The Jaguars have yet to play a game under their new regime. Still, Urban Meyer's tenure in Jacksonville has become a punchline for many folks that cover football around the country.
Sure, there have been some low-hanging fruit moments already.
Urban Meyer hired Chris Doyle — a coach who was fired from Iowa for fostering racism and bullying — to head up his sports training program. After backlash from media, fans, and players, the Jaguars quickly pulled the plug on the Chris Doyle experiment. Not a great look.
And then there's the Tim Tebow signing. I was adamant in my resistance to bringing in Tebow to compete at tight end. But let's be honest, as long as a signing like this doesn't fracture the locker room (which it most certainly has not), a bottom of the roster player will have little to no impact on a given team's success.
Some point to Urban's health issues that have popped up in the past or his inability to handle controversies. Both of these concerns are legitimate. But Meyer's swift action on the Chris Doyle matter showed me that he might have learned how to decisively and expeditiously handle internal problems. As for Meyer's health, there's no way to predict how it will impact his tenure in Jacksonville. At this point, he appears to be calm, in control, and not overly stressed. What he'll look like once the regular season rolls around is hard to say.
These concerns have served as fodder for many in the national media.
But I'm betting on Urban Meyer and these Jaguars.
Urban Meyer has quite literally always found early success. He turned Bowling Green into a competitive program, and then he transformed Utah into a dominant team, and then won two national championships at Florida, another one at Ohio State, and went undefeated during a season in which Ohio State was banned from postseason play. Meyer lost only 32 games in 17 seasons as a college head coach. College success on its own is not an indicator of pro success. But how Urban Meyer has achieved that success is a strong signal that he'll win wherever he goes.
Urban Meyer is a program builder, a quarterback whisperer, and a tireless worker with extreme attention to detail. He knows how to surround himself with those who will buy into his vision and help him reach the pinnacle of football.
Urban has already transformed the culture inside the confines of TIAA Bank Field. He's famous for his A to B mindset and his catchphrase "own it." Many see these ideals as just meaningless coach speak. But Meyer lives it.
"You have to respect a guy who lives what he preaches, and you can tell Urban and the coaching staff bought in and live what they preach," starting linebacker Joe Schobert told the media on Tuesday. "We take that to practice, and the energy and the enthusiasm at practice has been one of the highest I've ever seen in spring. It's been a lot of fun to just get out there and compete and follow what these coaches are laying down. Once we get to Sundays in the fall, I expect us to be in a lot of games, winning a lot of games and being successful."
Veterans in the NFL can smell bull shit a mile away. The fact that Joe Schobert and so many other vets have quickly taken a liking to Meyer and his football philosophy is indicative of how his message resonates with players.
There are a lot of stops around the league where resources are not maximized. Less than a year ago, Jacksonville was one of those places. No longer. Meyer has instilled a mindset that allows players to seek out the trainers for even the smallest of ailments. He wants his players to have the best possible treatment.
"With the training staff, it's definitely a new energy," said team leader Josh Allen. "[Director of Athletic Training Jeff Ferguson] Ferg's definitely bringing a lot of juice to the training room, like you want to be in there. It's not a place where we don't know what to expect. Guys want to be in there, guys want to laugh, guys want to get treatment. Guys want to be great, like I said, not only for themselves but for the whole team. That starts with taking care of yourself, and they're definitely doing a wonderful job in the training room and also in nutrition. The food's getting a lot better, it's getting a lot healthier. Once we have all those things linked in together to develop a culture, a development side of football, it makes it the best. The best of the best."
The proof is in the pudding when it comes to player development as well. We have yet to see the Jaguars take the playing field under Meyer, but several of his young offensive skill players appear to have improved their physical ability throughout the offseason. Wide receiver DJ Chark is bigger, faster, and stronger after putting on seven pounds of muscle this offseason. Meyer challenged him to play with more physicality in 2021, and Chark, a former Pro Bowler, embraced his new coach's request. In February, running back James Robinson stated his desire to improve his speed, and he recently attributed Meyer teaching him about knee drive as a key factor in him getting faster. Receiver Laviska Shenault was already a physical freak, but he too looks more defined.
Meyer has also been the catalyst behind the Jaguars' plan to build an entirely new football performance center. The 125,000 square foot facility will house an indoor practice field, locker rooms, meeting rooms, training and recovery areas, medical support facilities, weight rooms, dining facilities, office space, and a draft room. This is a man dedicated to winning and giving his players the best of the best. In his own words, "If it's not the best, why not?"
As for Meyer's supporting cast, it features one of the wealthiest owners in the NFL who's willing to spare no expense, a generational talent at quarterback, and a blend of former college and NFL assistant coaches.
As I mentioned before, Meyer is a master when it comes to encircling himself with people that will help him win. He would not be in Jacksonville right now if Trevor Lawrence hadn't been available for the Jaguars with the first overall pick. Lawrence has enamored Meyer for years. He also wouldn't be in Jacksonville without Shad Khan and his seemingly unlimited bank account.
Landing a quarterback the caliber of Trevor Lawrence with the first pick of the Urban Meyer era is a monumental step in the right direction. Over the years, Meyer has squeezed the most out of every quarterback he's worked with. He has tweaked his offensive systems to accentuate his signal caller's strengths and hide their weaknesses. Now that he has one of the most talented quarterback prospects ever to enter the NFL, do you honestly think that will change?
Jaguars' owner Shad Khan is giddy to have Urban Meyer in Jax. You can see a twinkle in his eye when he talks about Urban. And while Shad Khan has struggled to find quality coaches and management during his tenure as the owner of the Jags, he's never been one to shy away from doing anything and everything he can to help improve his team. From upgrading locker rooms and facilities to inking massive signing bonuses that help his team manage the salary cap, Khan is ready to compete at the highest level. He's prepared to write the checks that will give Urban Meyer everything he needs to make a lasting impact in Jacksonville.
As for the coaching staff, there are plenty of familiar faces for Meyer and Jaguars fans alike. His assistant head coach and inside linebackers coach Charlie Strong is one of Meyer's most trusted allies. He has head coaching experience at the college level and should be able to help instill Meyer's teachings to the Jaguars' defense and linebackers. There are plenty of talented assistants on the staff that have proven track records at the college and pro level. But the hiring of Darrell Bevell, a well-established offensive coordinator, and Joe Cullen, a high-energy defensive coordinator, show that Meyer knows he needs to adapt his style of coaching to the NFL. Meyer has leaned on these two heavily throughout his first several months with the Jaguars. Bevell and passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer both helped Russell Wilson get where he is today. And Bevell also helped Matt Stafford to some of his best seasons in the NFL. As for Joe Cullen, he has years of experience in the Ravens' attacking style defense. He also spent several seasons in Jacksonville as the defensive line coach prior to finding his way to Baltimore. Meyer has been fond of the Ravens' system for years and wants to bring that same aggressive mindset to the Jaguars' defense.
And we shouldn't forget about special teams. Meyer initially hired Brian Schneider, the former Seahawks special teams coordinator, to lead this unit, but he stepped away from the team due to personal reasons. His replacement? Former Jaguars' special teams ace Nick Sorensen. Sorensen has experience on the Seattle coaching staff and will implement the same special teams philosophy that Schneider laid the groundwork for.
Urban Meyer is a genius of sorts. He lives by what he preaches, and he finds the best of the best to help him. Meyer now has an owner that will support him in every conceivable way, the most talented quarterback he's ever worked with, and a staff that has bought into his program.
I haven't even mentioned the talent littered throughout the rest of the roster. There are some questions to be sure, and the Jaguars might not make the playoffs in 2021. But they'll be competitive every week, and they will make a huge jump.
Could Meyer's health come back to bite him a year or two from now? Sure. But that's a risk Shad Khan was willing to take. And I would be too.
To all the people out there using Urban Meyer and Jacksonville as a punching bag, I have just one question. You think one of the winningest coaches in college football history, who now has Trevor Lawrence at quarterback and unlimited resources to work with is going to fail for the first time in his life? Okay.
I'm all in on the Urban Meyer era in Duval. Are you?
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