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Broncos conclude interview with Rams assistant coach Zac Taylor

Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor looks on during a recent game. (Photo credit: Los Angeles Rams)
Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor looks on during a recent game. (Photo credit: Los Angeles Rams)

Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor became the second candidate to interview with the Broncos for their vacant head-coaching position Thursday. 

The interview, conducted in California, is expected to be one of three this weekend for Taylor. According to multiple reports, he is scheduled to interview with the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals during the Rams' wild-card bye.

Taylor, 35, is the youngest candidate expected to be interviewed by the Broncos during their search. He has attracted attention for his work with Rams quarterback Jared Goff, an extensive background in offense dating back to his days as a quarterback at the University of Nebraska and his immersion in the explosive, dynamic offense developed by the Rams under head coach Sean McVay the last two seasons.

"Zac's got a great even-keel demeanor," McVay said at an Oct. 29 press conference. "I think he's done an outstanding job with our quarterbacks this year."

Taylor's ability to convey concepts to his quarterbacks, a skill he honed during four previous seasons with the Miami Dolphins, also earned McVay's praise.

"I think he's a very, very good communicator; [he] makes things simple," McVay said in October. "But he also has a great way about being able to kind of paint a picture for the quarterbacks to kind of simplify the thought process when a lot of the things we're asking them to do is complex."

Goff's QBR, as calculated by ESPN, improved from 52.1 in 2017 to 65.4 this season under Taylor's watch. His completion percentage also improved from 62.1 to a career-best 64.9.

"Zac has been awesome," Goff said at a press conference Wednesday. "Zac's been really good for me and our whole quarterback room, I think. Just everything he brings to the table, the fact that he played quarterback.

"There's certain things that he understands that people that just didn't [or] won't. That is helpful for me. His demeanor, the way he communicates, the way he teaches, I think is incredible. He's been great for me."

A prolific college quarterback who earned 2006 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors running then-head coach Bill Callahan's pro-style offense, Taylor quickly turned to coaching after a brief playing stint with the Canadian Football League's Winnipeg Blue Bombers. 

He had an inkling his pro career as a player would be short the moment he arrived.

"That ball is bigger, which was a shock," he told last year. "I first arrived at midnight, the GM picked me up and drove me to the stadium. I remember thinking the moment I picked up the ball, 'This isn't going to go well.'"

Nevertheless, Taylor's playing career eventually helped him on the sideline.

"I think being a former Big 12 player of the year [means] you've got that credibility where he's really good player," McVay said at an October press conference. "But, he's also got that demeanor that you can see why he was probably a great leader. Players probably love playing with him as his teammates -- different things like that."

After his CFL stint, Taylor quickly made the transition to coaching, joining Texas A&M as a graduate assistant in 2008, where he worked four seasons for his eventual father-in-law, Mike Sherman.

When Sherman joined the Miami Dolphins in 2012 as offensive coordinator under then-head coach Joe Philbin, Taylor followed him as quarterbacks coach, where he worked with Ryan Tannehill -- who played for the Aggies while Taylor worked as an assistant coach.

Late in Taylor's final season with the Dolphins (2015), the team dismissed offensive coordinator Bill Lazor after 11 games. Interim head coach Dan Campbell handed the play-calling responsibilities to Taylor.

During Taylor's five games calling Miami's plays, he improved Miami's offense in most statistical categories -- total yardage, yards per play, yards per pass play, passer rating, rushing yardage, yards per rushing attempt, turnovers per game, sack rate, third-down conversion percentage and points per game. The improvement was slight -- for example, Miami scored 17 points per game with Taylor calling plays compared with 15.6 in Lazor's final five games -- but palpable.

Miami elected to not retain Campbell and most of his staff, leading Taylor to the University of Cincinnati as its offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2006.

Plagued by injuries that forced him to cycle through three different starting quarterbacks, the Bearcats averaged 19.3 points per game during a 4-8 season that saw head coach Tommy Tuberville depart after the year. Staff turnover followed, leading Taylor back to the NFL and a job with the Rams -- first as an assistant wide receivers coach in 2017, and then as a quarterbacks coach this year.

While the results in his only full season guiding an offense were not what Taylor wanted, he did establish himself as a play caller who strove for run-pass balance -- not in terms of the raw numbers, but in creating an offense that could be a viable threat on the ground and in the air. 

"I feel it's important for the players' mindset and coaches' mindset to be able to get under center and run the ball when you want to run it, and make them stop you," he told the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star in 2016.

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