The Cincinnati Bengals suffered a major setback when their sensational rookie quarterback Joe Burrow went down with a season-ending knee injury on Sunday. According to a new report, it’s far from the only thing the franchise has to worry about.
A story in Sports Illustrated published Tuesday revealed that the Bengals have a major culture problem on their hands under second-year head coach Zac Taylor. The reporter spoke to a number of players and other people within the organization, who suggested Taylor’s coaching staff lacks communication and leadership, and has even been downright abusive to the players.
When Burrow went down in the game against Washington, the wind visibly went out of the team’s sails. Cincinnati ended up losing 20-9, and while Taylor said he didn’t sense a change in body language from his team, his players “smirked at each other” throughout his postgame speech, according to the report.
“We see right through it,” an anonymous member of the team said.
The overwhelming sentiment throughout the Cincinnati locker room is that Taylor doesn’t run a professional locker room, that the players don’t trust him and that the 37-year-old is a poor communicator. Some players told SI that the team is comparable to a college-level environment, while another said, “it’s worse.”
The Bengals are 4-21-1 since Taylor became head coach, and the problems extend back to his first year. Their former starting QB Andy Dalton was benched three hours before the 2019 trade deadline, and vented to the media about the poor communication that led to it, saying he could have asked his agent for a trade if he knew sooner.
Carlos Dunlap had a very public feud with the coaching staff at the beginning of this season, which started after he was taken out of their 35-30 loss to the Browns in Week 2. After the game, the staff singled Dunlap out in front of the entire locker room, an interaction described as “very awkward.” Dunlap was demoted and later traded to the Seattle Seahawks.
Former first-round pick John Ross also tried to force a trade, citing poor communication with the coaching staff.
Taylor is not the only coach that the players don’t trust. The article described defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo as “unapproachable” and said he regularly calls players “dumb motherf—ers” and “dumb b—hes.” Offensive line coach Jim Turner has also reportedly used abusive language, once calling offensive tackle Isaiah Prince a “thug.”
Taylor declined SI’s request for comment.
The Bengals are famous for giving their coaches a long leash – Marvin Lewis coached the team for 16 seasons – but they are also infamous for off-field drama and their players suffering devastating injuries. They face a crossroads with their franchise QB sidelined for 2020 and potentially into 2021, and must figure out if Taylor is the right coach to guide them through it.
Based on the information in the article, it seems like the players would prefer if they went a different direction.