Cincinnati Bengals: Taylor to return, changes on coaching staff expected

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor said he appreciates that ownership has enough faith in what he’s building to give him another season.

A day after an ugly 38-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the finale, the Bengals released a statement of support for Taylor on Monday from owner/president Mike Brown. Saying he remains “bullish” on Taylor, Brown indicated the 37-year-old coach would be back for a third year despite his 6-25-1 record.

The announcement came as several other organizations were making changes at the top of their coaching staffs.

“That’s enormous, I do appreciate that,” Taylor said. “Ownership has always been supportive. We communicate on a constant basis, which is critical in this league. And so I do appreciate that because we do feel like we’re close to turning the corner. We have to win a lot more football games. There’s no doubt about that. We’re not running from that, but certainly we’re all excited to continue great things here and looking forward to next season already.”

There are expected to be changes made to the staff, some of which surfaced in reports last week, but Taylor said those discussions are still ongoing. He said those decisions will be his to make “when the timing feels right.” The only announcement he made Monday was that center Trey Hopkins’ knee injury Sunday was a torn ACL that will require surgery.

Taylor’s job never really seemed in jeopardy, even after the disappointing finish. The loss to Baltimore came on the heels of two firsts for Taylor – a primetime win over the Steelers and a road victory at Houston in Weeks 15 and 16.

The Bengals finished 4-11-1 this season with five losses by a touchdown or less, and Taylor really only began retooling the roster this year.

“This season we faced challenges with injuries at key positions and missed opportunities,” Brown said in his statement. “I am proud of our football team for fighting hard through adversity. That adversity and hard work will help us next season. We’ll enter the offseason looking to shore up our weaknesses and amplify the strengths of our talented young core. We are not discouraged, but instead feel motivated and confident that next year will reap the benefits of the work that has been done to date. We must capitalize on the opportunities in front of us. Next year we will earn our stripes.”

The Bengals finished the season with 10 players on injured reserve, including quarterback Joe Burrow, running back Joe Mixon, receivers John Ross and Auden Tate, defensive tackles D.J. Reader, Geno Atkins and Renell Wren, left tackle Jonah Williams, tight end C.J. Uzomah and cornerback Trae Waynes. Reader and Waynes joined the team as free agents in the offseason, and Reader played just five games while Waynes missed the entire season.

Burrow, the No. 1 draft pick last April, tore his ACL and MCL in a Week 11 loss at Washington and has been rehabbing in California, where he had the surgery. The hope is he can be ready for the start of the 2021 season. Cincinnati has the No. 5 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to help build around him.

Taylor said the injuries gave the staff a chance to better evaluate the depth chart and “build for the future.” Seeing the growth this season gives him confidence 2021 will be better, though he recognizes it’s tough to be patient in professional sports.

“I do look forward to getting a lot of guys back that are key parts of this thing,” Taylor said. “One important thing is this league is that your key players play and unfortunately for us we suffered some injuries at some key positions. Excited to get them back in the building, but also excited for the depth that we’ve developed over the course of this season and feel like we’re gonna have a strong roster going forward.”

Taylor has the support of a number of key players. Even Burrow tweeted out his excitement Monday for what the organization is building.

Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd said he’s glad to have Taylor back for another year to finish what they started.

“I believe in him,” Boyd said. “Our relationship has been built a lot the last few years and I believe in what he has in store for us. He did a lot in free agency last year and it just sucks to go through another rotation with a head coach. You have to re-find the chemistry, move to another system. It’s just too much at times, especially for what we’ve been through. I think he’s the right guy for the job. We just have to find a way to keep guys on the field.”

Tight end C.J. Uzomah, who has been rehabbing an Achilles tendon he tore in Week 2, said he didn’t think too much about the possibility Taylor wouldn’t be back just because of how close the team has been to turning the corner.

Taylor doubled his win total from Year 1 and did it without a lot of important pieces.

“I think with the way we won against certain teams and way we responded with certain guys not being there kind of speaks to the volume of what we are trying to do,” Uzomah said. “I can tell you we want to win not just for ourselves and for pride, but for the coaches. Me, personally, I love coach Taylor. I love what he is trying to instill into us and into this franchise. You can see that.”

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