The Jacksonville Jaguars rid themselves of Urban Meyer late Wednesday night, firing a fraud who should go down as the worst head coach in NFL history.
Meyer’s mayhem lasted for an unlucky 13 games. He went 2-11, made terrible and incredibly stupid mistakes, kept the Jaguars in the news for the wrong reasons, struck a tough-guy pose to overcompensate for his insecurity, quickly lost the confidence of scornful players in his own locker room, disrespected the admired running back James Robinson by benching him after a fumble – and then had an assistant coach block Robinson from returning to the game. Meyer also clashed with team leader Marvin Jones, the veteran wide receiver who made it clear that he wouldn’t stand for the coach’s bullying.
Meyer did nothing but watch and scowl this season as rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence absorbed constant, senseless beatings. There was no coaching, no guidance, and the No. 1 overall draft choice got worse by the week. Lawrence is the big winner in the decision to sack Meyer. Now Lawrence will have a chance to grow and build a career instead of having that career broken into pieces.
In a story by NFL.com last weekend Meyer was depicted as an egomaniacal tyrant who treated his assistants like dogs, berating a group of fine, hardworking coaches as a bunch of losers – losers, blaming them for Jacksonville’s hideous performance as a team. Well, who hired them? Urban Meyer, of course. But nothing is ever Meyer’s fault, you see. Never.
The day after the Jaguars’ loss to Tennessee, Meyer was asked a question about the possibility of more playing time for safety Andre Cisco. Meyer replied: “Cisco is playing a little bit more, I believe. I don’t have his numbers in front of me.” Fact: Cisco didn’t play a single defensive snap against the Titans on Sunday. Meyer had no knowledge of this, and he faked it.
This week another story came out in the Tampa Bay Times: Former Jax kicker Josh Lambo accused Meyer of kicking him – not playfully – during pregame warmups. Meyer was displeased by Lambo’s inaccuracy, so he reacted by behaving like a petulant preschooler – having a tantrum, and kicking away in anger.
“I don’t care if it’s football or not, the boss can’t strike an employee,” Lambo said. “And for a second, I couldn’t believe it actually happened. Pardon my vulgarity, I said, ‘Don’t you ever f–king kick me again!’ And his response was, ‘I’m the head ball coach, I’ll kick you whenever the f–k I want.’ “
Wow. Such a beast. Did Meyer take on a physically imposing defensive end, or a hard-hitting safety? No. The fake badass went after the kicker. Hysterical.
This hiring was doomed from the beginning when franchise owner Shad Khan went for the dramatic play to fire up the fan base in a feverish college football state. Why not bring in the dear leader who won three national titles, including two at Florida? Perfect. Or so it seemed. But there was plenty of shadiness in Meyer’s past.
Though highly successful on the field – mostly because of his excellence as a relentless recruiter – Meyer’s run at Florida was marred by 31 arrests of Gator players for various offenses. Some of the nastiness quietly went away – as is the case in many college-football towns when a popular and successful coach wields enormous influence over the locals. At Ohio State Meyer enabled and defended an assistant coach that had a grotesque history of alleged domestic abuse. The Ohio State administration – like the Florida administration – feared the coach and largely overlooked the scandals.
As Meyer discovered right away, it doesn’t work that way in the NFL. He hired a strength-conditioning coach who came to the gig with a disturbing pattern of alleged racist and abusive conduct that cost him his job at Iowa. This creature lasted less than 48 hours on Jacksonville’s staff, with Meyer capitulating to public outcry and the disdain and disgust of Jaguar players.
Meyer pathetically signed 34-year-old Tim Tebow, the Florida Gators legend and his former Heisman-winning quarterback who had washed out in the NFL – then struggled to hit breaking pitches in a minor-league baseball career that flickered out. Meyer recast Tebow as a tight end, a position he’d never played, and the embarrassing training-camp sideshow didn’t last long. Tebow, the immensely popular Jacksonville homeboy, wasn’t the human shield that Meyer wanted and needed.
The criticism intensified and was cranked up even higher when Meyer declined to accompany the team on the flight back to Jacksonville following a loss at Cincinnati. NFL coaches simply don’t do this – abandon their team – but remember, Meyer is a superior being, and above all of that. He’ll do what he pleases — including getting caught on video in a bar with a woman on his lap, wriggling. A woman that is not his wife. On that trip to Cincinnati, he went astray in a couple of directions.
This is what happens when a coach goes through nearly an entire career worshiped by sycophants, without ever being held accountable. In college football, when things got tough, Meyer retired for health reasons … both at Florida and Ohio State. How convenient. And it’s funny how the health concerns didn’t prevent him from returning to coaching. Maybe he’ll return to coaching at the college level, where he can push people around and have fans groveling at his feet. That’s his safe space.
Because he was fired Meyer presumably will collect a small fortune in dollars to settle his Jacksonville contract. A cynic might even conclude that Meyer wanted to get fired, and behaved accordingly. He can now walk off with his pirate treasure. Just a theory. Either way his rapid demise is surprising. I thought this would play out for a couple of seasons, maybe three.
I also thought that the Meyer-Jacksonville partnership had the chance of working. I knew that Meyer was slimy, yes. But he had so much at stake by taking this job, I couldn’t imagine that he’d show up, alienate just about everyone, and make a half-hearted effort from the start. I know he hates to lose — same as every coach — but when the sad-sack Jaguars predictably got pummeled early in the season, Meyer checked out. He quit on his team long before Khan did the right thing by dumping him. It was the only thing Khan could do. Cut your losses, and remove a loser and poseur who lacked the toughness and character to fight through the hard times.
This changes the historical view of Meyer. Great college recruiter? Yes. Great college coach? That will have to be revisited, because the best and most crucial part of Meyer’s coaching was his recruiting – which usually gave his teams more talent than their opponents. And this was the coach who firmly believed that Dwayne Haskins was a better quarterback than Joe Burrow – which is how Burrow made his way to LSU to win the Heisman Trophy, the national championship, and become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft.
Meyer didn’t do much coaching in the NFL. He found out that a college coach can bark at the kids and intimidate them and have them do everything his way. In the NFL, that doesn’t work with men who expect to be treated with respect and coached in a constructive manner that will make them better players and enhance their careers.
You can’t bully pro football players. The authoritarian act doesn’t work in the NFL. And unlike college coaching, in the NFL you can’t do what you want, and say what you want, and expect to keep it private. Meyer was strangely oblivious to this reality: NFL reporters were on watch, ready to aggressively report on his many missteps.
He could play the role of Urban Meyer in college and get away with it. Those impressionable wide-eyed kids believed everything that he said.
But when he tried to play the role of Urban Meyer at the NFL level, players laughed at him and believed nothing that he said.
Bobby Petrino, Lou Holtz, Steve Spurrier and a couple of other guys can rest easier today. They’re no longer in contention for the dishonor of being the worst college coach to flame out at the NFL level.
This was the most spectacular failure of them all.
Think about this:
Coaches hate distractions. In Jacksonville, Meyer was the distraction.
Coaches hate controversy. In Jacksonville, Meyer created controversy as soon as he walked in the building — and never stopped disrupting his own team.
Coaches are supposed to be a leader, and set a good example. Meyer said the worst possible example, and did it repeatedly, but especially when he bailed out on his team and stayed in Ohio after a loss to the Bengals.
Coaches are supposed to foster a positive environment, and a healthy team culture in which everyone pulls together. Meyer poisoned his own locker room and was a negative force that made harmony impossible.
Yes. Worst coach in NFL history. And it ain’t even close.
After this debacle here will be no online Master Class, conducted by Coach Meyer.
A Disaster Class, maybe.
Thanks for reading …
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