Skip to main content
Publish date:

Urban in Jacksonville will be fun, but are we sure this is going to work?

It's happening: Urban Meyer is set to become the next head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. As a fan of the game and someone in the football #content business, this is great news. Win or lose, Urban in the NFL will be a fascinating story. Excited as I am to see this experiment play out, I can't get one question out of my mind: Are we sure this is going to work?

I don't ask that question from the team's perspective. Urban has forgotten more about how to build a winning team than most of us ever knew, and on that end he's more than worth the risk compared to an NFL retread who'd failed elsewhere or a coordinator who'd try to win in the same conventional way that's failed so many times before in Jacksonville. Odd as it is to say considering the man has never spent a day of his life in the NFL, but Urban is overqualified to be the Jags' head coach. It feels a near certainty Urban will take the Jaguars from 1-15 to competitive in short order.

But it's those same qualities that make Urban such an attractive hire that lead me to wonder whether he can survive at the NFL level.

And I don't mean that in a metaphorical way. Fear of losing made Urban the legendary competitor that he is, so much that it hospitalized him at Florida and debilitated him on the sidelines at Ohio State.

Now he's taking a job where he'll probably lose more games by this Thanksgiving than he did in seven years at Ohio State. After enjoying a decided talent advantage in all but two or three games a year for most of his career, Meyer will now be at a disadvantage nearly every week, at least in his first year or two.

Again, are we sure this is going to work?

The reported reason Meyer passed on the Texas job was that he wasn't sure his hard-driving, mentally-straining style of coaching would work in the age of name, image and likeness and the transfer portal. Now he'll be in charge of motivating grown men who make more than he does.

I ask again, are we sure this is going to work?

Maybe I'm being too pessimistic here. After all, Urban didn't have to take this job. He's had the last two years to study, plan and contemplate, and those close to him say he's engaged a number of former players on the differences between the college and professional games. Urban wouldn't have taken this job if he didn't think he could succeed.

It's a possibility the NFL grind destroys Urban, but it's an equal likelihood that he thrives in the challenge of building Jacksonville into an credible NFL franchise. Just yesterday he reminisced on how the 2003 season at Utah was his favorite year in coaching because there were no expectations and he and his staff got to work in silence, so it's possible he could enjoy the same dynamic here. The losing didn't drive Urban out of Florida and Ohio State so much as the expectations, but the expectations in Jacksonville -- with a 1-15 team and a rookie quarterback -- will be close to zero.

It's also possible Urban finds he enjoys the roster management portion of the job more than college football, at least the 2021 version of college football. What Urban feared about the coming changes to the college game were really an uncertainty of how the power dynamic will play out between coach and player.

If a college player and Urban didn't see eye-to-eye on Urban's motivational strategy, the player could simply leave with little recourse for the team. In the NFL, everything operates on the level. Players are under contract, and so players who aren't fits with Urban's style can be traded or replaced in free agency. Player compensation won't operate in a quasi-black market like it does in college football, it's all above the table and regulated by the salary cap.

In short, Urban won't have total control over players' futures like he did in the college days of yore, but he will know exactly how much power he does and does not have, which would not necessarily be the case moving forward in college football.

So, yes, for all the reasons listed above, the Urban era in Jacksonville will be fun. Each event is new, and every outcome is on the table. A guy who's never drawn an NFL paycheck is now one of the league's 32 head coaches. A coach who's never had a losing record just took over the NFL's worst team. Whatever happens from here, it won't be typical and it won't be boring. I just hope Urban can handle it.