My New Year's now to populate this space with daily loosely connected thoughts has yielded two entries this week.
*Let's start with Zac Taylor. The word is that the Bengals "would like to hire" the Rams QB coach, which they can't do officially until LA is finished in the playoffs which, spoiler alert, I'm trying to talk myself into betting will happen on Saturday.
My reaction to this - IF he's hired - is somewhere very close to the middle ground that exists between "Holy shit, we got Zac Taylor!" and "Are you shitting me, we hired Zac Taylor."
(Clearly part of my New Year's vows include both more use of profanity and increased references to my favorite teams as "we.")
I don't have a real, hardcore strong opinion about Zac Taylor, and even though raging in anger or crowing in delight make for better radio and social media consumption, I'm comfortable with where I am on this one.
I'm open-minded, because, well, why not?
I'm mildly skeptical, because as a Bengals fan, what else do you expect me to be?
Mainly though, I'm curious.
Curious as to how the Bengals arrived at the conclusion that Zac is the guy, (if indeed they have) and curious if his quick ascension has more to do than his connection to Sean McVay, his age, and the fact that instead of coaching men who tackle and cover, he's coached men who throw.
And curious, of course, about what's next. Who will be on his staff, and how much will the new coach have a say in who's on it? Curious as to how Taylor plans on squeezing a little more out of Andy Dalton. And curious as to whether Zac Taylor is more Sean McVay and than Adam Gase.
I understand how this decision appears, and I won't pretend that my mind hasn't drifted often to this place since Taylor's name appeared on the list of candidates. Hiring Zac Taylor might seem like a reach, a hire made in the hopes that by simply being around the NFL's hottest boy wonder, some of that McVay Magic has rubbed off. The McVay infatuation ignores the fact that the Rams' best coaching move over the last two years may have been to make Wade Phillips their defensive coordinator and the aggressiveness with which LA has built their roster, with both the flexibility of having a quarterback on a rookie contract and the pressure of making an immediate splash in a market where a new team can't beg for patience. Maybe Taylor is McVay 2.0, but is a coach the next Sean McVay just by being close in proximity to the original?
And as someone who watched every snap of Taylor's offense at UC in 2016, I can't help but think of how uninspiring the Bearcats were during that miserable season, even if we all admit that the program had started to trend downward way before Taylor arrived in Clifton and that he was instantly handicapped by factors beyond his control.
How did Zac Taylor go from someone that most UC fans couldn't wait to move on from to someone Bengals fans are being asked to put faith in?
Again, I'm curious.
Here's what I'm far more certain of: The Bengals have done what we asked, even if they did it a little later than we'd wished. They fired Marvin. They didn't hire Hue, at least to be their head coach. They've hired from outside, they've done something a little daring, and they followed the often-prescribed plan of getting a young coach with and offensive background.
These are good things, even if I'm not entirely sure they'll ultimately result in producing drastically better results.
I am sure of one thing, however. The Bengals with Zac Taylor are more interesting than anything the Bengals have been in nearly three years. They're a million times more interesting with Taylor than they would've been under Hue Jackson, and they're seven trillion times more interesting than they would've been had Marvin gotten a 17th season.
I'll settle for interesting. For now.
(If he's the guy)
*For a large chunk of last night, I pondered whether I'd even be around to watch Zac Taylor coach a game, mainly because watching Tulsa shoot something like 8,000,000 percent from three against a UC team with a bunch of guys dealing with illness made me want to hurl myself off of my roof.
Fortunately, the Bearcats staved off disaster, in exceptionally dramatic fashion. A stirring comeback. A Cane Broome shot that tied the game (I think was a three, even though it wasn't), some stellar defense, and Jarron Cumberland doing a little of everything in OT helped UC steal a win against a Golden Hurrican team that nearly made a buzzer-beating three-quarters court heave at the end of regulation that would've forced me to quit sports for good had it gone in.
The ECU loss loomed over the entire game, as something that made a win last night mandatory. Had Cincinnati not lost to the Pirates, last night's game would've had a house money feel to it. Instead, UC played with pressure to keep the season from feeling like it was slipping away.
If that seems like an overreaction, so be it.
The win felt good. Damn good. Even if it still hasn't rinsed the sour taste from last Saturday from my mouth.
*As someone who idolized Patrick Ewing enough to have his growth chart in his room a year or two past the time when a boy should own a growth chart, it was frustrating to watch one of my childhood idols stand there and not make an adjustments - like, you know, a zone defense - as Xavier chipped away at the early Georgetown lead, ultimately winning the game.
I was rooting for the Musketeers to win the game, which they did with an impressive effort by their bigs and by overcoming Quentin Goodin's absence, but not at the expense of my guy looking baffled.
My guy looked baffled.
*Football picks! Off to a good start in the playoffs, with a 3-0-1 mark last week that would've been 4-0 if not for Sebastian Janikowki's injury leading to the second-worst beat so far in 2019. (This, from the UK/Texas A&M game is easily the worst, and will not be topped this year) We now head to the best weekend in football, which the Bengals of course haven't participated in since Zac Taylor was seven years-old....
Kansas City (-5.5) over Indianapolis. Yes, the Colts have Andrew Luck, and sure, their defense has given up the second fewest points in the league since week seven. But the best offense Indy faced this season was New England's, which is really not that good of an offense, and as much as I'm hesitant to wager on Andy Reid in a playoff game, I'm betting on Patrick Mahomes to do what he's done all season, and while I have zero trust in KC's defense, I trust Reid and Mahomes to put up a number that's a little too hefty for Luck, TY Hilton, and Marlon Mack to keep pace with, even if the weather is dicey.
Dallas (+7) over the Rams. I've been tempted to take the Cowboys and the moneyline, which I still might do, but the line here is just too big. I know I'm likely succumbing to recency bias, given the fact that Dallas did just play well for most of the night against the Seahawks and given that the Rams didn't look great down the stretch, but I'm worried about Todd Gurley's knee, and despite the big names up front, LA was miserable against the run this year. As of Friday morning, I believe the Rams will win. My guess is the Cowboys make this the game of the weekend.
Chargers (+4) over New England. I know, I know. I'm not supposed to pick against the Patriots in the divisional round, where under Brady and Belichick, they're 12-2, but the the Chargers are the better team, they're getting points, and frankly, I don't think this one will be close. LA's defense is too fast, they're too good off the edge, and they can control the game with Melvin Gordon. Chargers win outright, and decisively.
New Orleans (-8) over Philadelphia. The Philly magic has been fun. The Saints, though, are better everywhere, including at their coach pulling lame motivational tactics. I'll lay the points, and inch closer to my Chargers/Saints futures bet becoming something I'll lose sleep over next weekend.
Last week: 3-0-1
Regular season and playoffs: 144-108-8
Radio....Tyler Boyd, Devon Still, and plenty of Zac Taylor reaction, today at 3:05 on ESPN1530. Listen anytime at espn1530.com/listen, of on the iHeartRadio app.
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