Since Urban Meyer arrived on the First Coast this past January, he's worked on turning around the Jacksonville Jaguars from a perennially bottom dweller to contender. Doing so requires success on the field and in the locker room, molding a team into believing they can win.
Meyer has done that at every other place he's been, winning three championships—but all of those stops have been at the college level. The first-time NFL coach has a different beast to tackle on this level, trying to lead and motivate men who are veterans and professionals.
One former player of Meyer's, Dre'Mont Jones—now with the Denver Broncos—doesn't see Meyer's style succeeding unless he switches it up, at least for now. And he doesn't see Meyer transitioning at all without some changes.
On Thursday, while meeting with local Denver media, Jones was asked if he was surprised by emerging reports that Meyer was having a slow start connecting with veterans.
"Am I surprised? No," he responded. "I just know how he is. I'm not going to go into great detail about it, but like, no, it doesn't surprise me."
Jones did eventually go into more detail however, via Brandon Krisztal of KOA Colorado.
"Going from college to pro's is always difficult, no matter what the level is, whether it's coaching or playing. Especially because a lot of his philosophy's are a lot college based, and you can't do that with 30 plus [aged] men or even 25 plus men who's been around the league and they know what they're doing now and are well established. So you gotta shake things up in how you coach."
Jones played under Meyer at Ohio State from 2015-2018, during which time he was named a freshman All-American (2016) and a First Team All-Big Ten (2018) defensive end.
Jones was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and has appeared in 28 games, starting 10. He'll try to help rattle Jags rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence on Sunday, as the Broncos come to Jacksonville to face the Jags in Week 2.
Chances seem low, however, that he and his college coach will have a warm reunion after the game. Because while Jones might have been tight lipped on Thursday, this is a topic he's touched on before.
This past June, while appearing on an episode of Shel-Shocked—a podcast hosted by his teammate, Shelby Harris—Jones recalled his past experience with Meyer.
"How he coached us was, he didn't really [expletive] with you if you weren't a player; if you weren't playing, those conversations didn't exist," Jones told Harris. "So, like I was a four-star recruit, this man was out here hyping my head up, [then goes] to, 'I don't even know you.'
"Like we walk past in the hallway, I say 'how you doing coach?' This man looked at me like I was crazy for speaking to him and just keep walking. Like this man, he showed zero, he showed zero respect. And I'm like, 'this the type of dude you are?' I'm like alright, as things go on, I'm starting to learn more. Every time he talked to you, it was like his first time talking to you. Like, it was like he didn't remember having a conversation with you.
"I hated that s***. He'd be like 'how you doing Dre, how's your family?' I'm like, 'it's good, all that' and as I'm saying 'it's good, all that,' he'd turn around, walk down the hallway like you weren't having a conversation. I'm like 'dang you ain't gonna let me finish bro?'"
Meyer went 83-9 at Ohio State, winning the 2014 National Championship. During that time—and going back to his time coaching the Florida Gators and Utah—he put a slew of players into the NFL, a large portion of whom are still playing today. In other words, his resume at the college level spoke louder than any conversation.
But tactics employed by the psychology major on the college level with 18-22 year olds, won't always work on the NFL stage. Past college coaches trying to make the jump to the NFL are proof positive, according to Channing Crowder. The former linebacker was leaving Florida for the NFL as Meyer was arriving in Gainesville, but Crowder stayed close to his alma mater, watching up close as Meyer won two National Championships.
At the same time, Crowder was playing for Nick Saban in the NFL, with the Miami Dolphins. The man who had brought a championship to LSU—and has since brought six trophies to the Alabama Crimson Tide—struggled adapting to the league. Crowder saw what foiled Saban and fears the same will happen with Meyer if not addressed.
"The ’personality management.’ Nick Saban is ‘God’ to Alabama football and he was God to LSU football," Crowder told Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports three weeks ago.
"He asks your child to come and let him take over what the parents did. He’s looked at as your ‘father.’ When Nick Saban got to the Dolphins he had 37-year-old Keith Traylor, he had 7-time Pro Bowler Jason Taylor, 6-time Pro Bowler Zach Thomas…you can’t cuss me out as a grown man with $50 million in the bank. If I miss a tackle, tell me to ‘break down’, don’t ‘F-bomb’ me to death because I’m going to ‘F-bomb’ you right back.
"That’s my thing with Urban, I love Urban, I’m a Florida Gator and he brought us two National Championships with Tebow and Chris Leak back in the day – I love Urban Meyer as a college coach – if he cannot transition to dealing with players like MEN, guys who have 4 or 5 mortgages, 6-7 kids, and have some stuff going on in their life…you’re not in control of me, you are my football coach to let me succeed on the field. I think that was the biggest problem with Saban.
"And also [Meyer's] offense—I was watching that game last night [the Jaguars second preseason, 23-21 loss to the New Orleans Saints]. He was working on the one-on-one matchups trying to take advantage of the last defense that you saw. DC’s in the NFL have a maturation of defense; they’re going to show you ‘cover three’ to come back and show you ‘cover zero’ to go and run a zone blitz. They’re a step ahead of you. I was worried last night. I know it’s in the preseason but last night they were a step behind offensively with the defensive calls.
"And then with transitioning – understand that these are grown men and they’re more than just ‘RB1’ or ‘RB2’, they have their own thing going on and are in total control of their life, and you’re not coming in and talking to me like I’m a child. Spurrier and Chip Kelly pop in my mind as offensive gurus who failed. If I had to bet, I think Urban Meyer is going to fall right in line with them.”
One of the questions that has consistently arisen when it comes to Meyer is his ability—or inability—to handle a loss. He had a 187-32 record as a head coach in college, over the course of 17 seasons. At Ohio State, he went 83-9 through seven seasons. That's not the mark of someone used to going .500, which is more typical in the NFL.
Meyer, for his part, told reporters after the game he wasn't worried about his reaction to losing, saying, "I'd rather people not worry about me, a gray-haired dude that's been around for a long time. I've got a bunch of players in there that deserve to win and work their tails off."
One of Meyer's other former Ohio State players, Josh Perry, explained why there was a perception that Meyer would not be able to handle the more common losses in the NFL.
“Winning—it doesn’t matter how—it’s the greatest thing. [Meyer] is going to let you appreciate it for what it is,” said Perry on a recent episode of Glory Days.
“We come in after a loss, you can just look at him and he’s a different person. He’s pale as a ghost. His mouth is dry. He’s pacing back and forth. He’s rubbing his head. Got his hands on his hips. Everything to let you know how exhausted and exasperated he is. He doesn’t know how to compute. He makes remarks to the team like he would do typically, ‘I guess we just lost that game. We just lost. They played better… We’ll play in the BCS Orange Bowl probably. Orange Bowl is a good bowl. Down in Miami. Miami is a nice city. Not a national title. Maybe we’ll win one maybe we won’t. One of these days. Not this year.’”
While it's only Week 1 and the Jaguars have time to let the No. 1 overall pick in Trevor Lawrence and long lauded offensive mind in Meyer find a groove that works, both Jones and Crowder's comments came before the regular season. They believe there are greater things to be addressed first. And if Urban Meyer is going to be successful with the Jaguars, Jones says it'll take a philosophical overhaul.
"NFL coach wise, he's gonna have to shake things up to how he was doing—he can't do."