The Cincinnati Bengals are known as a deliberate (i.e. too slow to change), somewhat cost-conscious (cheap) franchise under owner Mike Brown. This is the sort of team that doesn't want to pay someone not to work for them. That's probably why Zac Taylor was brought back after another disappointing 2020 season, but if the Bengals and QB Joe Burrow don't make a jump in 2021, Taylor probably is a goner. He's a co-second favorite via SportsLine oddsmakers to be the first NFL coach fired/leave his job this season.
Taylor was named the 10th coach in Bengals history in February 2019. It was a minor surprise because Taylor hadn't even been a full-time offensive coordinator in the NFL previously; he had been serving as the quarterbacks coach of the Los Angeles Rams.
Perhaps in a bad sign, Taylor's hiring was made official the day after the Rams offense and QB Jared Goff were horrible in a 13-3 loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. Cincinnati wanted an offensive-minded guy after 16 seasons under defensive-minded Marvin Lewis – offense sells tickets.
"Zac is a bright coach with an offensive mind and background, which is important to have in today's NFL," Brown said at the time. " 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."
Cincinnati was 1-15 in Taylor's first season, which would also be the end of the Andy Dalton era. At least that record earned the Bengals the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, which they of course used on Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner out of LSU (maybe they should have taken Justin Herbert?). Burrow had shown very promising signs last year before suffering a season-ending injury Nov. 22 at Washington. The Bengals were 2-7-1 under Burrow and finished 4-11-1. Frankly, Burrow's injury might have gotten Taylor a third year. Several players also publicly backed the coach.
"Our fans wanted a fresh new direction two years ago, and that is what we aimed to do in hiring a bright, energetic head coach in Zac Taylor. We remain bullish on the foundation Zac is building," Brown said in a statement following the 2020 season on bringing Taylor back in 2021. "In Zac's two years, we have added many new starters and contributors through the draft, we have invested heavily in free agency, and we have acquired a talented young quarterback with a bright future."
Burrow by all accounts has looked very shaky in training camp – he threw all of one preseason pass in his lone series. Also concerning is that the Bengals didn't take an offensive lineman to protect Burrow at No. 5 overall in this year's draft but instead receiver Ja'Marr Chase, Burrow's former LSU teammate. Chase has been hugely disappointing – he dropped that Burrow preseason pass in the exhibition finale. Drops have been prevalent with Chase.
The Bengals have finished last in the AFC North in each of Taylor's two seasons by a considerable margin, and it's difficult to see anything changing because the Ravens and Browns are both loaded and the Steelers are always competitive. Cincinnati has an Over/Under win total of 6.5 at Caesars with the Under a -115 favorite. If the Bengals finish Under, Taylor's gone.
Incidentally, circle Week 2: Cincinnati at Chicago (which is starting Dalton at QB). I believe both teams enter at 0-1, and the Bears' Matt Nagy is also a co-second favorite to be the first coach fired this year. The coaching loser of that game probably vaults into the favored role. The Bengals are +3.5 at home for Week 1 vs. Minnesota.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Who will be first NFL coach fired/leave job this season?
- Vic Fangio +600
- Zac Taylor +700
- Matt Nagy +700
- Mike Zimmer +800
- Mike McCarthy +900
- Kliff Kingsbury +1000
- Jon Gruden +1200
- David Culley +1400
- Urban Meyer +1500
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