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With wait over, Bengals free to hire Zac Taylor as coach

Mon Feb 4 12:36pm ET
By JOE KAY
AP Sports Writer

Players: Andy Dalton, Ryan Tannehill, A.J. Green, Jared Goff

This Thursday, April 26, 2018 file photo shows Zac Taylor of the Los Angeles Rams NFL football team. Broncos general manager John Elway continued his latest coaching search Thursday, Jan. 3, 2018 by interviewing Zac Taylor, the Rams' 35-year-old quarterbacks coach who's long on football pedigree but short on experience. (AP Photo, File)


CINCINNATI (AP) The Bengals went more than a month without a coach after firing Marvin Lewis. The Super Bowl's over, and so is their long wait to bring Zac Taylor to town to size him up as the successor.

They've targeted the Rams quarterbacks coach as Lewis' replacement, but they weren't able to close in on a deal until LA's season ended with a 13-3 loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl on Sunday night.

After three straight losing seasons and 28 years without a playoff win, the Bengals decided to join the wave - looking for a young, offensive-minded coach. They and the Dolphins were the last two teams waiting to hire new coaches - Miami was expected to hire the Patriots' Brian Flores on Monday.

For Taylor, it'll be a return visit.

The 35-year-old coach already knows about the town's affinity for chili parlors. He was offensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati in 2016, when the Bearcats finished 4-8. Coach Tommy Tuberville was replaced after the season, and Taylor headed back to the NFL.

He also knows about the professional football team's long-standing futility, too. During his one year in town, the Bengals were starting their streak of three straight losing seasons that ultimately cost Lewis his job after 16 seasons without a playoff victory.

Taylor would be the Bengals' youngest head coach since they hired Dave Shula at age 32 in in 1992. Shula went on to lose 50 games faster than any coach in NFL history, finishing with a mark of 19-52.

Taylor is only four years older than Andy Dalton and five years older than A.J. Green, the core of an offense that has been sapped by injuries and finished among the least productive in the league the last two seasons. Taylor is taking a cue from his father-in-law, a former NFL head coach, in how to handle such situations.

''My father-in-law, Mike Sherman, coached a long, long time, and he just said, `Be true to yourself. Be who you are, and people will follow you,''' Taylor said during Super Bowl week. ''And I found that way to work for me.''

The next head coach's challenge is reminiscent of what Lewis faced when he arrived in 2003. He'll be counted upon only to win games, but also to win back fans turned off by the owner's aversion to change.

Mike Brown was loyal to Lewis and stuck with him despite an 0-7 mark in the playoffs, the worst in NFL history for a head coach. The Bengals haven't won a playoff game since the 1990 season under Sam Wyche, tied with Washington for the fifth-longest streak of postseason futility in league history.

Since then, Shula, Bruce Coslet, Dick LeBeau and Lewis failed to get a playoff win. They managed only seven winning seasons combined, all by Lewis.

Crowds at Paul Brown Stadium have shrunk each of the last three years, with the Bengals finishing second-to-last in the NFL attendance last season. By bringing in an outsider as head coach, the Bengals hope to send a message that things are changing.

It won't be easy in the short-term.

Last season, the Bengals had their youngest team in Lewis' 16 years, and the inexperienced showed. Even though the Bengals kept Lewis all these years, they've been unsettled at the coordinator positions in recent years, adding to the challenge. Dalton will be working under his third different coordinator in the last three seasons. The defense will have its fourth coordinator in three years - Lewis moved into the role last season after firing Teryl Austin.

Taylor's work with quarterbacks made him a head coaching prospect.

He wasn't much of a quarterback prospect himself. Undrafted out of Oklahoma, he played one year as a backup with Winnipeg in the CFL.

He joined the Dolphins in 2012 and helped Ryan Tannehill develop into one of the league's top passers. He took over as offensive coordinator for five games in 2015 after Bill Lazor - the Bengals' coordinator last season - was fired. After the one season at the University of Cincinnati, Taylor hooked up with the Rams to work with Jared Goff.

Now, he's being looked at as someone who could run an entire team.

''A lot of things stand out about him, but Zac is so good at communication and being open and honest,'' Goff said. ''He's a lot like Sean in that way. He's got a bright future.''

Player Notes
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Haloti Ngata Mar 18 3:40pm ET

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Eli Manning Mar 18 3:30pm ET

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Vontaze Burfict Mar 18 3:30pm ET

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Raheem Mostert Mar 17 12:00pm ET

The San Francisco 49ers agreed to terms on a three-year, $8.7 million deal with running back Raheem Mostert on Saturday, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The deal will include $3 million guaranteed. Mostert spent the last two years with San Fran, compiling 40 rushing attempts, 291 yards and a touchdown in 20 games. He'll be buried on the depth chart behind Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and newly-signed Tevin Coleman, so Mostert is unlikely to have any fantasy value.

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Marcus Mariota Mar 17 11:50am ET

The Tennessee Titans released quarterback Blaine Gabbert after they traded for Ryan Tannehill on Friday. Gabbert's only season in Tennessee in 2018 saw him make three starts while filling in for an injured Marcus Mariota. Gabbert spent 2017 with the Cardinals, three in San Francisco before that and three years in Jacksonville after being drafted 10th overall in 2010. He'll only attract backup work on the open market.

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Chris Conley Mar 17 11:50am ET

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Luke Stocker Mar 17 11:50am ET

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Joe Flacco Mar 15 2:20pm ET

The Denver Broncos re-signed tight end Jeff Heuerman to a two-year deal worth up to $9 million on Friday, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The former third-round pick in 2015 played in just 11 games due to injury last year and caught a career-high 31 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns in his third NFL season. Unless the Broncos add to the position in the draft or free agency, Heuerman will likely be the starter at the position. New quarterback Joe Flacco has targeted tight ends often in his career, so Heuerman could be a TE2 deep sleeper this year.

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Geoff Swaim Mar 15 2:10pm ET

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Chandler Catanzaro Mar 15 2:10pm ET

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Kareem Hunt Mar 15 10:23am ET

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Kareem Hunt Mar 15 10:13am ET

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Fantasy Spin: Hunt can still appeal the ruling, but he's gone for 75 percent of the fantasy season in a lot of leagues. You're really going to have to be lucky avoiding the injury bug if you're going to carry him as an RB5 all season. There is obvious risk of rust and obvious reward for the latter part of the season and playoffs. Nick Chubb will be an RB2 or RB3 in Hunt's stead.