Young coaching staff represents a needed shift for Bengals

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After going with Marvin Lewis and the status quo for a long time, a young coaching staff suggests a shift in philosophy for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Marvin Lewis lasted 16 seasons as head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, which was already a little too long, but a third straight non-playoff season in 2018 finally cost him his job. Zac Taylor is stepping in after serving as Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach, as anyone who has Sean McVay’s phone number has risen up lists of NFL head coaching candidates.

Taylor is 35 years old, and he has brought in 34-year old Brian Callahan to be Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator. That makes them the league’s youngest head coach-offensive coordinator duo for the 2019 season by a good margin. Callahan is the son of Bill Callahan, a long-time NFL assistant coach and former head coach of the Oakland Raiders and he was quick to dismiss any perceived folly attached to his and Taylor’s youth when it was pointed out by Paul Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

I think years in this league are like dog years…The amount of experience you gain in one year in the NFL, I think, is different than the traditional work environment. It’s so high stress. There are so many things that happen and move so fast.

And:

His dad was a coach. My dad was a coach. We’ve had access to things that not a lot of people get access to at that age. I do think there’s kind of a shared experience with those types of things that give you the experience that doesn’t necessarily count on a resume.

When McVay was hired as head coach of the Rams, he went with an experienced defensive coordinator who has been a head coach in Wade Phillips. Kliff Kingsbury also went that direction with his defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals, hiring former Broncos head coach Vance Joseph.

Some similarly experienced candidates have surfaced for the Bengals’ defensive coordinator opening, most prominently Jack Del Rio and Dom Capers. But the current list of candidates skews away from that kind of experience, including Rams defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant, former Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel and Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn.

Bengals owner Mike Brown is notoriously frugal. So going with a young head coach backed by young coordinators could be an issue of willingness to pony up for someone like Del Rio, who was fired as head coach of the Raiders after the 2017 season and is set to be paid by the Raiders again next season.

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But optimists will say, after years of sticking with Lewis after he pulled them out of a long stretch of doldrums, a shift to youth on the sideline is a refreshing approach to things in Cincinnati.

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