teryl Austin.
Information from The Associated Press was used for this report.