Zac Taylor: Five Burning Questions

The Cincinnati Bengals made it official and signed Zac Taylor to be the 10th coach in franchise history. Right out of the gate he has a myriad of questions to answer. Most of them cannot be answered for another 10 months. Some of them can be answered this week. All of them need to be answered, at some point. Here are the big ones.

1.      Who will be his defensive coordinator?

This one is the most obvious question because it’s been a most obvious weakness, the past few years. It also has some mustard to it, because the next D-coordinator needs to be a little experienced. Think Wade Phillips with Sean McVay-type pairing. The experienced candidate would be a wise, Obi-Wan-type guy who Taylor can lean on, and who can reign in Vontaze Burfict.

It also needs to be a guy with some new ideas. Now this is my personal thought, but Dom Capers has been rumored, and some have recoiled from that, sighting his 3-4 scheme. The Bengals have run a 4-3 scheme since before Marvin Lewis came to town. Now might be a good time to try something new, though. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t completely prepared for it. Their linebackers need overhauling for this idea to work. But that can happen. They already have two guys who could make the change work, in-house, in Malik Jefferson and Carl Lawson. What they don’t have are middle linebackers. They could address that in the draft, but that’s a thought for another blog post. Suffice it to say, they shouldn’t rule out Capers simply because his scheme is a bit different from what they’re used to.

2.      Who is his quarterback, beyond 2019?

This upcoming season is crucial, not only for the Bengals coach, but also for the Bengals QB. Andy Dalton is getting a little older and, by most accounts, has plateaued in his professional development. Can Taylor and his new offensive staff inject some sort of new life into Dalton’s Bengals career, or are his stripes so worn from the last years of Marvin Lewis that a new guy is needed, altogether? Some, myself included, believe that Andy is right there in the middle of the pack, as far as NFL QB rankings go. Not bad, but not great. Maybe Taylor is just what the doctor ordered for him to find that next gear. Or maybe the Bengals meet their franchise QB on April 25? Time will tell.

3.      Does he like Skyline, or Gold Star?

One makes okay chili and is the sponsor of the Bengals and the other is awesome and is named Skyline. Will he be a pawn of corporate contractual obligation, or will he be the free-thinker with a wise pallet that we all think he can be?

4.       Will he quietly do a better job?

We’ve been hearing how important it is to do a better job for 16 years now. Will Taylor have the wherewithal to complete the task without reminding us of the objective each week?

5.      Will he be able to improve Tanya O’Rourke’s golf game?

Quite possibly the most important accomplishment of any NFL head coach is how he imparts his knowledge of the links onto the local news anchor. This is what will earn him his contract extensions for years to come.

The first year of Taylor’s tenure is fraught with excitement and peril. I’ll be all over each development as we look forward to a new era in Bengals football.

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Thinking Out Loud on Paper

Got the house to myself, for the day, and my mind has a few things on it, but none of them could really fill out an entire blog post, so I’m combining them.

I love the idea of Zac Taylor. It looks like the Rams QB coach need only dot some T’s and cross some I’s and he’ll be the Bengals next head coach. I love the thought of new things for my favorite NFL team. They’ve been stale, for awhile, and an infusion of fresh-thinking is just what the doctor ordered. Some are saying this could revolutionize Andy Dalton. I don’t know about that, but new thinking could change his career. Currently he, and the Bengals, have been the definition of mediocre for years. Just good enough to not be bad enough. The man, himself, Taylor has limited experience, and a checkered resume in the eyes of Cincinnati sports fans, but he’s not Marvin Lewis of Hue Jackson. For that reason, I am really excited for everything that is about to happen at Paul Brown Stadium.

Mid-major basketball is my favorite regular-season college basketball to watch. It’s usually pretty nip and tuck, both teams carry the identity of their coach instead of their star players, and for all but one in their conference, they’re not guaranteed action in March. At time of writing, I am watching the second half of Kent State and Ball State with Seton Hall and Butler waiting in the wings to switch to on commercials. Plus, there’s always that little glimmer of information to gather for bracket picking…that will inevitably lead to me making a dumb upset pick. College basketball rocks.

I really enjoy playing video games, but I’ve met enough people to know that I am not a “gamer.” With that being said, I feel like the culture of video games, for the last decade-and-a-half, really, has leaned heavily on first-person shooters. I think my personal video game taste has undergone that whole periodic taste change, thing, in that I don’t like FPS-style games, any more. I love adventure games, and sports games, but I don’t like FPS. Is that allowed? Maybe I’m moving past video games? This is weird to me, but I just can’t with FPS anymore.

I also hate trying to “correctly” hang jeans, but that’s neither here nor there.

Looking forward to checking out a new place in Middletown next week called the Swire Inn. It’s brand new and it’s a pub. My expectations are a little slice of heaven. Are they too high, probably, but I will most likely blog about my experience, so stay tuned.

Monday Musings

It’s Monday morning (at time of writing) and my mind is in a bit of an entanglement.

Firstly, AJ Green is hurt. The report says “some games” which is about as vague as the chances I give the Bengals of beating the Saints, without him. Apparently, he hurt it in the last game before the bye, whenever he got up grabbing at his toe. Some reports say that, after the game, AJ mentioned stubbing it and he’ll be fine. Then he was seen at PBS in a walking boot. Now they’re saying multiple games will be missed. It doesn’t take much to connect the dots and see that Tyler Boyd will be Andy Dalton’s number one target for the Saints game, the Ravens game, and maybe beyond that. In a league where the slimmest of margins separate wildcard teams from teams who finish 7-9, losing AJ really blurs that line for Cincinnati.

The Reds are being linked to a number of different free agents, and it’s got me excited. Sure, I looked at season tickets and realized peons like me aren’t meant to afford that regality (plus, different ticket apps make it cheaper and easier to go to the games I want, anyway) and the Opening Day tickets available on websites start at $150, right now, as the “market” preys on overenthusiastic instant-gratification junkies. That being said, I’m all in on Redsfest coming at the end of November and will probably type up a few words on it, too. I’d love to meet Dallas Keuchel, or Patrick Corbin, or even Nathan Eovaldi, but we’ll see. The powers that be for the oldest professional base-ball franchise have said they’ll break the bank. But whether it’s a bigger crack in the piggy bank or a full blown shattered oinker, remains to be seen.

I plan on writing more about this next thought, so I’ll be brief, but college basketball is back, baby, and this fool just got cable. Hope my wife is ready to hear lots squeaking sneakers and swishing nets!

UC football is back ranked in the Top-25 with a pair of games against good Florida football teams (USF and UCF). That being said, they get the lesser of two Florida’s at home, this Saturday, in a game I think they have a much better shot at winning than I did in August. Then comes the monster that is UCF. 21-straight wins (maybe 22 by next week) will face off against the Luke Fickell reclamation project. Coach Fick has built the Cats into bonafide football players in just a year and a half, and may be the next name to be plucked from Clifton to a big time job. Nobody, including me, saw the success he’s had this year as possible, and yet here we are. We could be talking about a 10-win Bearcats football side, come December, and that is magnificent.

I’m still on about Bohemian Rhapsody. What a film. Been listening to Queen all weekend.

Also, playing Red Dead 2 any chance I get. It’s so simple and yet so fantastic. Much like many a good Western flick. One of the latest “missions,” or maybe stories is a better term for them, that I completed was one where your character gets drunk, but has to keep his other drunk friend out of trouble, and then run from Johnny-Law. Rockstar just knows how to make an entertaining video game.

Right, well, back to Monday, I suppose.

Heard it Here First, Change is Coming

Bengals fans, get ready: 2018 will bring a new head coach to Cincinnati AND a new starting quarterback.

I’m just telling you this now to get you ready. No, I am not from the future, but the pieces have been set on the board and the duo of Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton are in check.

The last offseason brought two dynamic playmakers to Cincinnati on the offensive side of the ball and two pass rushers on the defensive side, all via the Draft. It also saw the two most impactful offensive linemen in orange and black leave. It is currently labeled an overreaction, but in the coming weeks it will become clear, Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler going to different teams was the most important thing to happen to the Bengals in 2017. Important because it set them up for a much needed regime change.

“Well, didn’t the front office foresee this? Why didn’t they have a contingency plan?” you may ask. That is where my theory begins.

Knowing Mike Brown was comfortable with the current regime and would not make a change without overwhelming evidence (as proven by Marvin Lewis not being fired after a disappointing 2016 season), Katie Blackburn got her friend Duke Tobin together and hatched a plan.

The two stalwarts on the Bengals’ offensive line were coming to the end of their contracts. Zeitler was going to command a hefty pay raise, one the Bengals were not going to give due to their philosophy of not paying guards lucrative money. Whitworth, on the other hand, was a fan favorite and the unquestioned leader of the offensive line at left tackle. He was moving into the twilight of his career, though, meaning a lowball-type offer could be explained.

So, the front office moved to offer Whit a contract they knew he would turn down and failed to make a better offer once the Rams moved in to sign. They also neglected to even put forth an offer to Zeitler, letting both go. Duke Tobin proceeded to assure anyone wary of the situation that the necessary replacements were in-house, advising that the team, instead, focus on upgrading the skill positions.

They did not set the team up to fail, but they chose the path with success being the least likely outcome.

AJ Green, Tyler Eifert, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, and John Ross are all dynamic players…when they have the ball in their hands. AJ runs some of the best routes, and is able shake off any cornerback, in the game…but it doesn’t matter if Andy is on the ground in the backfield with the ball still in his hands. “But Andy had the quickest release in the NFL last year!” you argue. Let me show you something, per Pro Football Focus.

Andy is a bottom-half of the league ranked quarterback under pressure. His average QB rating of 91.8 last year fell to 57.1 while under pressure. Last season the o-line, with Whit and Zeitler, allowed the sixth-fewest amount of plays in which Dalton was under pressure. He was sacked on 22% of those plays, however, which is the worst percentage in the league. That’s with an average offensive line covering for him. If you ask any NFL “expert” you will find that the Bengals have one of the worst rated offensive lines in the league. The amount of plays Andy is under pressure will go up, meaning his effectiveness will stay down.

Dalton will have his worst season in five years and he replaced.

Now they are athletes, after all, and they can improve. The game isn’t played on paper. Any given Sunday…blah, blah, blah. These Bengals were built so that the most likely outcome would be a 4-5 win season and a regime change.

Tell me I’m wrong until you are blue in the face, but I will defend this theory until I am proven wrong.