New Bengals coach Zac Taylor defends hiring assistant who was involved in Dolphins bullying scandal

Zac Taylor has been the Bengals' coach for less than a week and he's already facing criticism for one of his first moves in charge.  

On Thursday, the Bengals added four offensive assistants to Taylor's staff: Brian Callahan as offensive coordinator, Jim Turner as offensive line coach, James Casey as tight ends coach, and Ben Martin as assistant offensive line coach. Immediately after the hirings were announced, Taylor had to defend his decision to bring Turner aboard because of Turner's history.  

In 2016, Turner was suspended two weeks by Texas A&M for making degrading comments toward women during a presentation. The last time Turner coached in the NFL, he was the Dolphins' offensive line coach. He was fired from that position in February 2014 after the release of Ted Wells' investigation into the bullying incidents that plagued the Dolphins' locker room. The Wells report found that Turner was "aware of the running 'joke' that Player A was gay, and on at least one occasion, he participated in the taunting." The Dolphins dismissed him for what they called "poor judgment." 

Taylor, who worked with Turner in Miami and before that, at Texas A&M (in addition to trying to hire him at the University of Cincinnati), defended Turner's character on Thursday, saying, "I know the man and I know he's a great person, great human." 

"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," Taylor said, per ESPN's Katherine Terrell.  

He added: "On the surface sometimes things look a certain way. And so, again, I feel very comfortable with the decision to bring him in. I anticipated something like this and felt very comfortable. 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."

According to the Wells report, Turner gave the Dolphins' offensive linemen gift bags that included "inflatable female dolls." But Turner gave one offensive lineman (Player A), who had been "subjected to homophobic name-calling," a male blow-up doll instead. 

"When interviewed, Turner was asked if he gave Player A a male blow-up doll," the report said. "He replied, 'I can't remember.' We do not believe that Turner forgot this incident, which many others recalled."

In his return to the NFL, Turner will be asked to coach up an offensive line that allowed the 12th fewest sacks and ranked 22nd in run blocking (by a Football Outsiders metric) this past season. But Taylor emphasized that he didn't just hire Turner because he thinks he's a good coach. He hired him because he likes him as a person, too. 

"Football coaching aside, I like the person and I know the person," Taylor said.

Taylor was hired to replace longtime Bengals coach Marvin Lewis the day after Super Bowl LIII. The Bengals zeroed in on Taylor -- the Rams' quarterbacks coach -- as their preferred candidate during the playoffs, but were forced to wait for the Rams' season to end before they could officially hire him. 

The move has been met with skepticism due to Taylor's lack of experience. He's 35 years old and has been an NFL offensive coordinator only once before, which came on an interim basis in 2015. With Taylor as the offensive coordinator in 2016, the University of Cincinnati scored 19.3 points per game. Before he was the Rams' quarterbacks coach this past season, he worked as the Rams' assistant wide receivers coach for one season. 

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

Our Latest Stories