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A TON of Pressure on Zac Taylor
#1
Maybe I'm I stating the obvious here in saying that there is a tremendous amount of pressure on Zac Taylor this season.  But I think it's worthy of some discussion, just to see how others feel and to see what expectations they have for him in 2020.

We all know last year was an asbolute disaster of a season.  And IMHO it's probably the worst season in franchise history.  The 2-14 win total was only matched once, in 2002.  But I think what might make 2019 even worse than 2002 is that in 2002 expectations were much lower, and didn't feature a new coach either.

In 2002 the team was coming off this stretch of 4 years prior: 3-13, 4-12, 4-12, 6-10. Gus Ferotte was actually brought in to start that season, with Kitna brought in as well as competition.  Heading into the season no one knew Chad would one day be a star, and no one knew who TJ Houshmandzadeh was.  The star power on that team was basically Corey Dillon of offense, and Takeo Spikes on defense. You had Justin Smith, but he was somewhat a disappointment and far from being a great player.

Comparitively in 2019, you had a much more capable and proven vet in Andy Dalton at the helm, and the team still featured a ton of well known and proven players. (AJ, Geno, Dunlap, Mixon, Boyd, etc.) The 4 year stretch prior to 2019, while far from great, was still much better: 12-4, 6-9-1, 7-9, 6-10.

I think most people considered our chances heading into 2019 much better than when we went in 2002.  One was preceeded by a decade of losing, while the other was preceeded by a decade of relative success.  And as I said, on paper one team looked much more capable.

Then, on top of all that, 2019 had a shiny new coach to go along with it. Zach Taylor.  A regime change after failure always brings some level of hope or optimism for improvement.  By comparison, in 2002 you had a lame duck in Dick Lebeau.

So for all these reasons, I consider 2019 to be such a disaster of a season, and probably the most disappointing of them all.  I think quite a few of you will agree with that.  And if you don't, that's ok too.  But my point thus far is really just to illustrate just how bad of a start to a head coaching tenure this was.

Personally, I cannot blame Taylor for all, or even most of this. At least not yet.  He was given a team that had been steadily declining, and suffered a few bad breaks (AJ, Jonah Willams). He inherited the 32nd ranked defense, and was given no help in FA.  This thread is not being made to bash Taylor for 2019 or assign blame.

The point I'm really getting at is just how urgent it is for him to get this headed in the right direction. Like immediately.  The reason I set the stage with so much info on just how disappointing 2019 is so that we can have a discussion about exactly how he fixes this.  Because had last season been even a smidge better I think he might have a little more leeway.  But now?  I think it's a little more desperate.  They need a substantial win increase.

What does Taylor (and his team) need to do in 2020 to restore confidence in him being the right hire, and for the organization to be able to sell the fanbase on him deserving a 3rd year?

I honestly think he needs a pretty specific win total to sell the fanbase. I guess that number is up to the individual fan, but I don't know how you sell this with player development and encouraging signs alone.  4 wins isn't moving the needle.

For me, I think he needs to win at least 7 games.  I think that's the bare minimum to regain support and trust.  And while that may be unfair, because he's not solely to blame for 2019, I think that's what it's going to take to silence the critics that would certainly follow after a 4, 5, 6 win season.

If he goes 2-14, and then, say, 5-11, that's not a good look. That's not going to help sell tickets, and that's not going to stop all sorts of people calling for his head.

To their credit, the team has done just about everything they can to help him this year.  We've seen dollars spent in FA like nothing ever before. They've added a lot of immediate help. You also have the return of AJ and Jonah, and the arrival of His Holiness Joe Burrow.  You can't say they didn't try to get better.

I'll be curious to hear what others expect from Taylor and the team this year.  Like I said, I almost think it's unfair to put a win total on him in the midst of a rebuild and roster overhaul.  But unfortantely, just because of how disappointing his career here started, I think that's what it's going to take.  I think a lot of fans out there have a minimum amount of games they expect to win. And if they're not met then I think they're going to jump all over this guy.

I hope this wasn't too long winded. And if you fell asleep then my apologies. But I would love to hear any and all expectations for the 2020 Bengals and Zac Taylor. Do you think it's fair to have immediate expectations?  What does he need to do to convince you we made the right hire?

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#2
I think ZT wants to win and will do everything thats needed to do so. We've already seen a culture change within the organization, which IMO, was one of the reasons we never crossed over the threshold and winning a playoff game. Failure was ok in previous years and if you wanted to ride the bench with an injury it wasn't that big of a deal as long as you were a vet. We all know how vets were given preferential treatment in the past. Zac has a play or go mentality. Your either going to play to win, or your going to go elsewhere. That's a big difference that I've seen.

As far as an acceptable record, that's hard to tell. I mean if they only win 5 games but all are close games, that's much different than winning 5 and being blown out the rest. So a lot will play into how they get that record to end the year that I will pass judgement.

I think last year was just an evaluation year for Zac. He wanted to learn about the players, how they reacted to situations, their attitudes, etc. Plus he had the late start as well. This will be his first full year and even with all the changes that have been made, I truly doubt he has the team he wants, which would be pretty tough to flip in 1 year. I only see things getting better, but for myself, I'm going to be a tad more patient than others.
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#3
For better or worse, I'd treat this season as if it's Zac Taylor's first. Don't want to make excuses for the guy, but he had to weather a lot of shit last year. A 2-14 record is a 2-14 record, but they lost 8 games by 1 possession. If even half of those had flipped the other way, we're sitting at 6-10 instead. Suddenly we are looking at a very different situation moving into this season.

I'd give him until the end of 2021, and then go from there. If we don't see considerable improvement over the next two seasons, cut him lose and bring in a new coach in 2022.
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#4
To be fair to 2019, putting Finley in was the most blatant tank job I've seen in a long, long, long time across the league.

You aren't trying to win if you're replacing your well established vet with a rookie 4th round pick.

As far as pressure goes, I think much more pressure was on him coming into this off season. He was coming off a 2019 draft class that, to that point, had only produced a disaster at QB, a weak starting LG and a decent LB prospect with a long way to go.

Our 2nd round pick, widely criticized when he was drafted for being a huge reach, did not do anything to dispel that belief about him, as he was widely worthless. Our first round pick was injured and the outside free agents we had signed, Miller, Wynn and Webb, were all disasters, as were a few of the extensions such as Brown and Hart (I know he wasn't as bad as people think, but his contract was still too high).

So he had a lot to prove in terms of how to actually execute a successful off season. I think most would agree that he passed that test with flying colors.

I think his exponentially improved 2020 off season (compared to his 2019 off season) gives him a lot of slack heading into the 2020 season. He has proven he knows how to draft for value and pick high quality free agents. So I think if he stumbles in the actual season, he will get a 3rd year regardless. Plus there's the inherent challenges of Covid and rookie Qbs to fall back on for any lack of success.
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#5
There is undoubtedly pressure on Taylor, but I am not too worried about him.

What I saw in year 1 was interesting concepts (on offense) that failed due to a lack of protection around the QB. Taylor's strength is obviously the offense and the defense was God-awful for most of the year. Despite being dealt the perfect storm of injuries on the line, the main weapon, and a struggling Dalton in the offense, Taylor was able to adapt and shift the scheme to fit his personnel.

Some people will say it was the last two games, when in reality it was after the blowout loss to Baltimore. The defense bid farewell to Preston Brown and the rookie Pratt started to come on.

They went on to give up points as follows down the stretch:

17 Raiders
16 steelers
6 Jets
27 Browns
34 Pats
38 Fins
23 Browns

Except for the 34 to the Pats (which was handed to them by the offensive turnovers) and the 38 points to the Fins in a shootout, the defense started to be at least competitive and I don't care what you say about the level of competition it is still the NFL and they did improve.

The offense was still just meager. And I think with Burrow, more RB passes, Green, and a re-tooled offensive line, the defense won't be asked to hold everyone under 20 points to even have a chance. The offense will be substantially better and I can't wait to see ZT's offense with this line and weapons...oh, and with Burrow.
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#6
(05-22-2020, 12:04 PM)Crazyjdawg Wrote: To be fair to 2019, putting Finley in was the most blatant tank job I've seen in a long, long, long time across the league.

You aren't trying to win if you're replacing your well established vet with a rookie 4th round pick.

As far as pressure goes, I think much more pressure was on him coming into this off season. He was coming off a 2019 draft class that, to that point, had only produced a disaster at QB, a weak starting LG and a decent LB prospect with a long way to go.

Our 2nd round pick, widely criticized when he was drafted for being a huge reach, did not do anything to dispel that belief about him, as he was widely worthless. Our first round pick was injured and the outside free agents we had signed, Miller, Wynn and Webb, were all disasters, as were a few of the extensions such as Brown and Hart (I know he wasn't as bad as people think, but his contract was still too high).

So he had a lot to prove in terms of how to actually execute a successful off season. I think most would agree that he passed that test with flying colors.

I think his exponentially improved 2020 off season (compared to his 2019 off season) gives him a lot of slack heading into the 2020 season. He has proven he knows how to draft for value and pick high quality free agents. So I think if he stumbles in the actual season, he will get a 3rd year regardless. Plus there's the inherent challenges of Covid and rookie Qbs to fall back on for any lack of success.

Not really, as it was a win-win situation:

- if Finley balls out, you have your QB of the future.
- If Finley plays like crap (which he did), hello 1st round pick.

It was a smart decision, no matter how you slice it, but to call it an out-and-out tank job...
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#7
(05-22-2020, 12:34 PM)Truck_1_0_1_ Wrote: Not really, as it was a win-win situation:

- if Finley balls out, you have your QB of the future.
- If Finley plays like crap (which he did), hello 1st round pick.

It was a smart decision, no matter how you slice it, but to call it an out-and-out tank job...

I completely agree. If it was a tank job, they would've just left him in. If it was a tank job, why pull him out again if he was doing exactly what they wanted him to do? I mean Dalton's game against Miami damn near cost us the first round pick. 

Not to mention the reality is that NFL coaches never "tank" on purpose. Their jobs are on the line. I take ZT for his word on that - they just wanted to see what they had in Finley, and when they found out it wasn't much they went back to Dalton. 
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#8
I disagree about him being under pressure.

I think the fanbase is looking for something to hang their hopes on so all he needs to do this year is not extinguish hope for the future. Have Burrow show enough for people to still believe he'll be a future star. He's re-set the bar so low that almost anything will be an improvement so the narrative will be the improving Bengals. A marquee victory (Steelers and/or on prime-time?) and some hard-luck losses would probably still suffice in a 5 or 6 win season if Burrow is looking the part by the end of the season.

It's then next year that Taylor is in the hot seat (assuming he doesn't somehow make the play-offs this year). By about week 10 of the 2021 season we should know if Zac is the man or is still out of his depth. That may sound generous but this was never a short-term appointment. By appointing a rookie Head Coach who hadn't even been a Coordinator this was always going to be a long term bet. That rebuild is still a year off being finished - unless you believe in this O-line - which takes us into year 3 of the Zac Taylor era. That also gives him another off-season to change-up his coaching staff - working with Joe Burrow should be enough of a lure to attract a high calibre OC candidate to call plays next year.

Then add in the major variable this year of coronavirus. We may not get a full schedule - in which case I'm assuming for this exercise we'll proportionally reduce expected win totals - but the bigger issue for Coach Taylor will be how much time will he actually get to spend with his draft picks and free agency signings? Will they have OTAs? Will training camp be concertinaed and pre-season cut? Has he actually met Joe Burrow in person yet? It's likely to be something all coaches have to adapt to but with but rebuilding teams are at a major disadvantage compared to established teams when practice time is curtailed.
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#9
I don't agree at all. This was never going to be a one or even two year fix.
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#10
On the topic of the coaching staff in general, it's difficult to conclude much from last year. The margin between winning and losing is just so thin that all of the following could easily lead to a 2-14 season EVEN IF Taylor eventually proves to be a good coach (which, again, we don't know yet):

a. ZT's first year as a head coach at any level
b. Hired late in the process, didn't get most of the assistants he wanted. I mean Anarumo was what, our 4th or 5th choice?
c. New system being installed, new player-coach relationships being built, and an organization-wide over-estimation of the talent on our roster that can hardly be pinned on ZT. It's clear that with input from the coaches management came back down to earth about where we're at talent-wise.
d. Between Boling, Glenn and Williams, the left side of the OL collapsed. And A.J. was out for the year.

So honestly, this time next year the main narrative on this board COULD be "how did we manage to pick the worst coach in club history in ZT? Who do we give the keys to next?" But it COULD also be "this guy is sharp, his players buy in, he's learning in his role and we are ascending."

My point is it's really hard to tell and hard to conclude anything from last year. He's never very specific, but ZT has even hinted as all the things he learned last year, and that's a good sign. It takes humility and emotional intelligence to improve at your craft, and I think he has that.
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#11
Two things are being conflated in this thread: What will he have to do to retain his job, and what will he have to do to earn the faith of the fanbase.

I agree he just has to win more than a couple games to regain his job. I also don't think the organization cares nearly as much about what the fanbase thinks as many seem to think they do. They figure if they win games the fans will come back.

But we're not exactly all having the same convo because some (and I interpreted this in Wes's original post) are talking about "public pressure" more so than being on the hotseat for his job.
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#12
(05-22-2020, 11:45 AM)HarleyDog Wrote: Failure was ok in previous years

Total bullshit

(05-22-2020, 11:45 AM)HarleyDog Wrote:  if you wanted to ride the bench with an injury it wasn't that big of a deal as long as you were a vet.
  
More bullshit.


I am willing to give Zac some slack because of the unexpected loss of Boling, Williams, Glen and Green before the season even started.  But he did not suffer any major losses on defense and that unit was still one of the worst in Bengal history.  He definitely has not shown any sort of a "cultural change".  


I give him an "incomplete" as a grade so far, but he has not really shown anything positive at all as a head coach.


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#13
(05-22-2020, 01:00 PM)McC Wrote: I don't agree at all.  This was never going to be a one or even two year fix.


If you take over a 6 win team and can't turn it around in two seasons you are a  failure in today's NFL.


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#14
(05-22-2020, 12:04 PM)Crazyjdawg Wrote: He has proven he knows how to draft for value and pick high quality free agents.



No he has not.  A ******** monkey would have taken Burrow with the number one pick and all the other guys could be busts.

I don't know how much he controls free agency, but we grossly overpaid for a Waynes while Su'a-Filo and Bynes are both backups who just played last year due to starters getting injured.   McKenzie gets a lot of love around here, but a 1 year $4 million contract shows that the rest of the league was not overly impressed with his play.

I hope all these guys work out, but so far we have no idea.  


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#15
Zac has a rookie QB this year, so I think he'll get a pass this season if the team doesn't make the playoffs. The 2021 - 2022 season is where the pressure starts.
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#16
(05-22-2020, 01:15 PM)fredtoast Wrote: If you take over a 6 win team and can't turn it around in two seasons you are a  failure in today's NFL.

Like Marvin's  last 2 years here?
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#17
(05-22-2020, 01:11 PM)fredtoast Wrote: Total bullshit

  
More bullshit.


I am willing to give Zac some slack because of the unexpected loss of Boling, Williams, Glen and Green before the season even started.  But he did not suffer any major losses on defense and that unit was still one of the worst in Bengal history.  He definitely has not shown any sort of a "cultural change".  


I give him an "incomplete" as a grade so far, but he has not really shown anything positive at all as a head coach.

While you weren't responding to my post I'll throw out a couple examples that pop to mind:

Adam Jones played a major role in the most embarrassing lost in club history AND THEN WE RE-SIGNED HIM. I just have a hard time seeing ZT do that. 

Preston Brown pulled a hammy (I think) in 2018, and even admitted that he let himself get out of shape and didn't work hard enough, and THEN WE EXTENDED HIM, and while that was just as ZT was coming in I doubt he had much to do with it. When he let his teammates down (again) we cut him. Only reason we didn't do the same with Glenn is we thought he still had trade value and LTs are hard to find. 

You're right that our D shouldn't have been that bad, but I chalk that up more to a) we had to settle on Anarumo after several other candidates shot us down and bc we couldn't hire ZT until after the super bowl, and b) at any given time we did have injuries to many of our CBs. Remember when Cooper Kupp just ate Tony McRae alive in the London game? Because he's Tony McCrae. He was in due to injury. That's a whole game that might've gone differently if not for injury. 
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#18
Pressure? LOL. There's no pressure on him THIS year. This whole virus crap and a rookie QB is a tough go.

The pressure will be on him to get Burrow to look like an NFL QB this year. If he does that, this season will be a success. I don't see any way he gets fired this year.

Now, I will say that the real pressure will come in 2021. If we don't make the playoffs, I'd say he's out the door.
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#19
(05-22-2020, 01:27 PM)SladeX Wrote: Like Marvin's  last 2 years here?


EXACTLY!!

I was upset that we wasn't fired after the 2017 season when we won 7 games.  And I seem to remember everyone here agreeing with me.

But now a lot of those same fans seem to think it is okay for Taylor not to win this year after getting more big money free agents than Marvin got in his entire 16 years.

Marvin never had a season as shitty as Zac's 2-14.  Both times that Marvin won as few as 4 games he made the playoffs the next season without a #1 overall pick or $140 million in new free agents.


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#20
(05-22-2020, 12:34 PM)Truck_1_0_1_ Wrote: Not really, as it was a win-win situation:

- if Finley balls out, you have your QB of the future.
- If Finley plays like crap (which he did), hello 1st round pick.

It was a smart decision, no matter how you slice it, but to call it an out-and-out tank job...

Exactly. It was a "let's see what we have because the season is already done" move.

Seeing how good your back ups are is not generally a move one makes when they're aiming to win games.

The conversation surrounding playing Finley was not "If we put Finley in, we'll win more games than if we had Dalton in." It was "Well, the season is already lost. I want to know just how good Finley is so we are more prepared for the 2020 draft, given we'll almost certainly have a high pick, especially if we start a rookie QB for a few games."

Maybe you're balking at the word "tanking" but I can't come up with a better way of describing what they did. They did not play Finley with the hopes of winning those games he was playing in.
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