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NFL PLAYOFFS

Ahead of his first playoff game, ex-Husker Zac Taylor tells cold tales, including a very chilly 2006 Big 12 title game loss

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Bengals Browns Football

Bengals coach Zac Taylor calls a play in the second half against the Browns on Sunday in Cleveland.

Saturday's temperature when the Cincinnati Bengals host the Las Vegas Raiders will be in the 30s.

Skies will be gray for the AFC wild-card game, scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. kick on NBC.

So, no, Zac Taylor won't need ski gloves to stay warm.

He'll be quite comfortable, at least physically, for his first playoff game as a head coach. And while the former Husker quarterback is laser-focused on the task ahead, he took a few moments to revisit some arctic blasts from the past with reporters this week.

What's the coldest game he's ever played in? Nebraska fans can answer that one.

"Thanks for bringing it up, Paul," Taylor quipped during his media session.

Yup, it was the 2006 Big 12 championship game played on a bone-chilling night at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium. Temperature at kickoff was around 30 degrees, but it felt closer to 20. The Sooners won 21-7.

Zac Taylor

Nebraska's Zac Taylor (13) delivers a pass during the 2006 Big 12 championship game against Oklahoma in Kansas City, Mo.

"They've since moved it (Big 12 title game) to Jerry World," Taylor said. "I'm still very sensitive to that. It was very cold (and) we did not win."

Little did Taylor (it probably didn't help that he didn't wear sleeves in that game) know at the time that Kansas City on Dec. 3, 2006, would feel like Key West compared to what was next on his football travels.

After going undrafted in the NFL, and a brief offseason stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Taylor signed with the Winnipeg Bombers of the CFL.

Winnipeg in November? You can probably guess how that felt, especially for Taylor, who at the time was the Bombers' fourth-string quarterback.

"I would practice with two hooded sweatshirts underneath my helmet and I would throw with ski gloves, and it was very difficult," Taylor recalls. "I don't remember those practices with great fondness.

"I was trying to survive at practice so I wore ski gloves and just shot put about every throw I had."

Being a former quarterback, Taylor knows the ins and outs of the position well, and he's currently coaching one of the top young gunslingers in the league in Joe Burrow. Together, they have revived the Bengals franchise.

If Burrow needs advice on how to throw in the cold, he has a good source to ask, which led to Taylor talking about another Husker memory this week.

It was 2006 at Nebraska, and Taylor connected with Maurice Purify — who played for the Bengals, by the way — for a 63-yard touchdown against Texas in snow flurries at Memorial Stadium.

"That should always be a plant throw versus free access to Maurice Purify," Taylor explained. "But I took a hitch, and I remember Kyle Shanahan in my meeting at the (NFL) Combine said, 'Why would you throw that with a hitch?' You feel like you're making an excuse but it was really cold, the ball was really hard and slick, and I just kind of needed a grip for another hitch to be able to throw that ball."

Taylor and Bengals are embracing the cold. It is Ohio, after all, and if there's a weather edge against a Raiders team that plays its home games indoors, the Bengals will gladly take it.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Bengals practice outdoors and have been outside in temperatures as low as 11 degrees this season.

The forecast in Cincinnati looks good, and we're talking football, not weather. Burrow is already a star and the city is celebrating an AFC North title for the first time since 2015.

After going 2-14 in his first season and 4-11-1 last year, the Bengals finished the regular season at 10-7 under Taylor, the cherry on top being a 34-31 win against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in Week 17.

During a time when NFL coaches need to produce quick results or else — the Texans fired their coach after one season — the Bengals have stayed patient with Taylor after a bumpy first couple of seasons.

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The payoff continues.

“Anytime something goes wrong or there’s an issue, it seems like people are calling for Zac’s job or whatever,” Cincinnati defensive end Sam Hubbard told the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News. “He’s done nothing but be a great leader and consistent force in this whole turnaround, and I really love Zac as a coach, and I’m thankful that he’s here. He was young. We’re all young, we all grow and learn, and we all just wanted to be better, and it’s just a consistent effort to be better for this team."

Taylor has a chance to do what no Bengals coach has done in more than 20 years, and that's win a playoff game. Cincinnati's last playoff win came in the 1990 AFC wild-card round. Taylor was 6 years old at the time.

Now that's a cold stretch, but nothing Taylor hasn't seen before.

Reach Clark Grell at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter at @LJSSportsGrell.

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