The Sean McVay coaching tree was practically nothing other than success stories, until the first two weeks of this season. Two of his former assistants are 0-2 and facing off against one another, almost guaranteeing that one of them will remain winless through three games, while another could go 0-3 if he loses against McVay on Monday Night Football.
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor has had the most success of anyone on the McVay coaching tree, leading his team to the Super Bowl in a loss to his former Boss in 2021. However, Taylor is also the only one of those assistants to have suffered through a 2-14 season.
The Bengals went 2-14 when Taylor was hired in 2019, then 4-11-1 the next season. Those years enabled Cincinnati to draft Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, leading to a 22-11 record over the next two seasons with a Super Bowl appearance and reaching the AFC Championship game last year.
But Taylor has notoriously bad starts and is going through it again.
The Bengals started 0-2 last season before finishing 12-4 and were only 7-6 at one point during the Super Bowl year. Now not only are the Bengals 0-2, they rank 30th in points, 32nd in yards, 31st in yards per pass attempt, and 31st in points per drive with one of the worst offenses in the NFL. This is partially related to a calf injury for Burrow and it is unclear at this point if he will start on Monday.
Bengals owner Mike Brown is notoriously patient with head coaches, so Taylor shouldn’t be in danger if the team starts 0-3. But it is awkward to now enter a season with such high aspirations and to be playing this poorly on both sides of the ball; Cincinnati ranks 31st in run defense and has an average pass defense by most numbers. Worse yet, the Bengals are already 0-2 in the ridiculously difficult AFC South and they have a lot of difficult games ahead, including against the Chiefs, 49ers, Bills, and rematches in the South.
An 0-3 start could be too tough to climb out of to make the playoffs in the AFC. It was supposed to be the L.A. Rams in the precarious position of deciding what to do if they were 0-3, but now McVay has a chance to go on the road on Monday night and get his team to 2-1 with a victory.
He could have a better record than anyone off his coaching tree.
L.A.’s 2020 defensive coordinator Brandon Staley is constantly in the “hot seat” discussion and the Chargers are 0-2, which comes after a brutal wild card playoff loss to the Jaguars in which they could not hold a massive halftime lead. Coming to town are the 0-2 Minnesota Vikings, led by former Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell.
Most likely, one of those coaches will be 0-3, and even if they tie, then it means neither will have a win after three games.
Staley might not have a job by the end of the year if the Chargers are 0-3 and continue down that path. O’Connell is only in year two and went 13-4 last season, so he should be safe.
But many aren’t so sure about Matt LaFleur. The Green Bay Packers head coach won 13 games in each of his three seasons following a stint as the offensive coordinator for the Rams, then the Titans for one year, including two NFC Championship appearances. However, the Packers are 2-3 in the playoffs under LaFleur and many have questions his decision making in those high pressure situations.
Now he has to prove it without Aaron Rodgers and coming off of an 8-9 campaign.
The Packers are the one team with a coach off the McVay tree with a win, but that was a Week 1 victory over the awful Chicago Bears. Green Bay lost to the Falcons in Week 2 and though new QB Jordan Love has gotten the job done so far, he’s only completing 56% of his passes and will have to face teams with a better defense than the Bears.
The organization also expects to have a great defense with all the talent they have on that side of the ball. They’ve been nowhere near dominant through eight quarters of football, ranking 27th in yards allowed. Could LaFleur survive a second losing season in a row, if it happens?
McVay sees his old pal in Week 9 at Lambeau Field, but first he gets his Super Bowl rematch with Zac Taylor. He paved the way once before, now can he run the Bengals over to get the Rams to 2-1?