Every time Urban Meyer studies the roster of his new team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, he’s also studying the calendar.
The former college head coach is used to building rosters in January, February, and March.
“We don't see ‘em till April here. And if it's COVID you might not see ‘em at all,” remarked Meyer this past week on The Best Friday’s In Football podcast about the difference.
The three-time national championship-winning coach was hired two weeks ago—January 14—as the new head coach of the Jaguars. He’s still waiting to meet all his players.
“I'm a relationship guy. I want to get to know these guys and that's going to be difficult. I caught up, I've had conversations with a bunch of them. A bunch of them have stopped by, but that is different.”
While Meyer is still getting to know his current players, he’s also preparing to add new ones in April’s 2021 NFL Draft. The coach insists that responsibility will rely primarily on general manager Trent Baalke and his staff. Meyer will be heavily involved however and admits the Jaguars ownership of the upcoming No. 1 overall pick weighed on his decision to emerge from retirement and take the Jags job.
“You're talking about a generational pick, a pick that will dictate the future of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Is that overstating it? No, not at all.
“I always used to tell people with the NFL, it’s a quarterback league; so is college, so is high school, so is a Pop Warner. It’s a quarterback sport and throwing a football is really important, but that's not high on my list.”
The presumption is the Jaguars will take Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence first overall. Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields won’t be too far behind. No matter who is pulling the trigger for the Jaguars though, Meyer has five qualities he demands out of his quarterbacks—and the scheme isn’t even on the list.
“I learned this a long time ago, and you can look at all our quarterbacks we've ever had, whether it's you know, they're a run-pass option quarterback or a dropback quarterback, cause people don’t really remember, we won three national championships, two of them with drop back quarterbacks. [Florida’s] Chris Leak and [Ohio State’s] Cardale Jones were not spread option quarterbacks.
“So, the five qualities are competitive spirit; they’ve got to be the most competitive guy on your team. If not you’ve got a problem. Number two, they got to be tough, mentally, physically, they have to be tough. I think they got to be as tough as anyone on your team if not tougher.
“Leadership skills, they have to lead themselves and lead others. Four is intelligence, it's a very complex game and then five you have to adapt. [Kansas City Chiefs quarterback] Patrick Mahomes is, I believe, is right now as good as there is in recent history because of his adaptability. And when things don't go right in football, actually most of the time, and you have to adapt.”
But what of the rest of the roster?
As Meyer works through his first offseason cutting players down to a 53-man roster and measuring pros and cons to find “his guys,” what will he be looking for in a player? What scheme do they need to fit?
Or, like the quarterback measurables, is the scheme the least of his worries?
“You’re gonna see that we're gonna have a system in place here and the number one quality I look for is competitive spirit. And I know that might—someone, well, tall, fast? Of course, we want all the measurables that you can get your hands on. Everybody wants big and fast. That's, you know it cracks me up when I hear people say that; ‘What are you looking for?’ We’re looking for big and fast but I'm also—that’s one silo.
“There's three silos you look for when you play. One’s physical qualities. Number two, which I think is the most important, is called mindset. And those are the same quality I just measured. And then the last one is your character piece. You know about, how will money impact you? The respect factor. And, and all the things you look for character-wise.”
There are still some calendar days Urban Meyer must work through before he can even meet everyone on his current roster, much less build a new one. But as he prepares for both of those occasions, it’s with a clear understanding of the philosophy that will build the Jacksonville Jaguars.
*These quotes were given to Buddy Martin of Buddy Martin Media during the final recording of his and Urban Meyer’s weekly podcast, “The Best Friday’s In Football.” The quotes were given in response to questions asked on behalf of JaguarReport.