Zac Taylor will hold his new team to a high standard. He mentioned that several times Tuesday during his introductory press conference with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The former Nebraska quarterback was announced Monday as the franchise’s head coach, becoming the first Husker player to reach that level in more than 60 years. The 35-year-old has a clear plan as he embarks on his “lifelong dream” of leading an NFL team.
“We’ll establish a culture of high standards and of clear communication on and off the field,” Taylor said. “These players want to be held to a high standard, and we’re going to do that. They’re going to be excited to walk into this building every day.”
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Taylor is ready to embrace this pressure. “I don’t know why you would do this if you didn’t love it,” he said. And he’s learned how to do that from many influences throughout his playing and coaching career.
He referenced Sean McVay, the Los Angeles Rams coach Taylor served under for the past two seasons. He also mentioned his father, Sherwood — a former college player and coach — and his father-in-law, Mike Sherman — who spent decades coaching in college and the NFL.
Taylor also brought up his two biggest mentors at Nebraska — Bill Callahan and Jay Norvell. Callahan recruited Taylor to Nebraska, and Norvell was the offensive coordinator for his two seasons as a Husker.
“Those are some people who gave me confidence as a player,” Taylor said. “They were great teachers. When you’re around great teachers at that level, it makes a natural progression to go into coaching. There are plenty of people who have had an influence on me, and I’m thankful for all of them.”
There have been reports saying Taylor is interested in bringing Callahan on to his coaching staff with the Bengals. Callahan has been an NFL assistant since getting fired by Nebraska in 2007. Taylor on Tuesday said he wasn’t ready to identify any assistant coaches he’s chosen or is considering.
That will come later. For now, he’s just handling the whirlwind that’s been the past few days.
He coached in the Super Bowl on Sunday, and less than 24 hours later the Bengals were announcing him as their next coach. And though the franchise identified him early in the process as their leading candidate, he had to wait until after the Super Bowl to make the move official.
He took time Tuesday to reflect on Sunday’s loss, which he called disappointing, but he does find solace in the journey that got the Rams there.
“It was hard because you work with those people every single day,” Taylor said. “And we put in so much since April — really a two-year process to get where we were Sunday. It was a difficult way to end the season, but it was such a historic season, one we’ll never forget.”
And now Taylor will try to bring a different franchise to that level of success. He said it would be “silly” not to incorporate parts of the Rams’ high-flying offense while building his system in Cincinnati. He expressed high confidence in quarterback Andy Dalton, someone he followed closely at TCU while Taylor coached at Texas A&M. He’s high on the overall talent on the roster.
He’ll continue to assess the team’s needs moving forward. His first goals are to assemble the coaching staff and get to know his players. Then he’ll handle free agency, the draft and everything else “one task at a time.”
And that all started in earnest on Tuesday.
“This won’t be easy,” Taylor said. “There’s a lot of hard work involved. But I’m excited to get started.”