Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury and Bengals coach Zac Taylor will face off on Sunday in Cincinnati, each aiming to secure their first NFL win.
It’s a long way from where the duo first met, as backup quarterbacks for the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2007. Both set off for Canada in hopes of reviving their fledgling playing careers, but soon realized that was the least of their problems.
“We were both very cold,” Taylor said. “We’re from Oklahoma and Texas, and we were in Winnipeg, Manitoba in November. We threw practice squad reps with ski gloves on and hooded sweatshirts over our ears. It was more about survival than trying to impress anybody with our arms.”
Taylor rattled off memories from their time together during a conference call with Arizona media this week. For Kingsbury, it was a stint to forget.
“I think I blacked that whole era of my life out,” Kingsbury said. “I retired immediately after my season there. I’ve never been that cold in my life. Great people, great football organization, and people were passionate about it, but I probably won’t be making any return trips.”
Taylor said the setup was much less glamorous than the NFL.
“We shared this little loveseat in the quarterback meeting room,” he said. “We met in the coach’s office, and there was a two-person loveseat and three of us had to cram on there every day. Those were kind of my memories. The CFL work day is a four-hour work day. We were there 8 a.m. to noon, and then at 12:30, we’d go next door and watch whatever movie was on. Really just survive the weather, show up the next day and hope that the other players were able to lead us to a Grey Cup Championship because, believe me, neither one of us contributed.”
The Blue Bombers actually made it to the CFL championship game that year, losing to the Saskatchewan Roughriders as Taylor and Kingsbury rode the pine. In 2008, Kingsbury began his coaching stint as a quality control coach at the University of Houston, and Taylor headed to Texas A&M as a graduate assistant.
A little more than a decade later, they are at the pinnacle of the coaching profession. Taylor was asked if he and Kingsbury ever envisioned being NFL head coaches while playing together in the CFL.
“I can promise you we did not,” Taylor said.