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Column: Urban Meyer is Jacksonville’s new coach, will that work out?

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Three questions that come to mind now that Urban’s in the NFL

Big Ten Football Championship - Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

After a month of flirtation, it is now official that former Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer is the next head coach of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

So, with this move now a done deal, there are a few questions that spring to mind for me that I will endeavor to answer without benefit of insight, access, experience, or anything approaching intelligence. You’re welcome.


Why would Urban take this job after retiring from college coaching twice?

I think first and foremost, the fact that Meyer even began entertaining the idea of returning to coaching — at any level — must indicate that he feels that he is healthy enough to commit to any job that he might accept. While many people throughout the sporting world do not believe that the cyst at the bottom of Meyer’s brain stem is a legitimate explanation for his on-going health issues, based on the reporting of the most credible members of the Ohio State beat, I think that it is fair to say that his health situation — both cyst and stress — was serious enough to prematurely end at least his coaching tenure in Columbus.

So, if he is willing to leave the FOX pregame set and return to coaching — this time at the highest level — I have to believe that he is confident that his health is in a place where he can handle the stresses of the job. And probably more importantly, I have to assume that Shelley Meyer R.N. is confident that his health is in a place where he can handle the stresses of the job.

Therefore, if we accept that Meyer, his family, and his doctors are comfortable with him returning to the sidelines, we next have to ask why he would want to return, given the cushy job that he has as the de facto face of the only network TV college football pregame show on the air. Well, if you are reading this article, you know that Urban is nothing if not competitive.

I have long thought that he would eventually like to try his hand at the height of his profession, which means the NFL, and honestly, if you’re going to do that, the Jags in 2021 might be the best possible spot to try your hand.

While Meyer made his name as a college football coach at Utah, he made himself into a household name at Florida. So, even though Gator fans have not been the biggest Urban fans since his first retirement, coming home has a way of erasing a lot of ill will. Heck, I mean Meyer was practically Public Enemy No. 1 in Columbus before he became the Buckeyes’ head man before the 2012 season, and now many in Buckeye Nation revere him. So while they say that you can’t go home again, you can go 71 miles away from home.

Then there’s the job itself. Not only will Meyer be able to take Trevor Lawrence as the first overall pick, but he has 11 total picks in this year’s NFL Draft, including five in the first three rounds. Then there’s the fact that the Jags have anywhere from $75-$90 million in cap space, they’ve given Urban a promise that the organization will improve the team’s facilities, and he will be signing a contract for a reported $12 million salary. Who wouldn’t take that job?

Then, you have to factor in the fringe benefits; he can live on the beach in Jacksonville if he wants, there is no state taxes in Florida (as a FL resident, I can tell you, it’s nice), and perhaps most importantly, the life and hours of an NFL coach are far more desirable than those of a college coach. There’s no recruiting, there’s a legitimate offseason, you can get home every night at a respectable hour.

I don’t know much, but to me, that sounds like a pretty sweet gig.


Will anyone from Meyer’s Ohio State staffs join him in Jax?

This is interesting, because while there are obviously Urban holdovers on Ryan Day’s staff, there’s only a few that I would consider to be “Urban’s guys.” Obviously that list starts with strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti, but it was reported today by the Columbus Dispatch that he intends to remain at Ohio State.

Then there’s Player Development Director Mark Pantoni. While he is the man who oversees the Buckeyes’ recruiting efforts (amongst other things), I think that this could be an interesting opportunity for him to move into an NFL front office, if he would like. However, he isn’t going to jump from his current position straight to becoming the Jags’ GM, so the question is, does he want to stay at a place where he runs the show and he is literally one of the leaders in his field, or does he want to take a chance at tackling a new challenge where he would have to work under someone else and their vision? That’s something only Pantoni can decide. But can you imagine the BOOOOOOM tweets when the Jags land a high profile free agent?

On the coaching side, OSU’s quarterback coach Corey Dennis could head south, as Meyer is his father in law. Kevin Wilson is also an Urban guy, but when he eventually leaves Columbus, I would imagine that it would be to take another college head coaching job, not to jump to the NFL.

Then we have Kerry Coombs, who has become much maligned throughout his first season back in Columbus, now as a first-time defensive coordinator. He had a cup of coffee in the league working for Mike Vrabel in Tennessee, but I don’t see the Silver Fox leaving Columbus again — at least not voluntarily.

Urban also brought the already legendary Larry Johnson to Ohio State, and given the number of guys that he has helped turn into NFL All-Pros, he could most certainly coach at that level, but Johnson doesn’t strike me as an NFL guy. His entire career has been at either the high school or college level, and I think the connections that he develops with his players and their families are important to him. So, I think Larry Johnson retires a Buckeye.

Then there’s the one that worries me the most, Brian Hartline. Ohio State’s wide receiver coach spent seven seasons as an NFL pass catcher, and in his short time as a collegiate coach has become one of the best at recruiting and developing dynamic playmakers. Given his unique resume, Hartline could probably jump to an offensive coordinator position almost anywhere in college football, or garner interest from many NFL teams if he ever made his interest in coaching at the next level know.

So, the question is, is Hartline interested in opportunities outside of his alma mater at this point in his career? Or, is he content to work his way up the OSU food chain to eventually become the Buckeyes’ OC before taking a college head coaching job elsewhere?

I’m hoping that the latter is the case, because the WR legacy that Hartline is currently developing is the thing of legend, and I don’t want to see that end anytime soon.

So, with Coach Mick staying put, I’d put Pantoni at 60/40 that he stays, but Dennis at 25/75. Hartine spent the first six years of his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins, so he might be interested in making the leap and getting back down south, but I just feel like he knows what a great thing that he has going in Columbus, and hopefully he will be around at least for a few more years.


Will Urban be successful in the NFL?

There is a reason that there are very few coaches who move from college to the NFL and find success, especially when they don’t have prior pro experience. Pete Carroll was a two-time NFL head coach before winning two national titles at USC and then returning to the league with the Seahawks.

The demands and responsibilities and freedoms that come with coaching at each level are very different, and therefore the skillset that leads to conference and national titles in college is not the same as what leads to the playoffs and Super Bowls in the league. Now, of course that doesn’t mean that coaches can’t have both skillsets, but when you have spent your entire adult life honing one skillset, it requires a lot of adjustment, both personally and professionally, to make the changes necessary to succeed in a completely new environment.

And, to be honest, while I don’t know Urban Meyer as a person, I’ve watched enough of him as a coach to know that he has a tendency to be pretty stubborn. So, will he be willing to cede control of certain aspects of the organization over to others, or will he demand final say over personnel? Will he be able to make the cut-throat business decisions that are required in the NFL that he seemed incapable of doing at Ohio State? Will he be able to modify his motivational tactics to work with multi-millionaire grown men? I don’t know, but I think that he will have to in order to be successful.

Now, in his favor is the fact that even dating back to his days at UF, Meyer has always been good at allowing his coordinators to run their specific sides of the ball. So, to me, it seems like much of his success might be predicated on who he is able to bring in to be a part of his staff. Reports circulating on Thursday indicate that he is looking to bring in experienced NFL coaches — potentially even former head coaches — to serve as his coordinators.

Not only would that be a wise decision in terms of acclimating to the professional level, but it also would give him an opportunity to judge potential hires based on a proven track record of success in the league, rather than bringing in experienced college coaches, or unproven NFL assistants.

Look, Urban Meyer has been successful at every stop in his career, Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, Ohio State, FOX, etc., so I think that it would be foolish to assume that he has no shot at being a good fit in Jacksonville. But, he is about to make a jump that requires a lot of self awareness, a willingness to relinquish certain controls that he has had for decades, and the humility to admit that there are things that you just don’t know about the new world in which you are working.

We know that Meyer is a good coach — and he is walking into a pretty good situation in Jacksonville — so if he can wrestle with his new reality in the NFL, I think it could work out.