After the dust settled and the carnage from Black Monday cleared, there were eight head coaching vacancies, none less attractive than the Bengals’ opening.

After 16 seasons without a single playoff win, the Bengals finally moved on from Marvin Lewis, leaving his successor with a 31-year-old quarterback who isn’t bad enough to suddenly ditch, but isn’t good enough to carry a weakened team to the promised land and a defense that was among the league’s worst in 2018. Making matters worse, the Bengals reside in the AFC North, a division that features three playoff-caliber teams in the Steelers, Ravens, and suddenly good Browns

Despite everything going against the Bengals, Zac Taylor, who ended up getting hired, recently claimed it was actually the best job available this offseason.

“A lot of coaches wouldn’t look at this place the way I did among the jobs that were available this year. For me, this would be close to the number one job,” Taylor told Peter King for NBC Sports. “No. This IS the number one job. It’s exactly what I want in a coaching job, everything I hoped for.”

Taylor didn’t point to the team’s personnel or quarterback situation or history of playoff success, none of which would bolster his argument. Instead, he pointed to the organization’s loyalty toward Lewis. 

“So I’m an Oklahoma guy, a midwestern guy, and [in 2016] I coached a season at the University of Cincinnati, and my wife and I fell in love with the city. It’s the place for us,” he said. “And after my interview with the Bengals, I knew this was the job for me. A couple of things I learned. It’s a loyal organization. The Brown family is very big on loyalty in a cut-throat, bottom-line, dog-eat-dog league, when often you might just get two years to turn a program around. I just felt this was the right place at the right time. They hadn’t changed coaches in 16 years, and if they were going to change, this organization had the values I embraced.”

It’s certainly understandable that Taylor would look at Lewis’ 16-year reign as a positive. Given the Bengals’ history of being patient, Taylor should receive time to rebuild the Bengals, a process that will likely take more than a season or two. In terms of playoff success, the bar couldn’t be set any lower. Under Lewis, the Bengals went 0-7 in the playoffs. If Taylor manages to win one playoff game, he’ll immediately surpass Lewis. 

It won’t be easy, though. The Bengals need to find a new quarterback and rebuild a defense that ranked 28th in DVOA a year after finishing in the middle of the pack. They’ll also have to navigate their way through the hyper competitive AFC North. 

All of this will need to be done by a 35-year-old first-time head coach who is coming off a one-year run as the Rams‘ quarterbacks coach, has been an NFL offensive coordinator only once before (on an interim basis), and coached a very bad offense at the University of Cincinnati. Already, during his first week on the job, Taylor faced criticism for his decision to hire Jim Turner, who was involved in Dolphins bullying scandal, as the team’s new offensive line coach. Questions pertaining to Taylor’s qualifications and readiness persist. 

After Black Monday, CBS Sports’ Will Brinson ranked the eight openings. He put the Bengals in last. After all the openings had been filled, I graded the eight hirings. I gave the Bengals’ hiring of Taylor the lowest grade. In that sense, the match is perfect. 

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