About to coach his biggest — and last — game with the Los Angeles Rams, Zac Taylor will be thinking about five people come Super Sunday.
ATLANTA — Zac Taylor welled up, his eyes rapidly reddening.
Taylor is asked about who he will think about in a quiet moment on Sunday, perhaps during the national anthem or in the locker room. He slowly lurches forward in a small hotel conference room at the Buckhead Marriott in Atlanta, putting his hands together. Flecks of grey in his hair, a soft smile emerging.
“My whole family,” Taylor said. “My parents, really the ones who supported you from the beginning. My wife. My kids. All of my family members.”
By the end of his answer, Taylor is choked up. The emotion is overwhelming.
Taylor, 35, is about to coach in his first Super Bowl, and his last game with the Los Angeles Rams. He’s expected to be announced as the next coach of the Cincinnati Bengals once the confetti comes to rest, giving him the opportunity of a lifetime.
Many believe he’s too young to be a head coach, largely getting the job because he’s associated with coaching unicorn Sean McVay. Some will lament that Taylor hasn’t paid enough dues. It’s an easy thing to say when you haven’t lived in his shoes, traveling from College Station (2008-11) to Miami (2012-15), then to the University of Cincinnati (2016) and now Los Angeles (2017-18).
For a man with a wife — the daughter of former Green Bay Packers coach Mike Sherman, who married Zac his first year with Texas A&M as a graduate assistant — and four children, moving that often is a burden, regardless of salary.
On Thursday, Taylor’s family flew in via charter to spend a few days in Atlanta before the game begins. Time will be fleeting, and the schedule hectic. For their oldest, Brooks, 8, the importance of Sunday is understood. For Millie, their nine-month old daughter, it’s another day in diapers.
“Oh, he gets what’s going on,” Taylor says in reference to Brooks. “He’s the biggest Madden player on the planet. He knows every player on both teams. This is his Super Bowl to an extent. He lives and dies with it. When things don’t go well for us, it affects him more than it affects anyone else. There’s good and bad in that, but it’s fun what your kids are invested in what you do.”
Soon enough, the Taylors will move again. Back to Cincinnati, this time getting the biggest job in town. The task will be guiding the Bengals out of the abyss. It won’t be easy. The franchise currently holds the league’s longest playoff victory drought, not having enjoyed a postseason win since 1990.
Taylor will be backed by a loyal but frugal owner and is being asked to please a scorned fan base. He’ll be saddled with a middling quarterback and a roster rife with holes, but that’s for the future.
The present has Taylor on the precipice of a lifetime ambition. Come Sunday night, the world will be watching, but none of the countless millions across the country will be on Taylor’s mind. That space is reserved for the family who makes him tear up in a drab hotel conference room, knowing that their sacrifice, and his, will be validated with 60 minutes of excellence.