Urban Meyer’s focus is the locker room. Before the wins come on the field, before the accolades come off of it, before anything can happen franchise wise, he has to know where his locker room stands. So as the Jacksonville Jaguars prepare to welcome the red-hot Arizona Cardinals to town—while they themselves sit at 0-2—Meyer is turning his eye inward.
“The challenge I have for our team is to have as good a locker room as there is in the NFL. That means guys that care about each other, guys fight for each other, guys pull for each other,” Meyer explained on Monday, following the Jags 23-13 loss to the Denver Broncos in the Jacksonville home opener.
When checking that locker room, he’ll find Shaquill Griffin, the free agent corner signed this offseason to be the leader of the secondary. Griffin will be roaming the perimeter, finding anyone with their head down.
“I came in after the game, as soon as we came in the locker room, I went around the whole locker room saying to the ones who had their head down, stay in it, continue to believe, because once it turns around, once it clicks, I need everybody on board. That's my message going around the locker room, and I'm going to stick by it,” revealed Griffin on Sunday after the loss.
For the Jaguars franchise as a whole, this isn’t that new. Two losses to open the season, with little to make outsiders think they’ll change that soon? It’s happened far too often within the walls of this club. It’s why the team finds itself with a new head coach, a slew of new free agents headlined and a new quarterback courtesy of a No. 1 pick.
There are still holdovers from last season. Guys that Meyer has repeatedly defended as good players who were in a bad situation. But the mindset of accepting a loss is still prevalent; hard to shake and even harder to completely reject. So the coach is asking them to listen to Griffin and his message, to listen to their coaches and most importantly, to listen to each other.
“When you go through, a lot of guys were here last year, you start losing those games and this year start losing games, I just want them to stick together because we’re going to break this rock. We will break this rock and when we do, I want them to enjoy it, the loyalty, the sticking together, the locker room, the energy on the sideline.”
Added Griffin, “We’ve got to make sure we all stick with each other because we've still got a long season left. The main thing I don't want guys to do is start giving up now, you know. The main focus is stay in it, continue to believe. I've got to be able to trust you guys on offense, I got to be able to trust everybody on the defense, I got to be able to trust everybody on the special teams that I know you're going to have my back from first quarter to the end of the fourth. I don't need no waiver.”
In most situations, asking players not to write off a season purely because of an 0-2 start would seem hyperbolic. But as Meyer noted, this is technically the 17th loss in a row for this franchise. Right now, the belief it can be turned around is stemming primarily from faith, flashes of hope and a dash of the camaraderie for which Meyer is asking.
“It was great when [Jamal] Agnew returned that kick [for a touchdown], Chapelle [Russell]’s racing down the field with him a hundred yards and the energy. Deep in my heart, I thought we were going to come back and win that game and we didn’t do it. I’m trying to find the positives and they’re easy to find. The negatives are we lost two games.”
The unquestioned face of the franchise now, quarterback Trevor Lawrence is 0-2 for the first time in his career (as well as Meyer). For that matter, Lawrence has never lost back-to-back games, going back to his high school career. But as the man—and captain—that will stand in the center of that locker room and be the voice to which everyone else attunes, he’s staying steady and making sure his teammates do the same.
“We've got 15 more games. I think our mental space is really good right now, and we've just got to keep plugging in and going to work,” said Lawrence on Sunday. “It's not based on what happens in the game. Okay, we win the game, so we're going to have a great week next week, get ready to play the next one, or we lost the game, whatever, we're not going to try to win the next one. It doesn't change. We've just got to keep going back to work and staying together, and I think we're doing a good job of that.”