Urban Meyer looked at his calendar and saw…nothing.
No speaking engagements, no consultations. Just weeks of blank space.
It was spring 2020 and Meyer, like everyone worldwide, saw his days suddenly screech to a stop as the population dealt with the global pandemic COVID-19.
“I started thinking now what am I, what am I going to do,” the three-time National Championship winning coach recently recounted this past week on his The Best Friday’s In Football podcast.
“And then one day I was walking to Fox [Sports] out in Los Angeles. I called my friend [former Dallas Cowboys Head Coach] Jimmy Johnson. And I just started talking to him and he says ‘you know at this point in your life,’—like his point was when he was around that age, he said 'you've earned the right to do what you want to do.’”
So, Meyer thought about what he wanted to do. Or more so, what he didn’t want to do; namely, recruit in college football.
“I started thinking about transfer portal, I started thinking about opting out, I started thinking about all the things that are going on. And I'm not being critical of it but it's just reality that recruiting has become, I mean it's 24/7 now.
“When I first started coaching, recruiting was something you did the player’s senior year and December after they're done playing. Then you bring them in on visits, and then you recruit them in December, in January and they sign. And now it's their sophomore year. Freshman year, now they're taking official visits in the spring. Now players are—I mean it's every weekend.
“You don't get a chance to be around your team near as much and certainly don't get much time for anything else, if you recruit at the level that Ohio State and Florida set to recruit and I understand coming in the transfer portal has become basically free agency.”
Meyer’s last recruiting class—the 2018 Ohio State recruiting class—was first in the Big Ten and second in the nation. He had proven himself capable. But Meyer, who retired from Florida and then Ohio State citing health and family reasons, didn’t have it within him to fight that battle any longer, especially at a level that asks for everything from a coach and even then it’s not enough.
“I think the college game is changing. And I just wasn't in the frame of mind to go get on that plane and recruit like you have to recruit. You know I loved it when I did it. We were good at it. And it just was a different time. But I do like the build.”
Wanting to find a foothold back in the coaching ranks but knowing he wanted it to look different, Meyer began reaching out to NFL teams, former players now in the league and coaching friends.
“I've always been intrigued by the NFL, and actually did a year-long study.”
The game planner in Meyer observed every possible angle. He wanted to overturn every rock and have answers to any question that might arise. So he did his homework during that year-long study, accumulating information and doing a deep dive into the NFL.
He studied roster management, salary cap, and more. Then Meyer conducted 20-25 interviews with former players and coaches, asking how different things worked.
What he learned made it clear to Meyer he could re-enter the coaching world in a capacity that would better utilize the skills which made him 187-32 as a college head coach.
“The build” as Meyer referred to it above, is what drives an ultimate competitor. The challenge of turning around a program and creating a new culture, a new team, a new standard at which to strive. The build is what drew him to Jacksonville, calling it “the perfect situation.” The opportunity to dig deep, find the rotten roots and plant a new seed was too great a draw for the former college coach.
“Success is all relative. You’re taking over a program that was 1-15. So what is successful. You know, same thing when you take over a place like Florida, what is successful? You know they're a 7-5, 7-6 team, what is successful? You take over Ohio State, they had a good run going and they go six and seven.
“So what is successful? It's all relative to your expectations. Our expectations are—mine is to win a lot, understanding that that's really, really hard in this league. So I had some incredible conversations, I think my former players. Because, you know, there's college coaches that don't make it in the NFL and so there are a bunch of, there’s also a bunch of pro coaches that don’t make it in the NFL. So it's a challenge.”
*These quotes were given to Buddy Martin of Buddy Martin Media during the final recording of he 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.