Zac Taylor defends adding Jim Turner, fired in Dolphins' bullying scandal, to Bengals staff

CINCINNATI -- Bengals coach Zac Taylor defended the controversial hire of offensive line coach Jim Turner on Thursday, saying he has no problem giving Turner his first job in the NFL since 2014.

Turner has not worked in the league since he was fired by the Miami Dolphins in February 2014 in the wake of the Wells report, which detailed a series of bullying incidents within the franchise. Turner was a prominent figure named in the report.

"We talked about culture and bringing the right people in this building and I would never do anything that would tarnish the reputation of the Brown family and the Bengals organization if I didn't believe in the person and know the person inside and out."
Zac Taylor, on hiring Jim Turner to his Bengals staff

Taylor, who has worked with Turner at several stops, vouched for the hiring on Thursday afternoon, admitting that he anticipated some backlash for the decision after spending the majority of his opening news conference discussing culture and character. He said that Turner was No. 1 on the list of people he wanted to hire for the offensive line coach position.

"I know the man and I know he's a great person, great human. And so, somebody I trust," Taylor said Thursday. "We talked about culture and bringing the right people in this building and I would never do anything that would tarnish the reputation of the Brown family and the Bengals organization if I didn't believe in the person and know the person inside and out. ... And that's why I'm excited to get Jim in here. Football coaching aside, I like the person and I know the person."

Turner was most recently at Texas A&M, where he was suspended for two weeks in 2016 by then-coach Kevin Sumlin for in his role in creating a slideshow that Sumlin said he considered offensive and degrading toward women. The slideshow was shown to about 700 attendees during an event intended to educate female fans on the game. Turner was kept on staff by Jimbo Fisher after Sumlin was fired in 2017.

Taylor previously worked with Turner at Texas A&M and later with the Dolphins before attempting to hire him at the University of Cincinnati in 2016. Taylor was UC's offensive coordinator that year and hired Turner as the running backs coach, but Turner ultimately ended up going back to Texas A&M two weeks later.

The Wells report was a detailed investigation of the issues that occurred at Miami. According to the report, Turner not only was aware of the bullying of former NFL lineman Jonathan Martin and other players -- including one identified as Player A -- but also participated in it.

"Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner was aware of the running 'joke' that Player A was gay, and on at least one occasion, he participated in the taunting," the report said. "Around Christmas 2012, Coach Turner gave the offensive linemen gift bags that included a variety of stocking stuffers. The gifts included inflatable female dolls for all of the offensive linemen except Player A, who received a male 'blow-up' doll. Martin and another player reported that they were surprised Coach Turner did this; Martin further said that he was offended that Turner had endorsed the humiliating treatment of Player A by participating in it."

Taylor was working as a Dolphins assistant at the time of the incidents and when the Wells report came out. He said he knows the situation well and he's still comfortable with the hire.

"Well, I think everyone gets caught in some situations sometimes that they wish they would do differently, but again, I know those situations inside and out and I feel very comfortable bringing Jim in here and all the other guys we're bringing in," he said.

He added: "On the surface sometimes things look a certain way. And so, again, I feel very comfortable with the decision to bring him in. I anticipated something like this and felt very comfortable. Maybe if I didn't know someone who had been through those situations, but I know it, and I know him, and I know what he's all about and I feel very comfortable. I know that this is the right decision."

Taylor pointed out that he tried to hire Turner when he had been without work for two years and his stance hasn't changed now that he's in the NFL. When asked if it helped that Turner had gotten a job elsewhere in the years since the Miami incident, Taylor said it didn't matter to him.

"I don't need the buffer, because to be honest with you, I know what I know. And so, I shouldn't have hired him because he left me at UC after like a week and a half, so he should've been dead to me," Taylor joked.

"But he's not, because I know what he's about, and the people in the community will understand that. You all will understand that. I feel very comfortable. I don't need any buffering. He was out for two years and I hired him at UC. That was my decision. And so I felt very comfortable standing up here in front of whoever I need to stand in front of and explain the reasoning behind it."