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Urban Meyer is getting a quick taste of what Nick Saban experienced.
Successful college football coaches become, as a practical matter, the emperors of the towns in which they live and work. They can do pretty much whatever they want, hire whoever they want, say whatever they want to justify whatever bad decisions they make, and — as long as they win — no one says anything. More accurately, anyone who dares to say anything risks the scorn and scrutiny of the rest of the emperor’s subjects.
When bad things happen, the fans tend to look the other way. The local authorities tend to look the other way. The media tends to look the other way.
And if anyone in the media dares to ask tough, probing questions, he or she risks being publicly dressed down by the coach and/or privately harangued by the coach or one of his flunkies and/or chewed out by the boss who was privately harangued by the coach or one of his flunkies and/or ultimately assigned to cover beer-league softball.
That’s not the way it is in the NFL, as Meyer quickly has learned in the last 48 hours. In a press conference on Thursday to introduce the team’s coaching staff, Meyer faced an extended interrogation from reporters about the hiring of Chris Doyle to be the Jaguars’ director of sports performance. Although Meyer answered all questions and never got pissy or short or next-questiony with the media, he surely didn’t expect the reaction.
Watch the video of Meyer’s press conference. The third question, from Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com, addressed the Doyle hire. Meyer flashed a slight smirk and scratched his face as the question was asked. Meyer stated his case for hiring Doyle, calmly and clearly.
Then came a follow-up from DiRocco. Then another from DiRocco. Then, the next reporter (Mark Long of the Associated Press) continued to hit the subject. Another follow-up, from Mia O’Brien of First Coast News, came two questions later. And another. And then another attempt that was cut off by the moderator.
Meyer also learned that things don’t quickly and quietly go away. The story grew legs. More in the media noticed the issue. The Fritz Pollard Alliance, which had lauded the Jaguars for the hiring process that brought Meyer to Jacksonville, turned quickly on Meyer’s decision to hire Doyle, calling the move a reflection of the “good ol’ boy network that is precisely the reason there is such a disparity in employment opportunities for Black coaches.”
Others also noticed the notion that Meyer tried to create the impression that he worked with Doyle at Utah. “I’ve known Chris for close to 20 years. Our relationship goes back to when I was at Utah, and he was the No. 1 strength coach,” Meyer said. Some have suggested that Meyer never said that he and Doyle actually worked together at Utah.
While the precise language leaves some wiggle room, Meyer has yet to say that he wasn’t trying to create the impression that he and Doyle had worked together at Utah — quite possibly because Meyer knows he was trying to create the impression that they had worked together at Utah, and because Meyer realizes that, if he tries to play the “exact words” game, he’ll likely face even more scrutiny.
Doyle technically resigned, a day after being announced. The statement from Meyer suggests that the decision was far from voluntary.
“We are responsible for all aspects of our program and, in retrospect, should have given greater consideration to how his appointment may have affected all involved,” Meyer said. So, in the same way Doyle did an about-face in only one day, Meyer did one, too.
No, Meyer didn’t think it would happen this way in the NFL. It’s possible Meyer chose Jacksonville because he thought that a small NFL city with a history of football underachievement would react to him the same way that they reacted to him in Gainesville or Columbus.
Meyer could have learned these lesson by studying more closely Saban’s two years in Miami, or Meyer can learn it directly. Urban Meyer is in the process of learning it directly.
Urban Meyer gets a quick lesson about life in the NFL originally appeared on Pro Football Talk