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Carriker Chronicles: Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor on the NFL draft, Husker memories and more

Carriker Chronicles: Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor on the NFL draft, Husker memories and more

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All year round, former Husker and NFL veteran Adam Carriker is taking the pulse of Husker Nation. In the "Carriker Chronicles" video series, he breaks down the latest NU news, upcoming opponents, player updates and recruiting information, and he offers his insight into the X's and O's and more.

On Wednesday's episode, Adam Carriker talks to former Husker quarterback and current Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor about having the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft, his favorite memories of playing at NU and more.

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Check out a full transcript below:

Welcome to the Carriker Chronicles, the people's show, where we check the pulse of Husker Nation, brought to you by Nebraska Spine Hospital. Today I'm joined by one of my former Nebraska teammates, he's a former Husker quarterback, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and the current head coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. How are you doing Zac, Zac Taylor?

Zac Taylor: I'm doing great, AC. Good to talk to you.

Adam Carriker: Hey, man, I want to thank you for joining me, and I'm gonna dive right into it. So you've been in the NFL, you've been coaching for a while this was your first year as an NFL head coach. What was that like for you? How did it treat you?

ZT: Well, it was a difficult year. I mean, we went 2-14, so it wasn't quite the year we were anticipating having, but you learn a lot about yourself. You learn a lot about your team and the kind of character that you want within the organization. And so certainly a lot to learn from. We feel like we really laid the foundation for years to come. And, you know, so it's been a really exciting offseason in that regard and we have some great free agents, now we get to draft next week (recorded the week of April 13), so a lot of encouraging things in front of us.

AC: So you will have the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft coming up here very soon. What are some of the, obviously some areas need some improvement, what are some of the things you've been focusing on as far as areas of improvement for your team coming into this fall?

ZT: We just signed six free agents on defense, that was a big point of emphasis for us. You know, we signed four guys in the secondary, we signed a defensive tackle and a linebacker. And what that does really is take the pressure off of you to an extent in the draft because then it allows you to draft really the best player available as opposed to have to go and target a need necessarily. So again, when you have the year we've had, you've got a lot of areas you've got to address, but we feel like we took that pressure off of us to an extent in free agency, and now we're just excited to see what happens in this draft.

AC: Now as a guy who used to be a player, and now I've gone to the dark side, it's how I always phrase it, hopefully that doesn't offend anyone in the media, if it does, okie dokie. So here's the deal, guys in the media, man, they can be very interesting one end of the spectrum to the other. So I'm curious, year one didn't go great. How is the media been treating you, Zac?

ZT: Fair. You know, I know that they had a job to do. There's been some places I've been where, and I'm not speaking of Nebraska, Nebraska's the opposite, but you just get the sense that they want you to fail, they want to write a negative story, and it can be, it can make things hard. Here, this is not the case here in Cincinnati, and you feel like they've got a job to do, but they really want the team to do well, you know, in their own special way and you can feel that from them and sense it. And so that makes makes it easier to deal with them. Same thing when you're in Nebraska, you know, people there, it's good for everybody when the team does well, and so that makes things easier to deal with when you're having a tough year. So I would say it's really fair, you know, I've gotten a lot of these media members here. You know, there's none I dislike, so that's always a good thing.

AC: It's funny you say that because, you know, I got to know a lot of the media members when I was with the Redskins, and there is a lot of good dudes in that media circuit there. They're just big-time sports fans. You know, at some point everybody's career ends, and once theirs ended, whenever that was high school, college, they want to continue and stay with sports. So that's why they got into it. The majority of them there. I do have, I was not planning to talk about this, but I do have one story I've never shared. When we lost to, I don't know if you're on the team yet, but we lost to Texas Tech 70-10. Pretty bad, pretty hard, pretty embarrassing. I'll never forget, I came in to do some media interviews. Now I was a freshman, obviously, I didn't play a ton, so I just kind of stood there and did nothing, but I went to the bathroom, and I was in the stall, and I could see through the little openings there, a couple of media members who had come in, and I heard their whole conversation. And I was flabbergasted because one of them could not have been more thrilled at the way that we lost, how bad we lost, how the game went. He thought it was great for his articles. This guy still works in the media there today. He's very well known. And I walked out of there, and I see him all the time, and I have never looked at him the same since that day, because he could not have been more happy about what just happened there. And so it's kind of cool that, you know, you believe you're being treated fairly there in Cincinnati. We're gonna switch gears to the NFL draft just a little bit. All right, so what's it been like preparing for the NFL draft in this shall we call it, the COVID-19 era, for a lack of better way to put it?

ZT: It's not that much different than it would be otherwise. You know, typically, we would all be in a big room with about 20 people, sharing our thoughts. And instead, you know, everyone's just looking at computer screen, you can see the little faces on Zoom. So that part is not that much different. The difference is going until the last month, I would have been on the road traveling around to different pro days. And we don't obviously have that capability anymore, so now you've just got to have a better plan for getting to know the players, whether it's through the FaceTime calls, the Zoom calls or calling coaches a couple more times. So, you know, in that way, it's tough for the kids who aren't getting that last pro day that maybe, maybe needed this, you know, some of the smaller school kids that needed that last showcase to give themselves a chance. But for the most part, it hasn't been too difficult for us as coaches.

AC: It's just maybe a little bit tougher evaluating some of those kids from smaller schools, some of those kids not invited to the combine because they don't have their pro day like you mentioned. So that's got to make...

ZT: Guys coming off of injuries, that needed those same opportunities, even if they went to bigger schools.

AC: Okay, that makes it a little bit more challenging. You've got the No. 1 pick in the draft. All right, why don't you just go ahead and break the news right here, right now to everyone. Who are you going to take? Who are you taking, Zac?

ZT: I've been waiting for the opportunity to announce it.

AC: There you go.

ZT: You know, I get asked this question back when I was allowed to go out. I could be walking down the street and someone would yell out, "Hey, take so and so." My response was always, "Is that what you want? Then we'll do it, if that's what you want." Any time you throw it back to them, they get a little caught off guard. So that's kind of been my go-to line the last couple months

AC: How about this? Who are some of the like top four or five or six or whatever you feel comfortable, guys that kind of stand out to you?

ZT: Yeah, well, I think the top quarterbacks in the draft have been Joe Burrow, Tua (Tagovailoa), Justin Herbert, Jordan Love. Those are guys that really been in the big conversations. And then, you know, the defensive end at Ohio State (Chase Young), he's unbelievable. So he's obviously up there as well. So there's obviously a handful guys that are in the mix there. And we've we've done our research on all of them. And so, we'll see how it shakes out here in 10 days.

AC: Now, if you read between the lines here, ladies and gentlemen, they've signed six defensive guys in the offseason, he went straight to the quarterbacks and the defensive guy didn't have a name, so that might give you a hint there. I don't know which way he's leaning.

ZT: We'll see how it plays out, but it's been fun getting to know these guys that you know are going to a career in the NFL for a really long time. So that part's really been fun, kind of going through that process and hearing a lot about them from the coaches and their teammates and then get a chance to talk to these guys one-on-one.

AC: Have there, and be as vague as you want with this answer, but I wanted to ask it, have there been any trade offers? Obviously, you don't have to say who or what or have there been? And would you seriously entertain any trade offer? Are you guys kind of like, we want the No. 1 pick?

ZT: Well, we keep it in house, if people do ever call us with anything like that, whether it was the No. 1 pick or No. 66 pack. That's just something that as an organization we've chosen to do, but at the same time, if you get the No. 1 pick, and there's a guy you believe in that could change your franchise for the next 10 or 15 years, and someone's willing to give you a lot for that, then it just really confirms what you thought about that guy. And so, I think that factors into our thought process as we talk through it, you know, on a weekly basis here. And so, we'll just see how it plays out here in 10 days.

AC: All right, all right, I had to throw it out there, you know, I've got to throw it out there and you do with it as you please. So a little Nebraska football here, were you able, and you may not have been able to, but were you able to catch any Nebraska games at all last year? And if so, was there anything that stood out to you when you were able to watch some games?

ZT: I really didn't. You know, of all the years, this was probably the hardest for me just in terms of my workload. So I can't even think of one that I got a chance to see at all. So of course I always try following, see what the scores are, and of course you know, you and I have have a lot of friends that are now coaching for the team as well. I'm always pulling for them to do well, and they've got the right people on board. Sometimes it just takes time. It can obviously be a challenge, but you and i both know that they've got the right people in place, and they'll get that thing going the direction they want it headed, and it'll be fun days when they do get it going.

AC: Now thinking back to your time when you played for Nebraska, all right. Do you have any favorite memories from your time there as a Husker?

ZT: Yeah, I do. I think, you know, when you're just talking specific games, my first year there was, I was not a part of that 70-10 game, I've got to point that one out real quick.

AC: You should enjoy that. Yeah, I was.

ZT: But the next year, when we won at Colorado, and then we beat Michigan in the bowl game right after that. That was a fun month-long stretch that led into an offseason that was, you know, had a lot of optimism, and that was a good time to be part of program. And in the following year, when we beat (Texas) A&M, I think you finished the game off with a sack, if I'm not mistaken there, to send us to the Big 12 Championship game, you know, that was, I'll never forget that locker room experience and the fun times that went with that. If you're talking about game moments, those were the good ones. And it was just, you know, just really enjoyed my two years there, and it went by really fast. You know, in the grand scheme of things, I've lived a lot of places since then, and that was, just in terms of my time there, a small blip on the radar. I really didn't spend much time in the city of Lincoln, but there's memories that certainly last forever.

AC: Just to reiterate, I was a young guy that night in Lubbock, so I didn't play a ton. But anyways, you talk about that Colorado game. I remember that game very well. Now I've got asthma and altitude can really affect me. And so I remember Colorado talking trash at midfield. There may have even been a mini brawl between a couple of guys, I forget, a lot of trash talking. And you guys dominate on offense. You guys had the ball for 40 minutes and we're on the field for 20 minutes. I've never been so grateful in my entire life to see the offense hold on to the ball so much. And it was fun, because all they did was run their mouths and then we ended up whipping their rear end sideways. The Michigan bowl game was awesome. The comeback late in the game to win the Texas A&M game, you guys, you and Mo Purify getting the game-winning touchdown and then the big comeback down at A&M, I couldn't look up in the stands. I don't know if this affected you, but any time I looked up in the stands they went back and forth, their fans did the entire game, it made me dizzy. Did that make you dizzy?

ZT: You know what I remember? I've coached a lot of games there. I worked there for four years afterwards, so I'm used to it. The ribbon, and you can call it the ribbon, you know the advertising that flashes across kind of in between the upper deck and the lower deck. (Yeah.) The challenge for me was always trying to find the 25-second clock, 40-second clock. (Oh yeah.) And they've got these flashing lights for all these advertisements, and that's what I remember most is, you know, that last two-minute drive there at the end of the game, trying to find the play clock and they've got all these flashing advertisements that are affecting me, so I don't remember so much. Maybe I was so locked in on trying to find the play clock, I didn't notice the stadium moving back and forth but there's certainly some things that affected me.

AC: Hold on, my alarm's going off. Hey, ladies and gentlemen, be professional when you're doing a show. All right, so anyway, I remember the first drive. I went out there, we came off the field. I'm sitting on the bench, well I was standing and I'm looking up in the stands and they're going back and forth, and I literally got dizzy, I just sit down. So I would spend the entire game, I'd either be on the field playing, or I'd be on the bench staring at the ground for whatever reason, I'd get really dizzy. But anyways, is there anything, because Bill Callahan ran a West Coast, pro-style kind of offense when you were there playing for him. Is there anything that you still use to this day, that you ran at Nebraska under Bill Callahan?

ZT: Oh, yeah, I mean, I'd say guys that played on the same offense I did at Nebraska, there's a good chance they come in, and maybe know 20% of the playbook here, if they just heard the terms. Maybe they haven't looked it up in past 15 years, but it would be, "Oh, yeah, I remember that. I remember that term or that coaching point." So the West Coast offense was a big part of the NFL today, you know, still, so there's a lot of things that have been carried over that were burned my head that we thought made a lot of sense and were great coaching points that I've used today. So yeah, there's certainly part of that that's still going on, not only with the Bengals, but with a lot of NFL teams.

AC: Now you can't see me and the fine folks at home if you're wondering why I'm sitting here in a shirt, that's way too big for me, I looked in my closet I'm like, "What can I wear? I'm going to interview Zac." So I found this shirt from 2006, okay, our senior year. It's like a 3XL or 4XL it's actually not, I wish it was bigger on me than it is. But can you still wear any of the clothes that you used to wear when you were at Nebraska? Off-the-wall questions, Carriker Chronicles-type question, but I found this shirt. Can you still wear any of the clothes you used to wear?

ZT: Man, probably not. You know, we don't work out quite like we used to. And I don't quite have the frame, not that I was ever a physical specimen, but it certainly hasn't gotten any better. I can promise you that. And the adidas stuff always bothered me. It's always a little bit wide and short, so it never was really flattering for a tall, skinny guy who's kind of stuck between sizes. The adidas stuff never really looked good on me anyway.

AC: I think it's improved because when we, even this shirt is boxy. The way you describe it, it's like boxy. Anyway, adidas has come a long way. Last question for and I'll let you get out of here. I know you've got a meeting. So you got any behind the scenes stories that you'd like to share with the fine folks at home that you're comfortable with sharing that they might enjoy?

ZT: Well, I was telling, I was on a different show this morning and they're talking about Tom Brady playing for the Bucs. And it's just on the Dan Patrick Show, and he said, "Didn't you play for the Bucs?" I said, "Not really. I was there for a couple weeks. And actually the story of my release was, I was packing my bags to go to Tampa for training camp. I literally just, I was in Norman, Oklahoma, at my parents' house. I had just picked up the last bag. Sarah and I had taken engagement pictures that morning. It was a great day, you know we took the pictures, now I'm going to be on the road for six weeks at training camp. And as I'm loading my bag in the car to go to the airport, they call me and release me. So we went from really exciting day about my future and everything's headed in the right direction with my marriage, going playing the NFL, to being released in that moment. It came up today, and for whatever reason, it brought up that memory. It used to be a bad memory for me, but now, I probably wouldn't be where I am today, if it hadn't happened with that particular timing. Not a story I've told often, but that's the story of how I got released. And that was my last day playing football.

AC: Dude, you're a head coach in the NFL. I've got a question. Here's my question, a follow-up question. Is there anybody who was involved with your release, who has since come to work for you, and maybe you got a little of payback? I don't know. Anything like that ever?

ZT: Not quite. Now, there's a couple scouts that I see around me. Bill (Muir, Tampa's offensive coordinator at the time) is friendly to me. That's just the way the business works, you know. You and I both know that. That's the way it goes, man. It's never an easy phone call for them too I'm sure. (Yeah, no doubt.) I've had to cut a lot of players, and some are a lot harder than others. Some are pretty easy, but some of them aren't. So, it's a tough business in that way.

AC: All right man, I want to thank you for joining me. Tell the family, tell the wife, tell Sarah we said hello, all right man.

ZT: Great. I appreciate you having me on.

AC: All right, until next time Husker Nation, go Big Red and always remember...

ZT: to throw the bones!​

Thanks again to the Nebraska Spine Hospital. Ladies and gentlemen, when it’s your spine, you do not want to mess around. Experience matters. That’s why you can trust the experts at Nebraska Spine Hospital, the region's only spine specific hospital. They are the best at what they do.

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Adam Carriker is a Husker Hall of Famer and NFL veteran. The former Blackshirt and Hastings native was NU's 2004 lifter of the year and in 2005 was NU's defensive MVP and a first-team All-Big 12 pick. He was a first-round pick in the 2007 NFL draft.

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