Bengals head coach Zac Taylor’s Patriots story is a very familiar one
By Jerry Trotta
By late Sunday night, the NFL will have crowned a new champion. For the third straight season, it won’t be the New England Patriots, who overachieved during the regular season and crashed out of the playoffs in the first round.
Instead, it’ll be one of the Los Angeles Rams or Cincinnati Bengals, both of whom, despite contributing to what has been a historic postseason thus far, own the worst combined win percentage (.647) of teams in Super Bowl history.
Believe it or not, the game has a ton of ties to the Patriots, too.
After all, Bill Belichick’s group defeated Sean McVay’s Rams in Super Bowl LIII in a game that produced 16 total points. From a game-plan perspective, it was a defensive masterstroke from Belichick, as New England limited LA to 266 yards of offense and just 3-for-13 on third down.
McVay’s adversary on Sunday, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, was his quarterbacks coach that season with the Rams, so both coaches know the feeling of coming up short with a Super Bowl on the line.
During his Thursday press conference, Taylor recalled processing the loss and told a familiar story regarding Belichick and Tom Brady.
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor remembers fine details from his loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.
Here’s Taylor’s full quote:
"“I don’t know that I’ve ever really processed the game in its entirety because you woke up the next morning and it was an exciting time for myself and my family. So that’s a hard question to ask. It’s a good question. I don’t even honestly have a great answer for you because it was such a wild conflict over, really, a 12-hour period for me. To get to where we were at — I still remember Tom Brady and Bill Belichick walking by me in the hallway after they won the game and the excitement on their faces. I’ve never forgotten that. It was crushing to see.“Then again, to wake up the next morning and be on a plane to come here (to Cincinnati) for a press conference, that was exciting. So I’ve never really properly processed that.”"
You can tell Belichick and Brady smiling in celebration is engrained in his memory. Like countless coaching assistants before him, that was quite the introduction to his head-coaching tenure, even though it hadn’t officially started until 24 hours after the fact.
The good news for Taylor is he won’t go to battle with either Belichick or Brady on Sunday evening. He’ll just have to contend with his former boss in McVay and several players — Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, Andrew Whitworth and Jalen Ramsey, to name a few — he’s extremely familiar with.
Could that work to Taylor’s benefit? Possibly, but not if the Bengals’ wonky offensive line struggles against the Rams’ vaunted front seven.
Nevertheless, the history between Taylor and McVay makes this Super Bowl matchup markedly more compelling than it already is. By the time the game’s over, one of them will be forever enshrined in NFL history, while the other will have to “process” being on the losing end of two Super Bowls in a four-year span.