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This time last year, there was a lot of uncertainty about what to expect from the Jacksonville Jaguars in Year 1 under Urban Meyer with a rookie quarterback under center in Trevor Lawrence. But no one expected that the team would be searching for a new head coach just one year later.
Meyer’s time with the Jags was nothing short of a disaster. It began with the legendary college coach hiring Chris Doyle, who had been fired from Iowa after allegations of racism toward players came to light, as his strength coach. Doyle turned in his resignation shortly after the franchise received massive backlash, but the negative headlines continued into the season.
After a loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati in Week 4, Meyer became the center of attention after a video at a bar in Columbus showed him inappropriately touching a woman who was not his wife. Meyer had stayed behind while the team flew back to Jacksonville.
Later in the season, allegations emerged of mistreatment of players and staff, culminating with a Tampa Bay Times report stating that Meyer had kicked placekicker Josh Lambo during warmups in a preseason game. He was dismissed the night that story dropped.
For the first time since his firing, Meyer went on the record about his time in the NFL in an appearance on OutKick’s “Don’t @ Me with Dan Dakich.” What he said was interesting, to say the least. He started by discussing the differences between the college and NFL games.
“Well, I certainly didn’t help it,” Meyer said in reference to the trope of star college coaches failing in the NFL. “I’ll tell you, Dan, it is a lot different. It is different. Just the amount of time you get with your quarterback. Just the amount of time you get with your team. The roster management. How you practice.
“You know, the amount of reps you get before you go play a game, to me, was shockingly low. For example, we would practice, you maybe get one or two reps at something, next thing you know you’re calling it in the game. In college, you never do that. In college, you’re gonna get at least a dozen opportunities to practice that before you ask a player to go do it in the game. So there are a lot of differences.”
Meyer went further in-depth on those differences, emphasizing that the lack of roster-building through recruiting made things a lot more challenging.
“Used to be in college, the reality is you spend 75 percent of your time recruiting,” said Meyer. “In professional football, there’s no recruiting. So it’s all scheme and it’s all roster management. You’re getting guys rolling in on your organization on a Tuesday and they’re gonna play for you on a Sunday. So there is some obvious differences to the two games.”
Setting aside what reads like a self-indictment of Meyer’s scheme, it illustrates why so many college coaches find the transition to the NFL to be such a challenge. As a coach in the league, you have a lot less control over the composition of your roster, and you have to compete with other teams that have relatively equal resources to land talent.
All in all, Meyer’s discussion of his time in Jacksonville sounds like a man recalling a nightmare.
“It was the worst experience I’ve had in my professional lifetime,” Meyer said. “What really got me, I almost don’t want to say people accept it, I mean, you lose a game, and you just keep…I would seriously have self-talk. I went through that whole depression thing too where I’d stare at the ceilings and [think] ‘are we doing everything possible’ because I really believed we had a roster that was good enough to win games. I just don’t think we did a great job.
“It eats away at your soul. I tried to train myself to say ‘okay, it happens in the NFL. At one point, the Jaguars lost 20 in a row. Think about that. 20 games where you’re leaving the field where you lost. And we lost five in a row at one point and I remember I…just couldn’t function. I was trying to rally myself up, I was in charge of the team, obviously, and then we won two out of three, and I really felt like we flipped that thing.
“You know, our defense was playing excellent. At one point our defense was No. 1 in the league. We held Josh Allen to six points. Two field goals. And playing high-level football. Offense, we were really coming, and then quit scoring points. We just really struggled offensively and that’s when we went on another losing streak…I really struggled with that.”
This interview doesn’t exactly do a lot to resuscitate Meyer’s image, but it does illustrate that the coach was out of his depth from the get-go. It emphasizes how important it is that a coach understand the expectations and challenges in the NFL, and that’s a lesson the Jags need to take to heart as they approach this next search, which they really can’t afford to get wrong.