Zac Taylor spent eight seasons trying to make Ryan Tannehill better. Did the Bengals coach learn enough to stop Titans quarterback?
There is a heavy focus on Derrick Henry's possible return to the Tennessee Titans' offense, but Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor is also concerned with quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a player he got to know and respect in their time together earlier in their careers.
Taylor is preparing the Bengals (11-7) for their trip Saturday (3:30 p.m., CBS) to play the Titans (12-5) in an AFC divisional-round playoff game at Nissan Stadium.
Taylor and Tannehill were together from 2008-11 at Texas A&M when Taylor was starting his coaching career as an offense graduate assistant and tight ends coach. The two were reunited in 2012 when Taylor was the assistant quarterbacks coach of the Miami Dolphins and Tannehill was a rookie quarterback. Taylor coached Tannehill for four seasons with the Dolphins, working up to offensive coordinator by 2015.
"I had a tremendous eight years being around Ryan Tannehill," Taylor said. "I've probably got a stronger library of all the throws, all the catches, all the runs he had over those eight years than maybe he does because as a coach you're watching all those cutups all the time."
Taylor mentioned Tannehill's catches because Tannehill spent the first 30 games of his career at Texas A&M playing receiver. He won the Aggies' starting quarterback job at midseason in his junior season.
"There is a misconception that he came to Texas A&M as a receiver and he did not," Taylor said. "He came in as quarterback. He was a quarterback from Big Spring (Texas) High School."
Taylor said Tannehill was on the third team as a quarterback two days before the first game of his freshman season, but the coaches wanted him on the field so they played him at receiver.
"He went in against Arkansas State and played receiver," Taylor said. "But we never moved him to receiver. He never went to the receivers meetings. He was always in the quarterbacks meetings. He was always a quarterback who just happened to have 140 catches as a receiver."
It was that versatility and willingness to play wherever he was needed that led to Taylor's admiration for Tannehill.
More recently it's been Tannehill's ability to lead the Titans to the playoffs three consecutive years.
"He's smart; he was pre-med and used to miss practice in college because he had the pre-med classes he had to take," Taylor said. "He would miss the Wednesday practices but was still always capable of knowing the entirety of the offense. He's a tremendous quarterback and it's no surprise he's helped that team be in the position they've been in the last couple of years. He executes that offense at a high level and he can make a defense pay if you let him."
Reach Mike Organ at 615-259-8021 or on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Zac Taylor spent eight seasons trying to make Ryan Tannehill better. Did the Bengals coach learn enough to stop Titans quarterback?