Here’s a question we asked about the Jaguars back at the beginning of October, when it was clear Urban Meyer had already quit on this team after he realized couldn’t bully his players, assistants and weaker schools to success: What is this guy still doing here?
Following Sunday’s 20–0 loss to the Titans, one of Jacksonville’s least inspiring performances of the year (which is saying a lot), Meyer trotted to midfield alone, a husk of the coach who walked into owner Shad Khan’s office some undetermined time ago and promised he could do the job better than anyone else, with the rest of his uninspired club milling around behind him. He stood at the podium mumbling answers to questions Sunday as if he were doing some kind of bad Andy Kauffman impression without the absurdist punchline. In any appearance, be it in front of the media or in the locker room after games, he has all the presence and energy of an unlit, off-brand candle. So again, we’ll ask: What is Meyer still doing coaching the Jaguars? How is the team, in any way, benefitting from his presence?
There are people across all levels of football who would willingly saw off an arm to spend one Sunday as an NFL head coach. Raiders interim coach and special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia cried at his opening press conference, knowing full well that this was likely a temporary situation. Lions coach Dan Campbell, who had seen so many coaching cycles pass him by that he thought he might never get an opportunity, weeps after weekly losses during a bleak season as if each one were the last game of his high school career. I know coaches who have seen half their kids’ lives over FaceTime, cramped in some dimly lit office, hoping to one day get a crack at the job Meyer seems to be sleeping through on a regular basis. To say that this consistently bizarre and effortless performance is creating a great deal of cynicism around the league would be putting it extraordinarily lightly.
The latest round of anonymous reports noting that Meyer has berated his assistant coaches and called them losers, which was vetted by NFL Media, show at the very least that enough people are disgusted by Meyer that they would willingly risk their livelihood to leak his lowest moments. At the worst, this is just the surface of a comically run team sinking the developmental years of a few exceptionally talented young players.
On Sunday, one of the most gifted quarterbacks to emerge on the professional circuit in decades threw four interceptions. James Robinson followed up last week’s mysterious benching with six runs for four yards. The one memorable play from the afternoon, when linebacker Damien Wilson expertly shot a gap and tackled Titans running back D’Onta Foreman a few yards in the backfield, finished with Wilson’s doing a kind of air guitar celebration in the backfield. But when you play for Meyer, it seems you can only muster the energy for a quiet, acoustic performance.
Even if you are the sunniest of optimists, which you might have to be if you currently own the Jaguars, is the plan to allow Meyer to displace the “loser” assistant coaches who are drawing up these game plans? He suggested after the game, as true leaders apparently do now, to fire the people who are whistleblowing their concerns to the press. And replace them … with whom? Who, with any NFL experience, is going to work for Meyer now? Who is going to come play here? This is especially a shame, given how much hard work Shad Khan’s previous head coaches and general managers put into making this franchise respectable again. Good enough to reach an AFC title game. Good enough to draw top free agents.
All of that is in jeopardy now, the longer this goes. Meyer benefitted unintentionally from the timing of the Washington email scandal that resulted in Jon Gruden’s ousting. The league and its restless news cycle turned its attention elsewhere, giving Meyer a blessed opportunity to reclaim a team reportedly laughing at him behind his back. The result was a win over the Bills that is looking less impressive by the week and a handful of blowout losses.
If the Jaguars are planning to let this continue, they owe any of their loyal supporters a thorough rundown of all the apparent winning that is happening in the background. What the real winners have done to counteract all the losers Meyer willingly chose to accompany him on this journey. What Meyer knows about the NFL that we just haven’t seen boil to the surface.
We certainly didn’t get any of that on Sunday. Or the Sunday before that. We certainly didn’t get that back in October, when Meyer skipped a team flight home and was seen enjoying himself at a bar. We didn’t get that during the Monday meeting Meyer cancelled in lieu of addressing his team immediately following the scandal, or these inspirational weekly meetings since, where a man billing himself as a consummate leader was reportedly dressing down a staff full of weathered and experienced assistants.
If the Jaguars are getting something out of all this, we’re all ears. It would be fascinating to see Meyer’s process and understand how he’s able to convince anyone he is worth keeping around right now.
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