Former Husker Zac Taylor becomes Cincinnati Bengals head coach

Former Husker Zac Taylor becomes Cincinnati Bengals head coach
Zac Taylor spent the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. He coached the quarterbacks in 2018 while helping lead the team to the Super Bowl. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Former Husker quarterback Zac Taylor was announced Monday as the new coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.

This is Taylor’s first head coaching job. He served as the Rams’ quarterbacks coach this past season, helping lead the Rams to the Super Bowl.

Taylor, 35, takes over a Bengals franchise which hasn’t had a winning season since 2015. Former coach Marvin Lewis was fired after his 16th season in Cincinnati, but he won less than 52 percent of his games and went 0-7 in the playoffs.

“I am happy and fortunate to join the Cincinnati Bengals as head coach,” Taylor said in a press release. “This is a great organization with good people and a rich history, and I am excited to get started. I am looking to add to that history by setting high standards, and holding everyone here accountable to those standards. There is a lot of work to do, and this is day one. We’re going to attack every day with enthusiasm to get this team ready to go.”

Taylor is the Bengals’ youngest head coach since they hired Dave Shula at age 32 in in 1992. He’s also the first Husker player to become an NFL head coach in more than 60 years.

Taylor reached a deal with the Bengals on Monday, a few hours after L.A.’s 13-3 loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Cincinnati had to wait until after the title game to make his hiring official.

Taylor became a hot commodity for teams in need of a new head coach this offseason. He interviewed with at least two other teams — the Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos — and was also linked to openings for offensive coordinators.

Taylor has been credited as a key cog in the Rams’ explosive offense that produced the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. Los Angeles finished the regular season fifth in the league in passing yards per game, and quarterback Jared Goff threw for 4,688 yards (fourth) and 32 touchdowns (tied for sixth) in 16 games.

“Zac is a bright coach with an offensive mind and background, which is important to have in today’s NFL,” Bengals president Mike Brown said in a press release. “And he’s young. He embraces new ideas and new ways to do things, which will be a good thing for us. I believe our team will be exciting and fun to watch with him at the helm.”

Taylor embarked on his coaching career not long after leaving Nebraska, where he started every game as Nebraska’s quarterback in 2005 and 2006, winning Big 12 player of the year as a senior. He then played one year in the Canadian Football League before becoming a coach.

He got his start as a graduate assistant at Texas A&M for his now-father-in-law Mike Sherman. He then worked for the Miami Dolphins from 2012-15, eventually rising to offensive coordinator for the final five games of the 2015 season. He spent 2016 in the collegiate ranks with the Cincinnati Bearcats before returning to the NFL in 2017 on head coach Sean McVay’s staff in Los Angeles.

He joined the Rams as the assistant wide receivers coach and was elevated to quarterbacks coach for the 2018 season.

“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 (McVay) in that way. He’s got a bright future.”

Now Taylor is going to run an entire team.

Taylor’s former teammates aren’t surprised to see him reach this level of the coaching ranks.

“There’s something innate about him that makes him special,” said Greg Austin, Nebraska’s offensive line coach who played with Taylor at Nebraska. “He’s a good leader, a cerebral guy. …

“When I heard he was getting the Bengals job, I thought there was not a better person, better man, better leader than Zac.”

His challenge is reminiscent of what Lewis faced when he arrived in Cincinnati in 2003. He’ll be counted upon not only to win games, but also to win back fans turned off by the owner’s aversion to change.

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 next-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. Also, they’ve been unsettled at the coordinator positions in recent years, adding to the challenge. Quarterback Andy 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.

Information from The Associated Press was used for this report.

Zac Taylor is first former Husker player named NFL head coach in more than 60 years

Former Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor has joined an exclusive group.

Taylor, who was named Monday as the next Cincinnati Bengals head coach, is the third former Husker — and first since the merger in 1970 — hired as an NFL head coach.

Taylor, who was the Rams’ QB coach last season, has been credited as a key cog in an explosive offense that reached the Super Bowl.

Former All-Americans Guy Chamberlin and Ray Richards coached the NFL’s Cardinals. Chamberlain lettered at NU in 1914 and 1915 while Richards lettered from 1927 to 1929.

Chamberlin coached the Chicago Cardinals in 1927, compiling a 3-7-1 record. He also coached the now-defunct Canton and Cleveland Bulldogs and the Frankford Yellow Jackets. Chamberlin compiled a 58-16-7 record in six seasons and owns the best win percentage (.759) of any coach in NFL history with a minimum of 50 wins. He is a member of the Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame (1951), the College Football Hall of Fame (1962), the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1965) and the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame (1971).

Ray Richards directed the Chicago Cardinals from 1955-57, going 14-21-1. He was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 1984.

One other former Husker served as an NFL coach. In 1961, Ray Prochaska was the interim coach of the St. Louis Cardinals — under unique circumstances.

From the Arizona Cardinals’ media guide: “Head Coach Frank ‘Pop’ Ivy resigns with two games remaining … Cards win both remaining contests as assistants Chuck Drulis, Ray Prochaska, and Ray Willsey assume coaching reins.”

Including Chamberlin and Richards, six NFL coaches were born in Nebraska. Lane Kiffin, who was born in Lincoln in 1975, coached the Oakland Raiders for part of two seasons to a 5-15 record. Rod Dowhower, born in Ord in 1943, led the Indianapolis Colts to a 5-24 record in two years. Milan Creighton, who was born in Gothenburg in 1908, directed the Chicago Cardinals for four seasons and compiled a 16-26-4 record. Paul Schissler, born in Hastings in 1893, coached for four seasons with a 14-29-3 mark. He led the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals and Brooklyn Dodgers.

Nebraska has also had its share of ex-players serve as NFL coordinators. Most notably was Monte Kiffin, who won a Super Bowl as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator. Kiffin, Lane Kiffin’s father, was also Nebraska’s defensive coordinator from 1973 to 1976.

Huskers miss on another pass rusher as Steven Parker commits to Kansas

Nebraska missed on another pass-rushing prospect Monday as composite four-star outside linebacker Steven Parker committed to Kansas.

The potential at Nebraska was tempting for the 6-foot-4, 220-pound recruit with 30-plus offers out of South Oak Cliff in Dallas. The draw of returning to his childhood home in Lubbock at Texas Tech was also alluring. But Parker opted for Kansas, where his former high school coach, Emmett Jones, was hired as an assistant in mid-December.

“Today might have been the toughest day of my life,” Parker tweeted while also thanking NU coach Scott Frost and others for seeing potential in him.

Parker had been a priority target for the Huskers since they offered shortly after the early signing period. He recently received visits from Scott Frost and assistant coaches Erik Chinander  and Ryan Held. The defensive player of the year in Texas 5A — the state’s second-largest classification — earned the honor after recording 70 tackles, including 25 for loss and 18 sacks.

South Oak Cliff coach Jason Todd told The World-Herald last month that Parker’s recruitment spiked late in the fall semester as schools learned he would be a full academic qualifier. The prospect has only participated in organized football for three years.

“He’s still raw as a football player,” Todd said. “But he’s a guy that plays 100 mph every play and doesn’t back down from competition. He’s been the emotional leader of our team for the last two years.”

Parker had been committed to Texas Tech for nearly 19 months before backing off when head coach Kliff Kingsbury and his staff were fired. Parker’s grandmother lives in Lubbock, where he spent much of his childhood.

Parker took his final official visit last weekend to Kansas thanks to his relationship with former South Oak Cliff coach and mentor Emmett Jones, who had been an assistant at Tech before surfacing at KU in mid-December.

“The biggest thing with him is just he wants to be around somebody that he knows really cares about him,” Todd said. “He’s not a kid that runs from tough coaching. But he wants to be with someone who will work with him and help him develop off the field into a good young man.”

The Huskers continue to sit at 26 in their 2019 class. They haven’t added a new commit since Noa Pola-Gates announced his decision on Jan. 19, though he actually signed with the Huskers in December. Another outside linebacker — Dylan Jordan of Pittsburg, Kansas — chose TCU over Nebraska last week. NU also missed on a variety of junior-college linebackers, including Soni Fonua, who picked LSU on Sunday.