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- College football coach
So, who had October in the Urban-Meyer-flames-his-way-out-of-Jacksonville pool?
The Jacksonville Jaguars head coach may hang on to his job until the end of the season. But his run as an NFL czar effectively ended on Monday.
“I have addressed this matter with Urban,” Shad Khan, the Jaguars owner, said in a statement on Tuesday in response to a video that circulated last weekend that showed Meyer partying with a young woman at his bar in Ohio. “Specifics of our conversation will be held in confidence. What I will say is his conduct last weekend was inexcusable. I appreciate Urban’s remorse, which I believe is sincere. Now, he must regain our trust and respect.”
Is this why Urban Meyer is trending? 😳 pic.twitter.com/nFg8kUFVli
— Dude In Texas™️ (@ChiefSVP) October 3, 2021
It took just four weeks of the regular season for Meyer to lose – in the owner’s own words – the trust and respect of his team. Even by Meyer’s standards, that’s fast.
This was all so predictable, that’s the thing. Because this is the Meyer Experience. Wherever he goes, it ends in embarrassment and scandal. Usually some authority comes knocking, but only after Meyer has stacked success upon success, championship upon championship (he won three national titles during his wildly successful college coaching career). In Jacksonville, it has been one embarrassment after the other, just without the winning part.
In nine months on the job Meyer has:
• Hired Chris Doyle as the team’s director of sports performance. Doyle was accused of making racist comments during his time as the Iowa strength coach. After a backlash, Doyle resigned from the Jaguars.
• Signed 34-year-old former quarterback Tim Tebow as a … tight end, a position he had never played before. No one is saying this was down to nepotism but Tebow happened to be Florida’s star quarterback when Meyer was head coach.
• Told reporters that the Jaguars cut players due to their vaccination status, forcing the NFL Players’ Association to open an investigation.
• Held a competition between Trevor Lawrence and Gardner Minshew to see who would start as the team’s quarterback, limiting the rookie’s practice reps. He then traded away Minshew, a viable NFL starter, for a conditional sixth-round pick.
• Traded away CJ Henderson, the team’s 2020 first-round pick.
• Said that coaching in the NFL feels like playing Alabama every week, which is kind of the whole point of the enterprise.
• Started his NFL career with four straight defeats.
If Meyer still held some respect in his own locker room, it was torched over the course of 72 hours. His non-apology-apology was incongruous with the footage that circulated on Saturday, something of a Meyer trademark. He didn’t address his team as a group until later in the week, instead choosing to roam from position group to position group. When addressing the media about his mistake, he brought up Lawrence’s bachelor party rather than address his own actions, a violation of all-manner of coach-isms.
But you can put any moral arguments to the side. The NFL is not a paragon of virtue. It is a results business: if you’re good enough, misdeeds are forgiven. If you’re not, you’ll be fired. The problem for Meyer is the results are not there. The Jaguars looked painfully unprepared for their week one opener against the Texans, probably the worst team in the NFL; they were just as poor against the Broncos; they blew a chance to win against the Cardinals; they were so-so against Bengals, and still lost.
Meyer was, once upon a time during his college career, a schematic innovator. In the early 2000s, he helped pioneer ideas that are now ubiquitous at all levels of football. His brilliance was in pairing those schemes with the best recruits at two of the nation’s top schools, Florida and Ohio State.
Meyer has no such advantage at the pro level. In theory, all 32 teams have the same access to talent through free agency and the draft. And at this stage everyone is running the concepts that Meyer helped trailblaze two decades ago – and, more importantly, they have figured out how to stop them.
Over time, Meyer morphed into the kind of culture-first coach endemic at the college level – those who preach accountability in front of the cameras and then sink to questionable depths in the shadows.
That works in the college game. The same four or five teams hoover up the top talent then compete among themselves for the national title. And those that compete for the national title land the best recruits. Rinse. Repeat.
The NFL is more sophisticated. The equality afforded by the draft and salary cap means coaches have to find advantages on the margins, must offer more substance than style. It’s all about tangible results: finding the street free-agent who can help solve a third-down issue; dreaming up a tactical advantage that can shore up your run defense.
Through four weeks, it’s clear that Meyer is in over his head.
In fairness, he inherited a mess in Jacksonville, and is far from the first college coach to struggle in the pros. Liberated from the need to recruit, Steve Spurrier spent more time golfing than game-planning during his brief stint in Washington. Even Nick Saban, the godfather of the modern college game, bounced out of Miami once he realized how difficult it would be to sustain success in the NFL.
The Meyer-Jaguars marriage was always going to end in tears. The Jaguars ownership team has given the coach a reprieve – for now. But the Meyer era was over the moment he decided on a night out at his bar. At some point Khan will reach the obvious conclusion: Meyer just isn’t worth the hassle.