Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

Zac Taylor

Former Husker quarterback Zac Taylor on Monday was named head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals after serving the 2018-19 season as quarterbacks coach for the Los Angeles Rams.

Zac Taylor's job in the NFL includes some built-in intrigue.

After all, he coaches quarterbacks for the Los Angeles Rams, and his primary pupil, Jared Goff, is among the league's fastest-rising young stars.

Or put it this way: Taylor, the former Nebraska quarterback, is helping develop the face of a Rams franchise that's trying to win over the city of LA.

"That's one way to put it, I guess," the 34-year-old Taylor said Tuesday from his home in Newbury Park, California, about 35 minutes from downtown Los Angeles.

Welcome to Taylor's world. Newbury Park is near Thousand Oaks, which is home base of the Rams — for now. A new stadium near LAX will be finished in 2020, and the franchise's training facility will move at that point.

Taylor, an assistant receivers coach for the Rams in 2017, thinks the city "has taken to us." Winning the NFC West and making the playoffs helped matters — the Rams lost 26-13 to the Atlanta Falcons in the wild-card playoff round before a season-high 74,300 fans in the Coliseum, where Snoop Dogg performed at halftime and Rob Lowe helped lead the cheers.

What a life. LA life.

"I just go with the flow," said Taylor, whose most interesting comments were about working for Sean McVay, who at 30 years and 11 months became the youngest head coach in modern NFL history last January.

Good move by the franchise, Taylor said.

"It's his energy and his plan for the culture, which he instills every single day and reinforces every single day," Taylor said.

Don't underestimate the energy part. In the NFL, everybody — players, coaches, ball boys — is good. Everybody works hard. But the season has 21 games (including the preseason). Humans wear down. But McVay's "creative energy" is constant, and others feed off him, Taylor said.

As Taylor talks about McVay, you begin to understand why this is a crucial phase in Taylor's development as a young coach. Taylor already has had an eventful coaching career, including a short stint as the Miami Dolphins' offensive coordinator in 2015 and the same role at the University of Cincinnati in 2016.

However, "I learn so much from Sean every single day that I'm around him," Taylor said.

Which is saying a mouthful because Taylor thinks the game at a high level himself. But McVay has reached the top of his profession for good reason. He spends the offseason learning about how defenses attack his offense. He never stops learning.

What's more, "Sean's recall is different than anybody I've been around," said Taylor, the Big 12 offensive player of the year in 2006, when he led Nebraska to the Cotton Bowl. "I'd like to think I have good recall of games I've been a part of and plays I've been a part of. But this guy's recall is unmatched.

"He just remembers every film clip he watches instantly. He can regurgitate it three days later, six months later, a year later. He's got recall that I just don’t think is normal. He's just got some rare traits. And he works harder than probably anyone I’ve ever been around."

Yes, the work is hard in the NFL. The hours can be long. But Taylor is having fun. How could he not being having at least some fun?

In the NFL, "It's all ball, all the time," he said. "You have no excuse to not watch anything you’ve ever wanted to study in your life, especially in the offseason. You’re not on the road recruiting. You’re not like Scott (Frost) right now — flying from Florida to California. We're just sitting in the office studying teams."

Taylor's actually in the midst of a five-week break. Yeah, life's good. It helps that the Rams enjoyed a transformative season. But it could have been better. After all, his offseason has arrived while his younger brother is still hard at work.

Press Taylor is an assistant quarterbacks coach for the Super Bowl-bound Philadelphia Eagles, the NFC representative, and proud owner of the “Taylor Bro Bowl Trophy.” Because the Eagles defeated the Rams 43-35 on Dec. 10, Press Taylor has rights to the trophy, which actually stays in their father Sherwood Taylor’s office in Norman, Oklahoma.

“I’m definitely pulling for Press, and I’m happy one of us made it (to the Super Bowl),” Zac Taylor said. “I wish it could’ve been me. But he’s been there a long time, since 2013. He’s put a lot of work into that organization.”

Meanwhile, Taylor is enjoying his break, especially since he’s raising three children — ages 7, 5 and 1 — with wife Sarah, who’s expecting in April.

“She deals with so much during the seven months we’re in-season,” Zac said. “I’m never around. Really, never. I might see the kids once a week. So in the offseason, I’ll never feel bad when there’s a day off. I place value on my family above everything else.

“They put up with a lot to deal with me in this profession.”

It’s a rugged profession, for sure.

“But I’ve been blessed to have some great opportunities and have a great family that comes along for the ride,” he said.

Now, if he could just win that Bro Bowl Trophy.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.


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