FRISCO - In the early 1990s, after it became clear that Jimmy Johnson was co-architecting the Dallas Cowboys upward, I wrote a newspaper profile on the former college coach that featured a sentence that read something like this:
I wouldn't want to be Jimmy Johnson's dad, brother, son, nephew, or neighbor. But I'd want him to run my football team.
I felt it was a dead-on characterization of the man, though it certainly wasn't exactly a "traditional compliment.'' And therefore, out of courtesy (fear?), I called Johnson and was granted a visit to his Valley Ranch office.
Before publication, I read my sentence to him.
He didn't cuss me out. He didn't kick me out.
Jimmy Johnson smiled his deep-dimpled smile. He loved it.
That aspect of Johnson - whose commitment to work was such that he famously "divorced his wife to marry the Cowboys'' but just as importantly but more low-key moved into a nice-but-not-luxurious house within two blocks of Valley Ranch so he could get to work in three minutes - was the foundation of his success. He has surely become a more devoted father and friend.
But back then, his disinterest in celebrating Christmas, for instance, was no bit. It was very real. Johnson was single-minded and ruthless.
In the best way.
Which brings me to Urban Meyer.
Meyer is ruthless enough to have announced in public, on TV, that he might just covet the Dallas Cowboys job - never mind that it was the middle of the 2019 season and that Dallas already had a coach. Doing that was a violation of coaching ethics.
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Meyer - as his college competition would attest - does not care about coaching ethics.
Meyer is ruthless enough to have recently flirted with the University of Texas about its not-yet-at-the-time vacancy, only to finally tell the Longhorns that his health precluded him from taking the job. As I wrote at the time, Urban's real motivation in talking to Texas was to screw with nemesis Tom Herman. And in the end, given that Herman was later fired in favor of Steve Sarkisian, Urban's front-stab probably worked.
Suddenly, Urban Meyer is "healthy'' and he's taking over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The very short version of the Meyer-Longhorns dance is that Urban lied to the powers-that-be, telling them that he would have to decline their job offer in Austin because of health issues ...
That suddenly, in Jacksonville, are not issues at all.
The transition from college coach (Meyer was wildly successful at Florida and Ohio State and probably would have been so at UT) to the NFL is not always a smooth one. There are no guarantees in Jacksonville relative to Dallas, in part because while Johnson and owner Jerry Jones took over a 1989 Cowboys franchise that was struggling, it was still the Cowboys - "America's Team'' covered in soot and dust, but "America's Team'' still.
Meyer will take over a Jags franchise with a small fan base and an absent tradition and a connection to America so wobbly that it's often rumored that owner Shahid Khan will move it to London. But Meyer will have the No. 1 overall pick in this NFL Draft and then he'll have a QB like Trevor Lawrence, as the 1989 Cowboys did with Troy Aikman.
So yes, there is a good chance that Urban Meyer in Jacksonville will mimic Jimmy Johnson in Dallas. And yes, there is a good chance that Meyer would've kicked ass in Austin - but that he never truly planned on taking this job, that it was simply a way to elbow Herman in the face while also raising his NFL-bound profile.
In flirting with Urban Meyer, Texas "danced with the Devil.'' His ruthlessness was the attraction ... and his ruthlessness is why UT was left empty-handed, hoping Steve Sarkisian can do the job instead.
But the job probably won't get done quite like Urban Meyer would've done it. And why? Mostly because ... I wouldn't want to be Urban Meyer's dad, brother, son, nephew, or neighbor. But I'd want him to run my football team.
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