CINCINNATI -- The signs of change were all around the Cincinnati Bengals organization on Tuesday.
As people filed into a packed news conference room to watch the franchise introduce new head coach Zac Taylor, two of his four young children were in attendance. One of his boys wore a brand-new A.J. Green jersey that had been sent to him by Bengals ownership, while his 3-year-old daughter was decked out in a dress that Taylor’s wife, Sarah, had monogrammed with "Who Dey."
It was a far cry from the Marvin Lewis days. Lewis stayed as head coach for so long that his two children had long since grown up by the time his tenure was over. When asked for a comment on Lewis, Bengals owner Mike Brown declined, saying Lewis was a friend and he’d rather look to the future than the past.
For the Bengals, the future is now.
The 35-year-old Taylor is expected to breathe some life into a franchise that had grown stale after 16 seasons under one regime. As the team failed to make the playoffs for the third straight year, it was clear that restless fans chose to direct their attention elsewhere. The Bengals hope this hire might make them come back.
"We had lost some of the faith (from) our fan base -- that was clear," Brown said. "That sent a loud message. I think we’ve done it at the appropriate time. We tried to give every opportunity for it to grab hold otherwise, but that’s behind us. I want to look toward the future, and I think we’re starting that now. Our fan base wants that."
There’s no denying Taylor’s energy and enthusiasm as he prepares to take on his first head-coaching job. Taylor was officially on Day 2 of the job when he spoke Tuesday, having flown into Cincinnati on Monday morning to sign his contract after concluding his two-year stint with the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LII.
Taylor said he was grateful the Bengals were willing to wait on him. Because he was with a team that advanced to the Super Bowl, the Bengals were not allowed to officially hire him until the Rams' season ended.
It made for a long, drawn-out process, but Taylor said he’s not worried about being behind. With a smile, he said that not everything needs to be rushed. The clock might be ticking with just a month until the start of free agency, but he didn’t seem concerned.
"I'm just fortunate that they waited on me. Because I know a lot of places don't. They feel like they've got to get somebody who's available right now because they feel like they're going to be behind. But as I've talked about assembling a staff, we're going to get the right people," he said. "And I'm fortunate that they waited, feeling that I was the right person. They waited for me. And now we're going to build the staff the right way and make sure that this thing is built for the long term and not worry about losing a week or two. That's not important in the long run. We'll get the right people in place."
Getting the "right" people was something Taylor mentioned often on Tuesday. Although he might lack experience, it was clear he had given a lot of thought to the type of team he wants to lead.
Establishing a winning culture will begin with establishing trusting relationships with the people surrounding him, Taylor said. He said things in Los Angeles worked because everybody understood their role and felt valued. He plans to bring that attitude to Cincinnati.
"Players want to be coached hard," he said. "They want everyone to be coached the same way and held to the highest standards because everyone wants to win. That’s the bottom line. As long as we’re on the same page and we keep talking about culture, because the culture is important. Everybody is going to buy into what we do. I think we will have no issues. This team is hungry and they are ready to be challenged. I look forward to getting that process started. If I could get them in today, I would, but unfortunately we can’t. I’m excited to get this thing started."
But, as Taylor repeated, nothing can be rushed. Turning a team around takes time, he said. He’s confident that, with the right people, it can happen.
"It’s not in one day. It’s not going to happen April 1 or Aug. 1. It’s a gradual change," he said. "When we talk about these standards, I can’t put into words what these standards look like. It’s something everyone will understand as we get going. No detail is too small, and we’ll cover everything, to make sure everything is the way we want it done ...
"Like I said earlier, when the players know that you can help them improve, they are willing to do anything. We’re going to have a positive outlook every day when we walk into this building. There’s going to be positivity. We want to encourage the guys, and we’re going to hold them to a high standard and hold them accountable when they don’t do it the right way. We will build them up and let them know that’s the way we want it done, and we (will) appreciate their effort. The culture is a gradual build, and it’s not going to happen tomorrow, but we’ll get there."