“When you’re named head coach, you’re responsible for two things, the culture and the talent acquisition piece.”
That two-pronged approach from Jacksonville Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer sets the foundation for his team-building. Taking over a 1-15 team for his first NFL head coaching gig, Meyer knows he’ll have his work cut out for him. It’s going to take more than coaching a bad team to good results. It’ll take making a team that delivered a bad season believe they are capable of those good results.
So he and staff set about supplementing a roster he’s maintained has talent, and filling the areas that were lacking. That process is still ongoing through evaluations in the offseason workouts. But it’s working hand-in-hand with a cultural shift and players, like middle linebacker Joe Schobert, is seeing results.
“I think culture is exactly what you think it is,” Schobert explained to local media on Tuesday. “You need a successful culture to be able to win…If you don’t have some of those key blocks, you’re not going to [win]. If you have a lot of talent but you have a bad culture, you’re not going to win. If you have bad talent and a great culture, you’re not going to win a lot of games.
“If you can mesh the two right in the middle, you’re going to win a lot of games, you’re going to have a lot of success, and I think that’s what they are preaching upstairs, and I think it’s rubbing guys the right way.”
To take care of the talent acquisition piece on defense, Meyer focused on beefing up the defensive line and speeding up the secondary. The backend has stood out to Schobert especially.
"I know Rayshawn [Jenkins]’s come in, he has some of the quickest, smoothest feet, acceleration, running around the field out there. Dewey [Andrew Wingard] keeps coming and making plays on the ball. Josh Jones has had three or four interceptions in the last week or so. A lot of guys are coming out and making a lot plays on the ball. We have a lot of guys that are new or coming back, like CJ [Henderson], who have practiced yet, a lot of proven play makers.”
Then he pushed a new mindset. It started with encouraging the players to take advantage of any resource available. That means being comfortable going to the training room for assistance, something Schobert says came with a stigma when he was a part of other NFL teams.
“It can come across as a threat that you don’t want the coaches to see you in the training room, you don’t want to be nicked up or injured or taken care of, like little things, because that will just be perceived as weakness or such. But when Urban [Meyer] and the new coaching staff came in, everything’s about maximizing your value, using every single resource you have at hand available, using it as much as possible and taking advantage of the things you can take advantage of. Like if your calf got kicked in practice, you can go in and get some ice on it, you can get guys working soft tissue work.
“They want you to take good care of your body. They want you to be better. Every moment that you’re in here, take advantage of every moment of it, use every resource you have at their command.”
While Schobert can now dispel with the notion that a team isn’t built in the training room, one thing he does still feel certain of is that a new culture—no matter how exciting or encouraging—can’t truly be deemed successful until proven on the field. Because each and every change will be for naught if it doesn’t lead to the ultimate goal: wins.
“I think that if we’re winning games in the fall, it will be a positive culture impact and if we’re not winning any games, it won’t be,” joked Schobert. Still, this Jaguars team has seen enough from Meyer and his staff to trust them with the changes in the interim.
Continued Schobert, “you have to respect a guy who lives what he preaches, and you can tell Urban [Meyer] and the coaching staff bought in and live what they preach. We take that to practice and the energy and the enthusiasm at practice has been one of the highest I’ve ever seen in spring. It’s been a lot of fun to just get out there and compete and follow what these coaches are laying down. Once we get to Sundays in the fall, I expect us to be in a lot of games, winning a lot of games and being successful.”
And if Urban Meyer’s approach with the Jacksonville Jaguars is successful, the fruits of the talent and cultural changes will be seen sooner rather than later, according to defensive end Josh Allen.
“It’s win and win now. That’s one of the main things that [Meyer] preaches every day. This is not a one year, this is not a two-year, three, seven-year plan. This is a plan that we’re going to win today and to win a Super Bowl. We have a lot of guys that are motivated.
“We have a lot of guys that are willing to win, that’s willing to go out there and just lay it out there on the line. We have coaches that are doing the same, so as long as we have coaches that have our back, we just go out there and play. That’s what I’m most excited about and that’s what I’m most excited about with Coach Meyer and I can’t wait to see.”