Urban Meyer, NFL head coach? Plenty of reason to believe it wouldn't be a good fit

In 2009, after his Florida Gators had their 22-game winning streak (which included a national championship) snapped by Alabama, Urban Meyer announced his retirement ... only to unretire the next day.

That brief U-turn doesn’t count the two other times during his college coaching career when Meyer resigned due to health issues.

No one takes losing games – both the fear from it or the reality of it – worse than Meyer.

He hardly took winning games well, either. Even during one of his five unbeaten seasons as a college coach, he struggled with lost weight and sleepless nights. In 2016, his Ohio State Buckeyes beat Michigan in double overtime, only to have Meyer sprawled out, facedown on the field, a picture of exhaustion rather than exhilaration.

The man is hard-wired. High-strung. Tortured.

He is also one hell of a coach, which is just one reason that ESPN reported Sunday that multiple NFL teams want to talk to the life-long college coach about his interest in open or soon-to-be open head coaching jobs.

Would Meyer accept a job in a league where losses are common and victories by more than one score are rare? And would an NFL team believe that a guy who struggled to handle such things in the past will now excel in an Any-Given-Sunday meat grinder?

Urban Meyer's name recognition is big. His realistic potential as an NFL head coach might not be. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Urban Meyer's name recognition is big. His realistic potential as an NFL head coach might not be. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Or put it this way: In seven years at Ohio State, Meyer lost nine games, playoffs including (83-9).

This season in New England, Bill Belichick could lose 10.

There is no level of coaching that can compensate for lesser talent or NFL parity.

With the exception of Alabama’s Nick Saban, Meyer is the second-most successful college football coach of this era. And if Meyer didn’t struggle with those mental and physical issues, the debate might be closer.

His resume includes three national titles and a 187-32 record (.854 winning percentage) while leading four schools (Ohio State, Florida, Utah, Bowling Green). So it isn’t a surprise that teams wonder if he’ll make the leap.

Urban in Jacksonville trying to rebuild the Jaguars with No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence at quarterback? Urban trying to unlock a multi-talented star such as Deshaun Watson in Houston? Urban to Detroit where Chris Spielman, a former Buckeye legend, is now a power player in the front office?

The answer isn’t as clear as Meyer’s undeniable success and acumen coaching football suggests. This isn’t a plug-and-play, with the main obstacle being whether Meyer can adapt to the pro way of life from his college comfort zone, a question that hovers over every coach who has spent his career in the NCAA. (This jump rarely works, of course.)

Meyer is only 56 but he has already walked away from juggernauts he built in Gainesville and Columbus. While fans often mock the concept, the issues are real.

If coaching college can compromise someone’s health, then what happens at the NFL when you can’t load up a third of the schedule with the Citadel or Ball State, and there is no limit to the number of five-star recruits (i.e. first-round draft picks) to reload a roster on the fly?

Many coaches who leave college for the NFL find solace in the competitive restraints of pro ball. Namely, the lack of recruiting – you don’t have to feel guilty if you aren’t texting high school prospects while, say, sitting in church or having an offseason family dinner. Life in the NFL is no 9-to-5 cush job, but in that regard it isn't as relentless as college.

It’s debatable whether Meyer, the ultimate control freak, would even like that. Perhaps his fear of losing is best dealt with through work designed to assure it doesn’t happen.

Then there is the question of whether Meyer’s personality and skills would translate to players who are paid professionals, not “student-athletes” desperate to get to the next level.

When it comes to building a program that identifies competitors and maximizes their collective strengths, few have ever been better than Urban Meyer. Yet the pro dynamic is different. There is less control. Less power. More challenges. You have to manage losing streaks as well as winning games.

If NFL teams are kicking the tires here, then they believe Meyer is capable of overcoming that and changing his approach to fit the reality of dealing with grown men full of individual interests. Finding a way to win has never been Urban’s problem. He has done it at all levels with all kinds of talents and schemes.

The question is whether he’d want to try it in the NFL.

Let alone for how long.

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