Plenty at stake for NFL’s ‘Taylor Bro Bowl’

Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, left, listens to field judge Aaron Santi during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cincinnati, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Dean)
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, left, listens to field judge Aaron Santi during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cincinnati, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Dean)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The "Taylor Bro Bowl" trophy used to mean a lot more to Zac and Press Taylor.

It's still a fun reminder of their head-to-head coaching record and a chance to regale matchups that might get fuzzy over time.

But it's way down on the list of what's important when Press and the Jacksonville Jaguars host Zac and the Cincinnati Bengals tonight. The brothers -- Press is Jacksonville's offensive coordinator; Zac is Cincinnati's head coach -- plan to hang out before the game and maybe see family members. But their fifth meeting at football's highest level is more significant for mom, dad and others around them.

"A lot is made of it," Zac said. "Probably the least is made of it for me and Press."

Their father, Sherwood Taylor, created the family trophy in 2017 to commemorate the scores of NFL games in which his sons coach against each other. He keeps it on a desk in his home office in Norman, Okla. It gets pulled out every now and then -- and certainly will get a refresh next week since dad gets the latest result engraved on the trophy.

"It used to be something that was cool," Press said. "We were both quality controls or assistant position coaches, whatever it was. It was kind of a fun way for our family to be involved, for us to talk a little trash.

"Now it's just kind of something that only gets brought up this time of year. We may randomly think about it every so often and see if my dad updated it, but that's really all it is. It's just a fun thing for our family."

Fun and intense.

The games have been close, with Zac winning the first meeting in 2015 by a point (Miami 20, Philadelphia 19). Press won the next two with Philadelphia, beating the Los Angeles Rams in consecutive years (43-35 in 2017 and 30-23 in 2018). Their most recent one was a 23-all tie in 2020 between the Eagles and Cincinnati.

So Press is 2-1-1 in the series. Zac can tie it up tonight, but his Bengals (5-6) are 9 1/2-point underdogs against the Jaguars (8-3), according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Several family members, including mom and dad, will be on hand for the fifth iteration.

Jacksonville has won seven of its past eight to build a two-game lead in the AFC South entering Week 13. Cincinnati has lost three in a row, the past two after losing star quarterback Joe Burrow to a wrist injury, and needs a victory to avoid falling further back in the AFC North.

The Jaguars are making their first appearance on "Monday Night Football" since 2011, and the Bengals are 3-20 in road MNF games -- the worst record in NFL history. Cincy last won a MNF road game in 1990.

The brothers grew up watching "Monday Night Football" in Oklahoma. Sherwood Taylor played defensive back at Oklahoma under Hall of Fame coach Barry Switzer in the late 1970s and was a team captain in 1979 and was an assistant coach at Kansas State in the 1980s. Sherwood quit coaching to spend more time with his family.

Both sons ended up becoming college quarterbacks. Zac landed at Nebraska after leading Butler Community College to a national championship game and Press finished up at Marshall after leading Butler Community College to back-to-back NJCAA titles.

It was no surprise that they got into coaching shortly after college, with Zac beginning at Texas A&M in 2008 and Press, who is five years younger, getting his start at Tulsa in 2011.

"We've had the best coach there is with my dad," Zac said. "The way he coached us as kids. The values he instilled in us allowed you to go impact other people, and what do we know best? We know football best. That's a profession we naturally were drawn to.

"I like to think that we coach the same way he coached us, with patience and just a willingness to help people improve and communicate with him."

Mom played a key role, too.

"She told us we were the best at everything we ever did," Zac said. "She still can't get over the fact I didn't win the Heisman Trophy. I was probably 80th in the ballots, but she is still disappointed it didn't happen."

  photo  FILE - Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Press Taylor watches players perform drills during a practice at NFL football training camp, Thursday, July 27, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. Press and the Jacksonville Jaguars host Zac Taylor and the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday, Dec. 4. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
 
 
  photo  Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor, center, walks the sidelines during the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cincinnati, Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Dean)
 
 
  photo  Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor answers a question after an NFL football game against the Houston Texans Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, in Cincinnati. The Texans won 30-27. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)