Urban Meyer has once again become an unwanted distraction and has succeeded, as he always seems to, in making the story about him rather than his team. It’s time for the once-revered coach to say his final farewell to the game.
This was supposed to be the last triumphant stop for a football coaching great. Urban Meyer was going to transmogrify the Jacksonville Jaguars and add his name to the immortal list of guys like Pete Carroll, Jimmy Johnson, and Barry Switzer – the only three men to ever win both a Super Bowl and a College Football National Championship.
Meyer came out of retirement, against the hopes of his wife Shelley, to show that his particular football genius would be just as effective in the NFL as it was in college.
Unfortunately for Meyer, and the Jaguars, he has another particular genius that isn’t as desirable – making poor choices and either deflecting blame or lying about those choices when faced with repercussions and evidence.
The latest foray into bad judgment from Meyer involves an “innocent family dinner” followed by inappropriate actions with a young female student at a nightclub, caught (of course) on camera for all the world to eventually see.
It’s not an isolated Urban Meyer problem, it’s a pattern of behavior
Having to stare down reporters armed with the video evidence, Meyer retreated into his all-too-familiar “I know better” stance, and painted on his best sincere face to apologize for his lack of judgment.
It was a rehash of prepared statements we heard from Meyer when discussing the tire fire he left behind at Florida (and let’s not forget, he was the first “mentor” for the late Aaron Hernandez), and the inexcusable defense of the domestic violence situation on his staff at Ohio State.
Meyer’s exhaustive face of contrition and somber tone gave little weight to his empty words. In fact, it’s almost as if it pulled this latest mea culpa out of his own apology playbook.
Here were his words of sorrow after finally owning up to the fact that he mishandled the situation with former Ohio State assistant Zach Smith, via ESPN:
"“I sincerely apologize to Courtney Smith and her children for what they have gone through…I was taught at a very young age that if I ever hit a woman, I would be kicked out of the house and never welcomed back. I have the same rule in my house and in the Football Program at Ohio State. Over the years, we have worked hard to educate and remind our coaches and players of the seriousness of relationship violence. I understand my lack of more action in this situation has raised concerns about this commitment.”"
And here is his testimony on the latest incident, via ESPN:
"“I just apologized to the team and staff for being a distraction. Just stupid, and so I explained everything that happened and owned it. Just stupid. Should not have myself in that kind of position. There was a big group next [to] our restaurant and they wanted me to come over and take pictures, and I did. They were trying to pull me out on the dance floor, screwing around, and I should have left.”"
Nutshell: Gee, I’m sorry. I know better than to do something like this, but I did it anyway. Sorry I was a distraction.
And that is the crux of the problem. Urban Meyer has again become more of a distraction with his words and deeds than it could possibly be worth for any team to have him on their payroll.
Unfortunately for Jaguars owner Shad Khan, the distractions and off-field issues have piled up quicker than they did at Meyer’s previous stops.
- Hiring Chris Doyle, a coach who had been accused of making racist comments and being abusive to players while at Iowa.
- Bringing in former protege Tim Tebow, who hadn’t played in the NFL in nearly 10 years as a potential tight end.
- Publicly admitting he wanted to draft Kadarious Toney with the pick used on running back Travis Etienne, who was picked despite having 1,000-yard rusher James Robinson on the roster.
- Telling reporters he cut players due to vaccination status, causing the NFLPA to open an investigation.
- The quarterback competition debacle between No. 1 overall pick, Trevor Lawrence, and the now-traded and Eagles bench-riding Gardner Minshew.
- Deciding not to accompany the team back to Florida after the loss to Cincinnati, something The Athletic reporter Lindsay Jones says is “unheard of” (subscription required).
All of this, including the latest incident with the photos and video of Meyer with the young-blonde-not-his-wife, is capped off by a woeful 0-4 start for the Jaguars.
Khan has issued a statement which amounts to “we can’t afford a legal entanglement considering how much we’re paying Meyer, so we’ll just ride it out for now”.
The shame of it is, Meyer truly is a football genius. His coaching style and system may or may not have ended up working in the NFL, but we may never be able to know for sure. His decisions and actions have caused him to lose respect from his players in the Jacksonville locker room, something any coach will tell you is nearly impossible to get back once gone.
There are some who think Meyer had subconsciously — or perhaps consciously — sabotaged himself so that he could move on to his next “dream job” at USC, where the head coaching vacancy opened up shortly before the NFL season began.
Not likely. And if that is Meyer’s hope, he may have simultaneously sabotaged that opportunity at the same time.
Chances are, this will play out with reality TV-like drama, with players and Meyer trading barbs, side-eyeing each other, and making an already dysfunctional franchise look like the NFL version of Floribama Shore before Meyer is unceremoniously dismissed due to the failure of his team rather than “moral cause”.
In the end, Jacksonville doesn’t need him. USC doesn’t need him. Football as a sport doesn’t need him. Given all he’s both accomplished and dismantled in his career, Urban Meyer shouldn’t need football anymore either. It’s time for a parting of ways and the last glimpse of a once-great coach riding off into the sunset.