Skip to main content
Publish date:

Urban Meyer explains why he chose the NFL over college football

Many conversations with NFL contacts led Meyer to believe his style can work at the game's highest level.

Urban Meyer is now the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Congrats to all who cashed their tickets that the latest retirement wasn't really a retirement. Also, if this is breaking news to you, welcome back to society.

Meyer had opportunities to return to college football but ultimately decided to scratch his NFL itch. Having never played or coached a day of his 57 years on this planet, Meyer is now one of the 32 head coaches at the highest level of American football.

When explaining why he chose to go to the NFL now, after two years out of the game, and why he chose to go to Jacksonville, Meyer said this to SI's Albert Breer

“And do I really want to go recruit 24/7 like it became? I’ve done that. I’ve always admired, appreciated and respected the NFL, and then this Shad Khan guy, once I got to know him, I mean, I love the guy. He wants to win so bad. I’ve always loved Jacksonville, Florida. And it’s like this puzzle got put together. I looked at film endlessly, saw some decent players here, and I thought, let’s go take a swing at it. That’s why we did it.”

A major reason Meyer said he took the Jaguars job now is because the NFL and college games have never been more similar, in two ways. 

One, the NFL has borrowed much of the spread passing concepts from college. Long gone are the days where people tried to mimic Darrell Royal's Wishbone on Saturdays and Sundays were spent watching teams try to duplicate Bill Walsh' West Coast offense. 

And two, major college programs have to run their day-to-day much like NFL teams have always done. In fact, thanks to the transfer portal, coaches now have more control over their players' futures at the NFL level than they do in college football.

Conversations with NFL clubs, coaches like Bill Belichick, and his former players led Meyer to believe that his style would translate up a level. He adapted his approach to a more player-centric philosophy in recent years, and so if you're going to coach your college players like they're already in the NFL, why not just go straight to the NFL?

“It’s based on three things—we’re gonna maximize your value, extend your career and win,” he said. “And those three things, every day we wake up as coaches, I ask our coaches all the time, Are you maximizing that player’s value? And whether he plays here or moves on, our job is to maximize his value. How do you do that? Fundamentals, learning how to play the game and winning. You get associated with a losing team, your value’s not gonna be very high. And players buy into that, these players have really bought into it.

“We gotta play better, but you hear that term buy-in. I’m fortunate, we really haven’t had anyone not buy in. I think—I don’t think, I know that if a player knows you care about his value, you care about extending his career and you truly want to win, they’re all-in.”

The most interesting aspect of Meyer's NFL tenure, to me, will be to see how he adapts to losing. The last time Meyer lost five games in a season was 2005. The last time before that was never. He dropped all of nine games in seven seasons as Ohio State's head coach, and never more than two. Nine losses in 2021 would make Jacksonville the NFL's most improved team and Meyer its Coach of the Year.

Meyer listed Jimmy Johnson as a mentor, and his example is the one Meyer would most like to emulate. Johnson went 1-15 in his first season in Dallas, then 7-9, then 11-5, and then won back-to-back Super Bowls in Years 4 and 5. 

But that was a different time. For one, Johnson was a drill sergeant and a tyrant, an approach that simply wouldn't fly three decades later. And more importantly, Johnson inherited a roster rich with draft picks after the Herschel Walker trade and built his Cowboys teams in an era before free agency, granting him an opportunity to hoard talent that Meyer simply won't have.

The most applicable model is Pete Carroll in Seattle. He inherited a 5-11 Seahawks team in 2010 and went 7-9 in Year 1. Two years later he had Seattle in the playoffs and the year after that they won the Super Bowl. 

Comparatively speaking, Jacksonville is the worst team Meyer has ever taken over. The NFL is the most competitive league he's ever coached in. We all know Meyer has the drive to turn the Jaguars around. But does he have the patience? 

"I am training my mind. I can’t stand losing. This doesn’t mean I’ll accept it. I don’t want players here accepting it. But that’s also reality," he said. 

Read the full story here.