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  • Writer's picturemjdietz17

Urban Meyer isn’t cut out for the NFL – and that isn’t going to change

The Jaguars head coach has lost a lot more than just four games this year.

Hmm, where's my credibility? Oh look, it's down there!

By now, almost anyone who follows NFL football has heard of the situation regarding Urban Meyer. I don’t really care to rehash the details of what was captured on the cellphone video, but I do think the on-going discussion regarding if/how he can regain the trust of the Jacksonville Jaguars organization is valid. In the NFL, the conventional wisdom is that, if you realize you’ve made a mistake, moving on from that mistake quickly is better than having it drag on.

“If you aren’t getting better, you’re getting worse.”

NFL head coaches are supposed to be leaders of men. Supposed to be accountable. And supposed to hold their players accountable. This is their primary function as the CEO of 56-man roster, coaching group, practice squad, etc. The head coach might not call all the shots on which players get signed/drafted/etc. But you better believe they are the man expected to be the front man for everything that happens with that football team from training camp all the way through the final game of the year.

Meyer doesn’t look like he understands that responsibility at all.

To a man, every former NFL player I have heard talk about this situation with Urban Meyer has a HUGE issue with Meyer not flying back with the team after an 0-4 start. To then find out that Meyer wasn't "spending time with the grandkids" made that decision even worse. It showed a disregard for his job duties that is rarely seen by the 32 privileged members of the NFL head coaching fraternity.

NFL locker rooms are packed to the gills with alpha males. Some of the most competitive people on the planet. So how can a team feel like they’re getting better if their coach is becoming more disengaged?

I would think that feeling is even more compounded when most of the players in that locker room have lost nineteen games in a row dating back to last year and are in danger of becoming only the third team in NLF history to make that an even 0-20. Jacksonville hasn't won a game in over a full calendar year (September 13th, 2020).

The timing of Urban's "oopsies" literally couldn't have been worse.

Yes, the Jags had a long week due to the Thursday night game and players were likely to get a few days off to rest. But those extra days of preparation are viewed as a gift by NFL coaches. I could see a lot of veteran frustration if players felt like Meyer wasn’t giving 100% to get this team into the win column and avoid the dubious history staring the franchise in the face this week against Tennessee.

To be clear, I don't think any player who was already anti-Meyer or on the fence about their new coach would see this incident help that relationship move in a positive direction. But I also don’t know that anyone who liked Meyer or felt like he had given them their first NFL opportunity – ie younger players – will turn on him all that quickly just because of this. Jacksonville is a young team. And, to be fair, that probably helps Meyer here.

But I don't think the players are the biggest hurdle Meyer has from this situation, either.

Let’s keep in mind, the video in question was recorded on Friday night. The team played in Cincinnati on Thursday. Even in the best-case scenario, Meyer was absent from the team for at least a full day - likely longer. It doesn’t take a genius to conclude Meyer’s state in the video was not of a man planning an early morning flight back to Florida so he could get back to work…

So how long was Meyer off “clearing his head”? And what was the expectation of the assistant coaches during this time – were they the ones told to dissect the loss and begin prep for the next game? Or did Meyer give his coaching staff 1-2 days off as well?

I see pitfalls in either scenario.

As Ted Lasso has shown all of us, assistant coaches (SPOLER ALERT) tend to get ornery if they feel they are the straw actually stirring the drink of a successful team. And that likely holds true even if the team stinks - if they are the only ones doing the work, they would be right to feel like they should be the one cashing those bigger checks.

Charlie Strong, Darrell Bevell and Joe Cullen are NFL coaching veterans. So there’s a very good reason to believe these guys A) Have never see what Meyer decided to do in terms of not flying back with his team; and B) Feel as if they’ve failed to fully take advantage of the extra time afforded to them as they prepare for a matchup with notorious Jag-killer Derek Henry.

This is a really tough spot for Meyer to be in. There will always be players who don’t mesh with the head coach’s philosophy. And a good coach will weed those players out over time. But a coach won’t be around long enough – or know who those bad apples even are – if he doesn’t hold the trust of his staff.

Navigating an NFL season isn’t like playing a game of Madden. You aren’t just calling plays and running practice, you are delegating a huge amount of tasks to assistant and position coaches throughout the week. You’re having conversations with the GM on players you may be interested in signing to plug gaps and you are talking with trainers and medical staff to gauge who is going to be available to you from a personnel standpoint.

These coaches and trainers are the ones with the working relationships with the players – the guys you need in your corner to make sure everyone is pulling the rope in the right direction when you’re not in the room.

I can’t see Meyer winning over any player’s he’s lost without the buy-in of his coaching staff – and the coaching staff has every right to be upset with Meyer’s behavior. Their livelihoods are being jerked around by a guy who clearly lacks the understanding of what an NFL coach HAS to be in order to be successful. Who on this staff feels like Meyer is doing his best to set them up for a better job in the future?

That’s a rhetorical question….

So then that finally brings us to Shad Khan.

He’s the owner of a perennial doormat in the NFL trying to find and develop a winning culture. The team was the worst in the league last year and the only team to fail to score more than 21 points this year. A team who looked much improved against eh Bengals and saw Lawrence make some serious progress.

Yet his brand head coach that he took a big risk on needs (at least) two full days off in Week 4 to clear his head? Meyer isn’t motivated to put in a few more days work to try to avoid the embarrassment of going 0-5? He isn’t motivated to do that with a $10MM salary? He isn’t motivated to do that for an upcoming matchup against Mike Vrabel who worked under Meyer for three years at Ohio State? He needs two full nights away from his staff and team - and while he's at it puts himself in an embarrassing situation??

Look, this isn’t a guy who should be burned out at this point. It should be a guy who is chomping at the bit to get this team in the ‘W’ column.

Red flag city.

And what's the deal with him pulling on an Ohio State shirt for his night out? He's embarrassed enough to not wear a the logo of an 0-4 team but not embarrassed enough to put the work in to change it??

Meyer’s biggest problem isn’t with his players. That relationship is always going to be dynamic and prone to swings. Plus, there's numerous examples of coaches being hated by their players and finding success.

The main crux of the issue is with Meyer's coaching staff, General Manager and his owner.

They’ve seen from him, or at least perceived from him, that he lacks the commitment and focus the job of an NFL coach demands. Sure, the players have seen it too – but it’s tough for any player (except for maybe Trevor Lawrence) to have the gravitas to flush a new coach in his first year.

Assistant coaches who feel like they might be losing their chance to become a head coach down the road or a GM who will pay the price for a team that can’t snap a long losing streak aren’t going to help rally these players for Meyer’s sake if they feel like the head coach isn’t invested. And they aren’t likely to have Meyer’s back in discussions with ownership, either.

So what is Khan to do?

Simple. Pull the ripcord. Now.

I know Shad Khan stuck his neck out by coaxing Urban Meyer out of the broadcast booth and into the NFL. He is likely desperate to make Meyer work in Jacksonville and prove to his contemporaries that his plan to bring one of the most successful NCAA coaches of our generation into the pro game was a stroke of genius. He likely believed Urban Meyer would hoist a Super Bowl trophy with his team in the coming years.

But that ship has sailed.

If you hire Urban Meyer, you aren’t hiring him for X’s and O’s. He’s not a tactician. You are hiring him because you hope he can usher in a culture of winning, unify the team behind a common goal and be a beacon for high-level free agents. But you can’t usher in a culture of winning when you’re 0-4 and have no credibility with your coaching staff or front office.

And you can’t get players to run through a wall for you if you won’t even board a plane for them.

The timing of this event is critical. It’s not late in the season when the team has already been eliminated. Or in the off-season when coaches are afforded a bit more free time without games to prepare for. This is happening at the quarter-pole of Meyer’s first year on the job. Yes, it’s only four games. But four games is enough to know that Urban Meyer isn’t cut out for this job. And everybody in the NFL now knows it.

When people show you who they are, believe them.

No worthy NFL veteran is going to target Jacksonville as their preferred free agent destination with Meyer at the helm. No coordinator, no position coach, not even a scout will take that job unless it is the only one available. Because the writing is now emblazoned on the wall with Meyer – his days are numbered. Sinking ships don’t attract great talent. In fact, they have a hard time just keeping the talent they have.

In the NFL, a lot can of things can be brushed aside. But one thing that can't is apathy - on any level. And Meyer's "stupid" decision last week showed a level of disinterest and disregard that will never be forgotten by a large swath of the broader NFL landscape.

Jacksonville needs to move on from Meyer and not drag it out. It will be the move that actually garners the most respect around the league and endear Khan to the NFL establishment. They get it, he hired the wrong guy. A guy who sold him a too-good-to-be-true story about how he could bring his collegiate success to the pros with a generational talent at QB and his winning mentality. And that wasn’t the case – giving him a few more days, weeks or months won’t change that. The experiment has failed.

The Jags have to fire Urban Meyer.

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