When it comes to college coaches making the leap to the NFL, there is no person with a better success story than former Miami Hurricanes, Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins head coach Jimmy Johnson.
Johnson went from one of the nation's top college coaches to a Super Bowl-winning head coach, navigating each learning curve and transition from college to the NFL effectively. Now, the Jacksonville Jaguars are hoping Urban Meyer can be a similar success story, but Johnson notes Meyer is already finding his own way through the changes from college to the NFL.
"He's a little frustrated right now because he's spent so little time with the players," Johnson said in a Zoom on Wednesday per USA Today.
"He's accustomed to being around the players all the time, and they weren't able to do that because of COVID-19."
This is one notable adjustment Meyer is going to have to continue to make, and it would have been the case no matter what level he coached at. For as experienced as Meyer is at the college level, he didn't coach at all during the 2020 season, where many head coaches experienced first-hand the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic brought forth to the football field.
Tackling COVID-19 protocols and adjusting a level of involvement with players as a result is going to be a brand-new adjustment for Meyer, one he will also have to balance with the other countless transitions from college to the NFL.
Johnson, of course, will serve as a sounding board of sorts for Meyer during his year as a rookie head coach. The two were colleagues at FOX Sports and Meyer noted that conversations with Johnson ahead of him taking the Jaguars' job were instrumental in his leap to the NFL. And now, not many know exactly the extent of the adjustments Meyer will have to make as Johnson does.
"There's not a world of difference, there's a galaxy of difference," Johnson said. "As a college coach, I was a mentor, I was kind of a father figure, I did a tremendous amount of counseling with the players," Johnson said.
"They were young kids that had left home for the first time in their life, all the pressures of getting that college education, the pressures of the girlfriend, the pressures of living away from their family.
"So my relationship with the players was a heckuva lot different than professional players, who are really – they're dictated by financial reasons, it's a business, their agents are influencing them – so it's a completely different relationship."
During a college career that spanned decades, Meyer accumulated a 187-32 record and a .854 winning percentage, the third-highest in college football history. He had head coaching stints at Ohio State (2012-18), Florida (2005-10), Utah (2003-04) and Bowling Green (2001-02). Meyer also posted a 12-3 record in postseason play. He is the only modern-day coach to win national championships in two different conferences (SEC in 2006 and 2008 at Florida and Big Ten in 2014 at Ohio State).
Meyer has run into some trouble during the early months of his tenure, from the controversial hiring and later resigning of Chris Doyle, to the team being fined and stripped of some of their 2022 OTAs for violations during the 2021 OTA practices.
But Johnson is confident in Meyer navigating the tough waters and finding success at the NFL level, just as he did decades before. A big piece of that confidence goes back to the relationship the two share and the fact that Johnson has discussed these very transitions with Meyer.
"Urban's very thorough. Urban has spent his due diligence getting ready for this job," Johnson said, per USA Today.
"He knew what he was getting into when he accepted the job. We had numerous conversations during the job process. And I think he'll do a great job. He knows how important personnel is. He knows how to deal with people."