Zac Taylor knew he would have to answer questions regarding the controversy of hiring of Jim Turner as Cincinnati Bengals offensive line coach, yet he maintains that Turner was his top choice regardless.
In his introductory press conference as the Bengals’ new head coach Tuesday, Taylor emphasized building a culture based largely on character and accountability, and Turner’s background doesn’t exactly portray the best fit for that.
The 54-year-old Turner – one of four offensive coaches named to the Bengals staff Thursday, along with offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, tight ends coach James Casey and assistant line coach Ben Martin — was fired from the Miami Dolphins after two seasons (2012-13) for his connection to a bullying scandal involving offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito.
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Turner was central figure in the 2014 Wells Report, which detailed several bullying incidents within the Dolphins organziation. The report said Turner was aware of and participated in the bullying of Martin and other players.
In 2016 at Texas A&M, Turner and another coach served two-week suspensions for creating and showing a slideshow presentation deemed offensive during a football clinic for women.
“I know the man and I know he’s a great person, great human, and so, somebody I trust,” Taylor said. “We talked about culture and bringing the right people in this building, and I would never do anything that would tarnish the reputation of the Brown family and the Bengals organization if I didn’t believe in the person and know the person inside and out. … Football coaching aside, I like the person and I know the person.”
Taylor was on staff with Turner in Miami from 2012-13, and the two previously worked together at Texas A&M from 2008-11. Taylor also had hired Turner to join him at the University of Cincinnati in 2016 when Taylor was offensive coordinator, which was Turner’s first coaching job since the Miami incident, but Turner left for A&M after two weeks.
When asked about how Turner’s past disciplinary issues mesh with building a culture, Taylor didn’t flinch.
“Well I think everyone gets caught in some situations sometimes that they wish they would do differently, but again, I know those situations inside and out and I feel very comfortable bringing Jim in here and all the other guys we’re bringing in,” he said. “And I think once you guys get a chance to meet these guys, Jim included, you guys will feel very comfortable with the decision to bring them in here.”
“I anticipated something like this and felt very comfortable,” he added. “Maybe if I didn’t know someone who had been through those situations, but I know it, and I know him, and I know what he’s all about and I feel very comfortable. I know that this is the right decision.”
Taylor said he is excited about the staff he is assembling as a whole.
Callahan, 34, is entering his 10th season as an NFL coach and comes to Cincinnati from the Oakland Raiders, where he served as quarterbacks coach in 2018. Previously, he was quarterbacks coach for the Detroit Lions from 2016-17, and from 2010 to 2015, he worked for the Denver Broncos, for whom he served as coaching assistant (’10), offensive quality control coach (’11-12), offensive assistant (’13-14) and offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach (’15).
Under Callahan’s direction last season, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr recorded a career-high 4,049 passing yards and a 93.9 passer rating, led the AFC and ranked fifth in the NFL in completion percentage (68.9). Matthew Stafford posted the two best full seasons of his career with Callahan on staff in Detroit, and during Callahan’s six seasons on staff in Denver, the Broncos won five AFC West titles, appeared in Super Bowl XLVIII and won Super Bowl 50, as quarterback Peyton Manning won the league MVP in 2013.
Callahan has never worked directly with Taylor, but Taylor played for his dad, Bill Callahan, at Nebraska and the two have remained in touch since both entered the league as coaches.
“If Zac had gotten any number of the jobs he’d interviewed for and those were the ones he wanted to take, I would have gone with him to any of those,” Callahan said Thursday. “What makes this place unique is I know how Zac felt about this city and this place. It probably added a little more excitement to me as he started to explain the dynamics of everything. It’s a family-run business. There’s not a lot of them left in this league anymore. There’s something to that.”
Casey, 34, spent the past three seasons on staff at the University of Houston, where he served as an offensive analyst, tight ends coach and special teams coordinator. A former All-American tight end at Rice, Casey played four seasons in the NFL with the Texans, Eagles and Broncos.
The 35-year-old Martin spent last season as offensive line coach at Bryant University, a Division I FCS program. He worked on the Dolphins staff with Taylor from 2014-15 and the trio spent time together at Texas A&M from 2010-11.
“I’m focusing first on putting together a staff that our entire team will be proud of — one our players will be excited to play for — and these four coaches will be a big part of that,” Taylor said. “They are good teachers and good communicators who will think outside the box, and that’s important for helping to develop the type of offense we plan to employ.
“We’re continuing to assemble our new staff. We want to make sure we hire the right people, because it all starts at the top. As I said before, we’re going to take our time to make sure that everyone is a perfect fit. There’s still a lot of work to do, and I’m looking forward to announcing more of the staff as it comes together.”