Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay said he saw a bright future for Zac Taylor when he hired him as an offensive assistant in 2017. As the two gear up to face each other for the first time as opposing head coaches, McVay maintains his belief in Taylor’s abilities to be successful as the Cincinnati Bengals’ head coach.
The Bengals (0-7) play the Rams (4-3) on Sunday in London, forcing the two former colleagues to put aside their relationship for the week.
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McVay, who was born in Dayton and graduated from Miami University, picked up Taylor following his one-year stint as offensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati in 2016, making him a wide receivers’ coach his first year with the Rams before sliding him into the quarterbacks coach position last year. Taylor helped guide Rams quarterback Jared Goff to career-highs in every major passing category, which proved to be a key component to the offense during a 13-3 regular season and Super Bowl LIII appearance.
“I remember when he took over the OC role on an interim basis for the Dolphins, being just really impressed with the way he handled himself,” McVay said Wednesday during a conference call with local media at Paul Brown Stadium. “I remember what a great competitor he was at Nebraska as a quarterback, and then when you meet him — and anyone you talk to about Zac Taylor has nothing but positive things to say. He epitomizes all those things that make a great leader.
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“I think one of his best traits is he’s so smart but he’s so secure in himself and who he is and he doesn’t try to be anybody else. He’s got a quiet confidence about himself with the way he carries himself, and he was a huge, valuable asset to our coaching staff. He is greatly missed right now. We miss him a lot.”
Taylor, 36, credits much of his coaching philosophy to things he learned from McVay during their short time together. McVay, whose grandfather, John McVay, was the University of Dayton’s coach from 1965 to 1972, remains the NFL’s youngest head coach at age 33 and was hired by L.A. in 2017 following seven seasons with the Washington Redskins.
McVay was named the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year in his first season and had the Rams playing in the Super Bowl by his seccond, but Taylor said McVay’s success all stems from the culture he built and that’s what he has tried to emulate in Cincinnati.
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“It’s what you value in the players that you want to build the program around, and it’s always a process,” Taylor said Wednesday. “The way he treats people — everybody, players, coaches, staff members. Everybody feels valued, you know what your role is and you feel like you need to do it to the highest degree because of the confidence he has in you. That’s a great trait of a leader and he exhibits that to the nth degree, and I will forever be grateful he gave me the opportunity there.”
McVay said Taylor was a big part of creating that culture and he knew he wouldn’t be able to hold onto him for long. McVay still has a deep respect for Taylor and noted that he has been impressed how his former assistant has handled the challenges of an 0-7 start.
The experience hasn’t gone at all how Taylor probably expected. He’s been without his top receiver since A.J. Green tore ligaments in his ankle the first day of training camp, and the Bengals are playing with their fourth-string left tackle.
Taylor and his staff spent the entire offseason restructuring the offensive line to feature rookie first-round draft pick Jonah Williams at that spot, but Williams suffered a potentially season-ending shoulder injury at the end of Organized Team Activities and Cordy Glenn, who would have moved to guard, is yet to play a game because of an Aug. 15 concussion and a one-game suspension last week as part of an internal discipline issue.
Glenn returned to practice Wednesday but was lining up as the scout team left tackle during the 30-minute portion open to the media. Meanwhile, the Bengals continuing preparing with John Jerry filling in for injured backup Andre Smith (ankle).
Green also participated in individual drills Wednesday after taking last week off to overcome some soreness he experienced following his first practices the week before.
“These are one of those situations that football presents a lot of great challenges,” McVay said of Taylor’s situation. “I think all of this time has really demonstrated what makes Zac Taylor special. To stay consistent to be resilient and I have no doubt the future is really bright for the Bengals under his guidance and leadership.”
Taylor and McVay communicate regularly as friends, and Taylor said he still relies on McVay for advice.
“Obviously as the week’s gotten closer to this game, you start to eliminate contact with anyone on that staff and players, but of course, he’s always been a great resource for me,” Taylor said. “In this coaching fraternity, just because a team is on your schedule five games down the road doesn’t mean we shut each other out. We still help each other, and he’s always been encouraging, especially during this tough stretch. He knows the culture we are working to build and the approach we’re taking and you’ve just got to continue to be yourself and keep preaching the things we believe in.”
Rams vs. Bengals, 1 p.m. at London, WHIO-TV Ch. 7, Ch. 12; 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7