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The Bengals Took the “Next Sean McVay” Thing a Little Too Seriously

Cincinnati will reportedly name Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor its next head coach. His experience as a coordinator is slight but, crucially, he does know Sean McVay.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL coaching carousel has officially jumped the shark. After the Packers hired former Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur and the Cardinals pointed out the Sean McVay–Kliff Kingsbury connection in their press release, the Bengals are reportedly planning to hire McVay’s quarterbacks coach to be their next head coach:

Though nothing can be confirmed until the Rams are no longer in the playoffs, multiple reports are pointing to Zac Taylor becoming the next head coach of the Bengals this offseason. He’ll be the third hire this year who has a connection to the Rams head coach. Welcome to the offseason of The Next Sean McVay.

Taylor’s expected hiring is particularly emblematic of this offseason’s hiring craze. Along with the Browns’ hire of Freddie Kitchens and the Jets’ hire of Adam Gase, teams are looking for younger and more offensively-minded coaches. It’s like a bank run, but for fresh faces who know when to deploy a jet sweep.

Taylor is only 35 years old, which is just four years older than the Bengals’ current quarterback, Andy Dalton. McVay, who is just 32, has shown that millennials can be fine head football coaches, but where McVay was an offensive coordinator for three seasons before getting the Rams job, Taylor has spent this season as the Rams quarterback coach. Before that he was the team’s assistant wide receivers coach. Not even the actual wide receivers coach—the assistant wide receivers coach.

Previously, Taylor was the offensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati in 2016, but the team struggled while he was there. The Bearcats scored at least 30 points per game in each of head coach Tommy Tuberville’s first three seasons, but in 2016, Tuberville’s fourth season, Taylor came aboard and the team sank to 19.3 points per game (123rd out of 128 FBS-level programs). The team averaged 537.8 yards per game in the season before Taylor’s arrival, and 374.1 with him.

Before that, in 2015, Taylor was the interim offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins for five games. The Dolphins averaged just 17 points per game in that stretch, but it’s also hard to put any credit or blame on a guy who was stuck with the interim label.

How the hell did Taylor leverage such a lackluster résumé into the Bengals head-coaching job? The answer lies in his references. The Bengals are no doubt hoping that two seasons under McVay have helped Taylor and that he can bring a progressive offensive vision to a team that desperately needs a shake-up. Cincinnati spent the past 16 years with Marvin Lewis at head coach, and while he compiled a respectable record (131-122-3) for a franchise that had been among the worst in all of sports before his arrival, a team with A.J. Green, Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd, and Andy Dalton could use an offensive makeover. The only question is whether a coach so green and unproven will be the right person to do it. At any rate, the one thing that can definitely be said about this hire is that Taylor has more promise than Hue Jackson.

With the Bengals settling on Taylor, the Dolphins have the only head-coaching vacancy remaining. As of press time, the Rams ball boy was getting phone calls.