Cincinnati Bengals reward coach Zac Taylor with extension through 2026 season

CINCINNATI -- The Bengals have extended the contract of coach Zac Taylor through the 2026 season, the team announced Wednesday.

The deal comes days after Super Bowl LVI, where the Bengals lost to the Los Angeles Rams 23-20. It was the franchise's first appearance in the game since 1989.

Talks in Los Angeles with team president Mike Brown about being on the same page moving forward culminated in the extension that was finalized Tuesday.

"This isn't really about me, this is about all of the people in this building who are working towards a really solid future for all of us," Taylor said. "And so I'm excited for everybody. I certainly feel like the future is bright. There's a lot to build on."

Taylor, 38, was entering the final season of the original four-year contract signed in 2019.

The Bengals earned their first playoff win in 31 seasons en route to winning the AFC championship. The team went 10-7 during the regular season, winning the AFC North title.

In three seasons with the Bengals, Taylor has a 16-32-1 mark.

"Zac has come into the league and worked to develop the foundations for a winning program that can be successful over time," Bengals president Mike Brown said in a statement. "The fruits of Zac's efforts were seen this year, and Zac is well-regarded by our players and coaches.

"I know the effort and passion Zac brings to the building and to our team, and I am pleased by his approach. And I think the city of Cincinnati sees him the way the players and I do. He's brought excitement to the town and deserves credit and recognition for that."

A large throng of Bengals fans waited downtown outside Paul Brown Stadium to greet the Bengals on Monday night upon the team's return from the Super Bowl in Los Angeles. City officials scheduled another rally in Washington Park on Wednesday to congratulate the Bengals on their run.

That fervor, however, hasn't always been present. Empty seats were aplenty in Taylor's first season as the Bengals sputtered to 2-14 -- the worst record in the NFL and tied for the worst in franchise history.

After the Bengals beat the Las Vegas Raiders in the AFC Wild Card game, Taylor said that any other organization would've likely fired him after six wins in two seasons. He credited the bonds inside the building for the ability to navigate the pressure of the proverbial hot seat.

"Every year, you have to have that same urgency," Taylor said. "I know a lot is made of going into this season, but for us, that doesn't change our process at all. I think what it allows you is, to endure that and feel confident in, is the relationships."

While the fan support waned in the middle of the 2021 season, it picked up toward the end. A capacity crowd of 66,277 that saw the Bengals beat the Raiders was the largest for a pro football game in Cincinnati.

Taylor praised the fan support in his news conference Wednesday.

"It's rare to be a part of support like that," Taylor said. "And so again, just very appreciative that we're getting these moments, that we get a chance to really enjoy it with the fans."

Taylor's extension solidifies a young core that features quarterback Joe Burrow and several other players who fueled Cincinnati's best season in three decades.

Even though he's only a few days removed from the dramatic Super Bowl loss, Taylor is yearning to reach those heights again.

"Once you get there and it goes the way it did, it's just an immediate fire that burns even stronger than it did before to do everything we have to do to get back," Taylor said.