Packers Head Coach Candidate: Zac Taylor
Coaching trees are a quirky thing in sports. Often, a coach can be coveted by a fan base simply because of his connection to a successful head coach.
Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor has the luxury of working under the league’s most buzzworthy coach, Sean McVay. Taylor’s success has put him in line for head coach interviews this offseason.
For some, the idea of hiring a McVay assistant is enough to convince them that Taylor is the man for the job. However, even Mike Holmgren’s coaching tree had a couple of bad apples.
The details on Zac Taylor
Most recent job: Quarterbacks Coach for Los Angeles Rams (2018-present)
Record as a head coach: 0-0
First job: Graduate Assistant at Texas A&M (2008)
Packers connection: College teammate of former Packers running back Brandon Jackson. Son-in-law of former Packers head coach Mike Sherman. Coached quarterbacks in Miami under Sherman and interim head coach Joe Philbin.
The background on Zac Taylor
Perhaps no praise is worth more in today’s NFL than praise from Rams head coach Sean McVay. Taylor, currently the quarterbacks coach for McVay, is held in high esteem by his boss.
“He doesn’t just agree with everything, he challenges you but in a way that’s very welcoming,” McVay said of Taylor. “Sometimes in the NFL disagreements can be uncomfortable in a staff meeting, but not here. There’s a refreshing security that Zac has in himself. He has great emotional intelligence and awareness for how to communicate in a way that makes peoples’ guards go down. That’s a great trait for a coach to have.”
Zac Taylor played quarterback for Nebraska, where he met his future wife (coincidentally, the daughter of former Packers head coach Mike Sherman). Sherman hired Taylor during his stint at Texas A&M, and brought him with when Joe Philbin hired Sherman as offensive coordinator in Miami.
After Philbin’s staff was let go after the 2015 season, Taylor stepped into the college ranks and was offensive coordinator for the 4-8 Cincinnati Bearcats in the American Athletic Conference. When that staff was relieved of their duties, McVay offered Taylor a spot on his staff as assistant wide receivers coach. Taylor spent a season in that role before being promoted to quarterbacks coach.
Zac Taylor’s biggest moment
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. That’s what got Taylor into the NFL – his father-in-law Mike Sherman brought him to the Miami Dolphins under head coach Joe Philbin. A chance encounter with then-Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, however, helped grow Zac and his brother Press’ profile within coaching circles.
Kelly was in the Dolphins building visiting offensive line coach Jim Turner, who didn’t have time and sent the offensive wizard elsewhere. Kelly wound up in the office of quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor. Kelly and the Taylors (Press was in Zac’s office at the time) talked about coaching for nearly three hours, and Kelly left with a strong impression of Zac and Press.
The connection led to Press earning a job with Chip’s staff in Philadelphia – a move that happened six months after their conversation – and helped raise Zac’s profile as well. When Zac was fired from the Dolphins, he wound up joining Sean McVay’s initial staff in Los Angeles.
In Zac Taylor’s own words
Meeting your girlfriend’s father is already a nerve-wracking situation, but when you’re the starting quarterback at Nebraska and he’s a former NFL head coach? Those were the stakes when Taylor first met his future wife’s father Mike Sherman, who was currently working for the Houston Texans.
“The first time I met him, he was upstairs in his house,” Zac recalled in a December 2018 feature. “He has his XOS coaches film set up there. I was as intimidated as can be. I figured, I can impress him by watching film with him. He runs a basic play back and forth and says something like, ‘What’s your landmark at Nebraska on this play?’ I say, ‘Oh, same as you [at Green Bay and Houston], the inside edge of the field numbers.’ I felt a panic at that point. And he says, ‘But aren’t your field numbers a little wider in college?’ At that moment I realized I had no idea what I was talking about. I didn’t say another word for 20 minutes. That was our first real conversation. He was throwing me a bone on something simple about football and I failed.”
What are the chances Zac Taylor is the next Packers head coach?
Jon’s Rating: 1/5
Sean McVay was exactly the kind of coaching candidate who would normally be considered a risk. But if anyone took the time to look past his age, his resume was about as strong as any first-time candidate’s could be. He had high-level coordinating experience and had demonstrated success at every stop and progressively growing roles everywhere he’d gone.
Zac Taylor is as close to Sean McVay as someone is likely to be. His age and background align well with McVay’s, and his proximity to the NFL’s favorite coaching wunderkind will make those comparisons even more compelling.
The problem is, as close as he may be to McVay, he can’t boast of McVay’s extensive high-level experience. That leaves you with the same level of concern about hiring a young coach without the reassurances of McVay’s coaching resume. I think the risk on Taylor is greater than it was on McVay, and for that reason the Packers probably stay away.
Gary’s Rating: 2/5
If the Packers are true to their word and consider out-of-the-box candidates, Zac Taylor is a natural fit. He’s the embodiment of nearly every trend in NFL coaching – he’s connected to Sean McVay, he’s young (35, to be exact), and praised for his offensive prowess.
Taylor has scant experience calling plays or leading an entire team – he spent four weeks as the interim offensive coordinator in Miami after Dan Campbell fired Bill Lazor, and called plays for the University of Cincinnati in 2016. By contrast, McVay had been the Redskins offensive coordinator for three seasons before the Rams hired him as head coach.
His candidacy for a head coaching job as it stands now is – under the historical circumstances – at least a few years away. However, the NFL’s trend to go young and inexperienced could force a team to take a gamble on Taylor.
Ultimately, Green Bay doesn’t feel like the organization who is willing to take on the risk that hiring Taylor brings. For all the talk of Mike McCarthy’s “scrub brush” approach to the offense this past season, 2018 felt pretty similar to years past. I’m not sure I believe the Packers will be true to their word and go out-of-the-box. Zac Taylor may make a fine head coach – as soon as next season – but it’s unlikely to be with the Packers.