Figuring out an NFL head coach’s worth is troublesome as hell. Generally it’s straightforward, like with the Jacksonville Jaguars and City Meyer, or the New York Giants and Brian Daboll. But more often than not, determining how a lot of a crew’s success relies extra on the coach or the expertise on their roster is an unattainable job. There isn’t anyone statistic followers can have a look at to find out a coach’s greatness. Oftentimes, the argument begins and ends with postseason success — if a coach can constantly go on deep postseason runs, he is an efficient coach — and if that’s the case, then by all means, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor is nice.
Nevertheless, regardless of main his crew to the AFC Championship recreation in two consecutive seasons, together with one — probably two — journeys to the Tremendous Bowl, the jury nonetheless appears to be out on Taylor. Is he being carried by elite expertise, or does he elevate his squad to Tremendous Bowl-caliber play? Does it even matter?
As I mentioned earlier, postseason success tends to be the end-all-be-all for figuring out a coach’s worth. Rapidly, what number of nice coaches are you able to identify who by no means went on a deep postseason run? None? Surprising. Quite the opposite, what number of dangerous head coaches are you able to consider who went on a number of deep postseason runs? None. Wow, didn’t see that coming. This argument is weak although. In essence, it’s a loaded query. If the idea of this argument is postseason success, then it’s actually unattainable to reply both query.
Even if you happen to had been to level out that Don Coryell went 111-83-1 as a head coach — an astounding file — however by no means reached the Tremendous Bowl, I may merely say “Yeah, as a result of he was a nasty coach.” Even if you happen to identified that most individuals believed Mike McCarthy was bringing down the Inexperienced Bay Packers on the finish of his tenure with the crew, however did win a Tremendous Bowl and go on a number of deep postseason runs, I may counter with “Yeah, however he gained a Tremendous Bowl and dangerous head coaches don’t win Tremendous Bowls.” By labeling postseason success as the perfect and/or solely solution to decide a coach’s worth, we’re placing head coaches in a field for checking or not checking metaphorical containers. That’s not proper.
Mid-game changes, system in place
A extra acceptable foundation for this argument can be determining how typically their crew is well-prepared, adjusts mid-game, and the way their system elevates their gamers. Take Brian Daboll for instance. In his first 12 months as head coach of the New York Giants, Daniel Jones went from a turnover-prone, clumsy quarterback right into a reputable weapon regardless of having zero weapons to throw to. I imply, for goodness sake, Jones actually had the bottom interception charge within the league. That’s a textbook instance of elevating your gamers. Can the identical be mentioned about Zac Taylor? Eh, possibly.
Despite Ja’Marr Chase being one of the most electric players in the NFL with the ball in his hands — I mean, one of his greatest tools is his speed after all — he rarely gets many yards after the catch. Chase ranked 28th in YAC/reception in 2022 amongst broad receivers and tight ends with at the very least 50 targets, behind the likes of Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Randall Cobb, and Mike Williams. None of those gamers’ largest strengths is working with the ball, however their coaches have discovered methods to scheme them open with room to run.
In the identical vein, regardless of Chase’s unbelievable velocity and launch off the road of scrimmage, he’s virtually at all times close to the underside of the league in separation yardage. In 2022, amongst receivers with at the very least 45 targets, Chase ranked Twenty third-to-last in separation yards per reception (2.6), solely barely forward of fellow Bengals’ wideout Tee Higgins (2.5 — Nineteenth-to-last; though that’s extra acceptable and I’ll clarify why in a minute). The Bengals’ offense far too typically depends on completely executed go-routes and the connection between Chase and Burrow. I’m not saying that’s a nasty factor, but it surely’s arguably not taking part in to Chase’s strengths. You’d anticipate him to be schemed open in the identical method Deebo Samuel and Cooper Kupp are. That mentioned, Chase nonetheless places up monster numbers each week, however I can’t assist however marvel if these could possibly be even higher. Additionally, it’s laborious to find out how a lot of this passing assault comes from Taylor versus offensive coordinator Brian Callahan.
On the similar time, there’s Tee Higgins. Higgins is 6-foot-4, 215 kilos. He’s additionally fairly good at monitoring the ball into his arms. He’s not the quickest however he’s constructed for leap balls and contested catches in one-on-one protection down the sidelines. He ought to be a severe deep menace regardless of his lack of velocity. Taylor performs into these strengths nicely, focusing on Higgins a median of 11.3 yards downfield — the highest on the crew. Regardless of getting far fewer appears to be like than his fellow wideout Chase, Higgins will get almost the identical variety of whole air yards, commanding 28.88 % of the crew’s focused air yards for all the season, in comparison with 30.01 % for Chase. Chase had 134 targets this season. Higgins had solely 109.
Primarily, whereas he’s not good at taking advantage of his gamers, Taylor has confirmed himself able to doing so, and even within the instances the place he’s not…the crew is doing simply tremendous on offense. Don’t repair what ain’t broke, proper?
So, how nicely does Taylor make changes mid-game? Nicely, that’s a lot simpler to diagnose. Let’s simply have a look at the Bengals’ first and second-half splits in 2022. Let’s see…so, within the second half of recreation’s this 12 months, the Bengals had been higher at:
Completion Share: 68.5 % within the first half/68.9 % within the second half
Interception Price: 2.08 %/1.85 %
First Down Price: 35.31 %/37.78 %
Landing Price: 5.34 %/6.67 %
Sure, they had been far worse speeding the ball, however the Bengals had been additionally profitable in most of their video games within the second half. More often than not, they had been attempting to run the clock down. When the protection is anticipating runs in these circumstances, the speeding numbers are clearly going to be worse. On protection, the crew improved within the second half in:
Yards per rush allowed: 4.7 yards per rush/3.7 yards per rush
Dashing first down share: 27.52 first down share/22.4 %
Completion share allowed: 60.8 %/57.1 %
Cross yards per try allowed: 7.0 yards per go try/6.7 yards per go try
Passing TD share: 3.8 TD share/2.42 %
I do know Taylor doesn’t have a defensive background, so possibly it’s unfair to provide him credit score for the protection’s success, however both method, the Bengals had been an objectively higher crew within the second half of video games this 12 months. Whereas the mentality of the gamers within the locker room can impact such splits, the teaching employees additionally performs an unlimited issue, and I don’t suppose the worth that comes from mid-game changes might be overstated. Additionally, 2022 wasn’t a fluke. The Bengals had been arguably even higher in 2021 within the second half than they had been this 12 months.
Lastly, we get to preparation. I’ll preserve this angle brief and candy. Buffalo Payments head coach Sean McDermott is taken into account an excellent head coach. He was gifted a house recreation (which he frankly didn’t deserve; the sport ought to’ve been held at a impartial web site) in opposition to Cincinnati with climate circumstances that you simply’d anticipate the Payments to be extra accustomed to. McDermott was completely unprepared for what the Bengals cooked up. Taylor got here into that recreation able to decimate the Payments’ possibilities, able to destroy the town’s hopes of a championship. He beat the Payments so badly that rumors and movies began popping up displaying Payments’ star wideout Stefon Diggs sad together with his quarterback and the crew basically. Josh Allen fell on almost everybody’s quarterback energy rankings. How can he be higher than the man who simply dominated him? That’s how well-prepared Taylor was for the Divisional Spherical. Of their most essential recreation of the season up to now, Taylor outcoached Sean McDermott at each flip. That’s all I ought to must say.
The Cincinnati Bengals’ postseason success isn’t what makes him an excellent coach. The postseason is a fickle mistress that likes to create upsets and cursed fanbases. Anyone can win on any given day and a few coaches simply occur to be rather less fortunate than others. What’s made Taylor nice is his skill to organize for his opponents and alter accordingly. Is he good? No. His play-calling fashion could also be just a little too conservative, and he’s made some questionable choices at instances, however who hasn’t? Positive, his crew’s file was atrocious with out Burrow, however so was each head coach in historical past who was compelled to run an offense with subpar quarterback play. It wasn’t till Patrick Mahomes got here alongside that Andy Reid obtained over the hump and gained a Tremendous Bowl. Why is Reid immune from those self same criticisms?
I got here into this text totally ready to burst Taylor’s bubble and provides all of the credit score to the gamers, however what I discovered was a head coach who has improved his file yearly he’s been on the helm and routinely prepares higher for video games than his opposition. He’s a great chief, no two methods about it.