CINCINNATI — Zac Taylor preached throughout his first press conference as Cincinnati Bengals head coach about the need to build a culture around accountability and character, so he knew how it looked when the team announced Thursday he had hired Jim Turner as his offensive line coach.
Despite a cloud of controversy hanging over Turner’s past, Taylor said he was confident he made the right decision.
Turner, 54, was fired from the Miami Dolphins after his second season in 2013 for participating in a bullying scandal involving offensive linemen Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. He also served a three-week suspension at the beginning of a third stint at Texas A&M in 2016 for showing offensive PowerPoint slides during a football clinic for women.
“Well, I think everyone gets caught in some situations sometimes that they wish they would do differently, but again, I know those situations inside and out, and I feel very comfortable bringing Jim in here and all the other guys we’re bringing in,” he said. “And I think once you guys get a chance to meet these guys, Jim included, you guys will feel very comfortable with the decision to bring them in here.”
Taylor was on staff with Turner in Miami from 2012-13 and the two previously worked together at Texas A&M from 2008-11. The new Bengals head coach also had hired Turner to join him at the University of Cincinnati in 2016 when Taylor was offensive coordinator, which was Turner’s first coaching job since the Miami incident, but Turner left for A&M after two weeks and the incident that led to his suspension occurred that summer. The Aggies kept him on board right up until his decision to leave for Cincinnati.
Taylor didn’t even need to be asked about Turner’s past before he began defending the decision to hire him.
“I know the man, and I know he’s a great person, great human, and so, somebody I trust,” Taylor said. “We talked about culture and bringing the right people in this building, and I would never do anything that would tarnish the reputation of the Brown family and the Bengals organization if I didn’t believe in the person and know the person inside and out. … Football coaching aside, I like the person and I know the person.
“I anticipated something like this and felt very comfortable,” he added. “Maybe if I didn’t know someone who had been through those situations, but I know it, and I know him, and I know what he’s all about and I feel very comfortable. I know that this is the right decision.”
In fact, Turner was at the top of Taylor’s list. He replaces a well-respected line coach in Frank Pollack, who joined Marvin Lewis’ staff during 2018 in an attempt to overhaul the staff beneath him. The offensive line saw improvements under Pollack, and the running game especially showed progress with Joe Mixon leading the AFC in rushing with 1,168 yards, despite missing two games.
In addition to stints with Miami and Texas A&M, Turner has also been offensive line coach at Boston College (2007), assistant head coach (’06) and offensive line coach (’05-06) at the University of Delaware, offensive line coach at Temple University (’03-04), offensive line coach and run game coordinator at Harvard University (’00-02), offensive line coach at Louisiana Tech University (1999) and defensive line coach (’97-98), running backs coach (’96) and offensive line/tight ends coach (’94-95) at Northeastern University. A 1988 graduate of Boston College, Turner served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1990-94.
“I had a good list of people that I felt comfortable with, some that I worked with and some that I didn't,” Taylor said. “Frank was an outstanding coach, and those aren't easy decisions and he was picked up quickly so that shows how good of a coach he was, but there were certainly a number of people I felt comfortable with and Jimmy was No. 1.”
It was important for Taylor to have a past working relationship with his offensive line coach, he said. That won’t necessarily be the case with everyone he hires, but knowing Turner personally made him comfortable with the decision.
In vouching for Turner’s character, Taylor is assuring the Bengals that no incidents will occur under his watch.
“I'm sure he's learned from everything he's been through, but he's a good person and he's about the right things,” Taylor said. “Just like all the other assistant coaches I feel very comfortable with this decision.”