Highest stakes yet in Taylor brothers bowl between Zac's Bengals and Press' Eagles

CINCINNATI -- The sibling rivalry between Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor and Philadelphia Eagles assistant Press Taylor started brewing decades ago in an Oklahoma college town.

Upstairs in the bedroom they shared. In the yard playing with their dad. Around the neighborhood battling in pickup football. No matter where they were around town in Norman, the home of the Oklahoma Sooners, the Taylor brothers were competing with or against each other.

When they square off Sunday, the stakes will be higher than ever.

This will be their first NFL meeting since Zac became Bengals coach in 2019 and their fourth NFL matchup overall. To up the ante, Press, in his eighth season with the Eagles, was promoted this offseason to be the passing game coordinator in addition to his role as quarterbacks coach.

Things haven't gone well for either Taylor through two games.

Zac's Bengals are winless. Not only are the Eagles 0-2 but quarterback Carson Wentz is off to a rocky start. However, the stress surrounding this Taylor meeting is also a testament to what both men have achieved in their relatively young careers.

"When we first started, it was fun because they were both kind of minor roles in the game," their father, Sherwood Taylor, told ESPN. "[He and wife Julie] were able to basically just cheer for each offense and that was the big deal. We didn't really care who won. But now, it's kind of taken on a different aspect to it. It is different now."

The trophy that sits in their dad's office with the scores of the previous three NFL head-to-head games -- one when Zac was with the Miami Dolphins and two during his time with the Rams -- seems inconsequential compared to what's on the line Sunday. But the matchup is fitting considering how their lives have mirrored each other.

Zac, 37, and Press, 32, grew up sharing a bunk bed in a bedroom that featured a plastic, stand-alone hoop and a fan atop a vaulted ceiling that was constantly broken because a ball had hit it. When friends weren’t coming over to play video games or eat their mom’s brownies, the brothers were playing pickup games around the neighborhood.

“Most of the kids were my age,” Zac told ESPN. “But Press always tagged along and held his own and became a pretty good athlete because of it."

Both were quarterbacks at Norman High School, then at Butler Community College in Kansas and eventually at bigger universities -- Zac at Nebraska and Press at Marshall.

Each Taylor also somewhat backed his way into the coaching profession, even though their dad used to be a college assistant. Zac was looking for work after a short stint in the CFL when his future father-in-law, veteran college and NFL coach Mike Sherman, offered him a graduate assistant spot at Texas A&M. A few years later, Sherwood Taylor, who played and coached at Oklahoma, called an old friend who offered Press the same position at Tulsa.

Just as he did during their playing days, Press learned from Zac's experiences while going down the same path as his older brother.

"There’s nobody I trust more in this business than my brother," Press said Friday. "He’s always been that person for me that I can lean on."

But as they've continued their NFL careers, each Taylor son has proved why he has risen through the ranks.

Zac became the second-youngest head coach in Bengals history when he was hired in 2019 at age 35. When Eagles coach Doug Pederson took the job in 2016, he retained Press on staff, a decision that paid dividends when he suggested the infamous "Philly Special" that was the game-winning play in Super Bowl LII.

In a conference call this week, Pederson said that Press has the potential to be an effective coordinator and playcaller one day. That was one of the reasons for Press' offseason promotion. The other?

"So his brother wouldn't take him," Pederson said.

Typically, Zac and Press talk on the phone weekly during the season. But since their first meeting in 2015, they typically don't speak as the game gets closer to avoid accidentally disclosing information about their future matchup.

"We take it for granted," Zac told ESPN. "There's no doubt about it. Our parents love it. Our wives probably don't when we play each other. It's very stressful."

Zac and Press have significant tasks ahead of them. The Bengals are still searching for their first win with rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, the top pick in the 2020 draft. Philadelphia, in Press' first year as the pass game coordinator, is ranked 31st in Total QBR.

Before Sunday's kickoff (1 p.m. ET, CBS), Zac and Press might spend a few minutes on the field together. The next time they likely will see each other will be at the scouting combine in late February -- if that happens.

And given how the season has gone for both of them, there won't be any friendly bets riding on the outcome of Sunday's game.

"We each just need a win," Zac said. "That's enough right now for both of us."