After entering 2021 with some believing he was on the hot seat, Zac Taylor has emerged as a legitimate candidate for NFL Coach of the Year, and is very likely to be rewarded with a contract extension this offseason.
Taylor is very well regarded by ownership and the locker room, he has been fully embraced by Bengals fans, and the level of engagement and approval for the Bengals in Cincinnati is the highest it’s been in decades. Taylor helped the Bengals shed a 31-year playoff curse and, with two years left on his deal, has reached a natural inflection within his initial contract that is expected to result in a significant extension recognizing his work with the long-suffering franchise.
Taylor ended this season the second-youngest coach in the NFL, and has ushered a strong transition from the long Marvin Lewis era. Owner Mike Brown understood the magnitude of Taylor’s undertaking, with part of his pitch to the coach the fact that he recognized this was not going to be a quick fix, but Taylor has already reached the AFC Championship Game in quarterback Joe Burrow’s second season — and first full season as the starter after suffering a season-ending injury in November 2020 — and captured the imagination of Bengals fans along the way with his humble charm and embrace of the area.
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Taylor signed with the Bengals in part due to his love of the area after spending time at the University of Cincinnati, and the team has built a powerful foundation with many of its stars under the age of 25 and on team-friendly rookie contracts. Taylor relates well to that group, which is not lost on ownership and, after having to weed out some veterans who were not enthused about being part of a rebuild, is building a winning culture in a place that had no playoff success for a generation. Some questioned parts of Taylor’s staff when he initially came on board, but now both of his coordinators — Brian Callahan and Lou Anarumo — are seen as potential future head coaches who interviewed for head coaching vacancies this month.
Brown has made loyalty and patience hallmarks of his long tenure, and after years of losing and apathy, has a team that appears poised to contend for years to come. Taylor’s timing could not have been better, and there is a very strong expectation throughout the industry that he will have a reworked deal by the start of next season.