Update: Meyer has been fired.
For three years, Trevor Lawrence starred for one of the most stable programs in college football.
Clemson went 34-2 with Lawrence under center, winning a national championship in 2018 and ACC Player of the Year honors in 2020. There were week-to-week challenges and some College Football Playoff disappointments, but there was little doubt as to the competence of head coach Dabo Swinney and his staff.
Oh, how things have changed for Lawrence, currently starting for the 2-11 Jacksonville Jaguars and leading the NFL in interceptions amid a turbulent year for Urban Meyer. It's not an experience Lawrence has enjoyed, if these quotes from ESPN are any judge:
"You're always going to have some form of drama. I've learned that the NFL is just more drama in general than college, no matter where you're at," Lawrence said Wednesday. "But you're right. There's been a lot. To your point, I do think that has to change and that's something that we need to work on for sure.
"So you can't always be in the headlines. You just got to go play football and that's where we're trying to get and I have no doubt we'll get there, but for sure [it has to change]."
You can't blame Lawrence for feeling the NFL is more dramatic than college based on whom he has played for, but it's worth noting only one out of the NFL's 32 teams has, say, had a strength coach resign due to a pre-existing racism scandal, signed a college football commentator who hadn't played an NFL game in nine years, been investigated by the NFLPA for publicly saying he had broken a rule, apologized for getting caught on video grinding with a woman at a bar after a road loss and been reported to have called his assistants losers.
The punchline in all this is hours after Lawrence made his comment, it was reported that Meyer kicked veteran placekicker Josh Lambo during training camp.
In a league where situation matters as much as anything for a young quarterback (see: Jones, Mac), Lawrence is in about as bad a situation as you can be this side of Josh Rosen. And as the tension mounts, he has started making his thoughts known.
Trevor Lawrence has spoken up before
One of the more odd incidents of Meyer's NFL career was the case of the missing QB sneak in Week 5.
The then-winless Jaguars found themselves with a 4th-and-inches play while trailing the Tennessee Titans in the fourth quarter. Rather than use the 6-foot-6, athletic Lawrence on a QB sneak, quite possibly the most effective player in football, Meyer had the Jaguars run Carlos Hyde up the middle for a three-yard loss.
When asked about the decision after the game, Meyer basically passed the buck to Lawrence, saying the rookie wasn't comfortable with the play. That was apparently news to Lawrence, who said this soon after:
“No, I feel comfortable,” Lawrence said later. “Obviously, I haven’t run it in a game, but I feel comfortable. …QB sneak is something we can always get to and I feel comfortable with.”
Another choice Meyer could have made was running James Robinson, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year and is averaging 4.8 yards per carry this year. Two months later, Meyer appeared to bench Robinson in favor of Hyde after a fumble, a decision that didn't sit well with Lawrence:
"In my eyes, obviously, I'm the one that's out, see all the pieces moving, I see the whole picture," Lawrence said. "Bottom line is James is one of our best players and he's got to be on the field and we addressed it, and I feel like we're in a good spot and the whole team, we're good. Whatever may have happened, I honestly don't even know everything that went into it.
"I'm playing the game and stuff happens on the sideline with coaching decisions. I don't really get into that, but I know and I voiced my opinion: James is one of our best players and he's got to be in the game. I think we're all on the same page, so there's no confusion there. We're going to move forward. I know James is a hell of a player, so I want him out there."
In the grand scheme of things, these aren't firm repudiations of Meyer. They're disagreements. But if you're a head coach universally considered on a hot seat, and your franchise quarterback is showing the slightest indication of discord, that isn't good news.