Urban Meyer, the often self-sanctimonious, I know best, the former college football coach is making the big leap. From FOX College Football studio analyst to the glitz and glam of Jacksonville, Meyer is now the official head coach of a Jaguars team gone sideways. A team who went 1-15, who also has the first overall pick (four picks in the first two rounds), and has nowhere to really go but up.
But, can he succeed? Meyer has long been a rumor tied to NFL jobs. and he was attractive for all the right reasons. At his last collegiate stop, he managed Ohio State to an overall career record of 83-9, with one National Championship in 2014, and three conference titles. In 2019, before the Rose Bowl, he announced he would be stepping down in Columbus. At his presser, he noted he was “fairly certain” he would be leaving coaching for good. In classic Meyer fashion, the ambiguity of his statement left some convenient wiggle room.
Meyer in Jacksonville makes a lot of sense. First, it’s Jacksonville. It would have been hard to see him taking a head coaching gig in New York, Dallas. New England, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Green Bay, or any other city with a sustained history of winning and Super Bowl appearances. In Jacksonville, he’ll be given a long leash. At the relatively young age of 56, Meyer should have some gas still in the tank. At least that is what Jags owner Shad Khan is betting on.
He also has the benefit of drafting a quarterback like Trevor Lawrence, which is what the conventional wisdom would dictate. In addition to what Lawrence might bring in the first round at No. #1, they also have, potentially, the 21st overall pick depending on how things work out with the Los Angeles Rams. Tack on two second-round selections, 33 and 45 overall, and the 2021 season provides an opportunity for a quick turnaround.
For his part, Meyer, who has no NFL experience whatsoever, could not have stumbled into a better situation. While the Jags have enjoyed some success, it’s relatively anonymous. They are equal parts punchline and moderately successful NFL franchise. Meyer will bring immediate notoriety and a track record of winning at the college level.
And, therein lies the rub.
In the NFL, Meyer doesn’t have that same grip on power seen at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, and Ohio State. It’s a whole different ball game. One where his players are more about their personal franchise versus the one they play for. That’s no knock on the player, but it’s the system. He’s something of a caretaker; his profile may be high today, but in the transient world of professional football, he can’t just reload as he did with the Buckeyes or Gators.
All that said, he really has nothing to lose. His legacy at the college level is secure. If somehow, someway, he can manage to capture lightning in a bottle, even for one season, he’s a winner. A city like Jacksonville can do that. Its history is sparse like its franchise’s success; 1-15 can have its upside. For Urban Meyer, the sky’s the limit.