Bengals’ Taylor set for 5th draft as head coach

Published 8:53 pm Tuesday, April 25, 2023

CINCINNATI (AP) — “Draft Day” isn’t on the list of Zac Taylor’s all-time favorite movies.

“I saw it a long time ago. Very unrealistic,” the Cincinnati Bengals coach said Monday.

The 2014 film, which stars Kevin Costner as Sonny Weaver Jr., the fictional general manager of the Cleveland Browns, gives viewers a dramatic look inside an NFL team’s room during the draft.

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“It’s like anything about your job, when it’s that unrealistic, it’s hard to accept,” Taylor said.

But what about a movie focused on the Bengals’ draft day experience?

“I’d watch it,” he said.

Taylor will experience his fifth draft with the franchise when the first round of the NFL draft kicks off Thursday night in Kansas City, Missouri.

Cincinnati has seven total picks in this year’s draft, including the 28th overall selection.

Taylor wouldn’t reveal where the Bengals are leaning with their first pick, but he said he’s looking forward to making that first phone call.

“It’s a great moment when you get a chance to make the selection and call that young man on the phone and give him the news,” he said. “And then I really enjoy watching the videos afterward and seeing how they took that call and piecing all that together.”

The most important draft-day call Taylor has made as Bengals coach came in 2020. That call was to Joe Burrow. The former LSU quarterback and 2019 Heisman Trophy winner was the franchise’s choice with the No. 1 overall pick.

“There was no pressure,” Taylor said. “We all felt really good about it.”

Taylor followed that call by placing one to Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins at pick No. 33 in the second round and then to Wyoming linebacker Logan Wilson at pick No. 65 in the third round. Taylor said he still can’t believe both players were on the board when the Bengals were on the clock.

“Those are two guys that stand out where you really didn’t think they were going to be there, and then they were, and then you were pretty excited about it,” he said. “Logan’s the guy I can remember watching 30 picks tick off the clock with your fingers crossed. … You were just crossing your fingers and watching the clock.”

Taylor and the Bengals hope to come away with some more quality players this week. But Taylor said he doesn’t feel any pressure to do so. Taylor said he will lean on the preparation of Cincinnati director of player personnel Duke Tobin and the organization’s team of scouts to lead the charge in making the right selections.

“We’ve got a really good group that we trust,” he said. ”You look at how many drafts (owner) Mike (Brown) has been a part of. You look at how many drafts Duke has been a part of here. Probably 20-something (24), I would guess. That’s unheard of. Their experience really kicks in.

“They’ve seen every situation. They can anticipate every point that comes up when you’re comparing prospects. They can kind of foreshadow some of the conversations we’re going to have while we’re on the clock. That’s where the experience really kicks in from the people in the room. I’m inexperienced in that way.”

While the 39-year-old Taylor, who has led the Bengals to a 27-13 record over the past two seasons, including a 5-2 mark in the playoffs, is still adding to his draft experience as a coach, he can still vividly recall his experience as a player in 2007.

“In the seventh round, I think that’s when my antennas were up,” said Taylor, who was the 2006 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year as the quarterback of the Nebraska Cornhuskers. ”Jon Gruden called me probably early seventh round and started recruiting me. Then I was like, ‘Ah, that’s not good.’

“Then my head coach from college, Bill Callahan, called me and started pushing me that way. My father-in-law (Mike Sherman) was with the Texans and they didn’t pick me. They took Jared Zabransky over me (as an undrafted free agent signee). Not that I have forgotten that or anything.”

Taylor went undrafted and wound up signing with the Buccaneers as a free agent. He was cut before training camp.

“Yeah, I got duped,” he said. “I got brought in to run the rookie free agent (tryout) at Tampa. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was the only guy that probably called the plays, because it was the same offense I ran in college. I could call the play in the huddle and get people lined up and hand the ball off. That was about the extent of my needs there in Tampa. They moved on from me.”

Taylor said his personal draft experience helped him gain a better appreciation for the draft experiences of the players who came after him. He knows now that it doesn’t matter where a player may land on a team’s draft board. What matters more is what that player does with that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Everybody’s here for a reason,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what you got paid or where you got drafted. You’re just here to help us win.”