Urban Meyer knows exactly the kind of guy he wants on this Jacksonville Jaguars team. An alpha, a dog, someone who serves as the nucleus in what Meyer describes as a living organism, pushing everyone around them. You need some Michael Irvin’s.
Speaking with the former Dallas Cowboys three time Super Bowl champ and five time Pro Bowl wide receiver, Meyer laid out the blueprint for what he wants in a player.
“A team is a living organism as every team's different; you know if you're going to have the alphas, who are your leaders who hate losing, that’s what you want but you don't always get that. So if it has to be the coach, eventually you get those players, but you're gonna have to be the one that leads. Hopefully—we develop enough leadership within the organization, within a locker room that they hate losing, that they push each other to…not lose.”
Meyer spoke with Irvin earlier this week on his podcast, “The Michael Irvin Podcast,” and admitted having that type of culture in the locker room is so pertinent, it’s why he and his newly hired staff went after guys they already knew and/or had coached. They used free agency to purposely stuff the roster with the alpha attitude they feel is necessary.
“If you don't have that you're gonna have a chance,” stated Meyer.
The first time NFL coach lamented the barrier of contracts that kept him from poaching certain guys he wanted. He admitted to Irvin he made some calls upon being hired to try to facilitate certain trade opportunities for personalities he wanted on his roster, but they weren’t all fruitful. However, as the rush of free agency wrapped, Meyer and coaches did allude to some hits, such as running back Carlos Hyde and defensive lineman Jihad Ward, guys they had coached before.
But this is just the beginning of roster building for Meyer and the Jaguars. They’re looking not only to 2021 but beyond.
“If we do our homework on the draft, there's some alphas out there, there’s some Michael Irvin type people out there that refuse to lose and we just have to— all of us, the personnel department, coaches, staff—come together and make sure we're selecting the right guys.”
There’s one guy though that Meyer wants bad; one he’ll keep an eye on because he best exemplifies the type of leader the coach needs to run his team.
“I wanted [Alex Smith] here,” Meyer admitted to Irvin. “We talked to him about joining in here.”
The NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2020, the former Washington Football Team quarterback returned after a life-threatening leg injury. He was near death in 2018 and for sure was never going to play football again. He took all that news in stride…and preceded to train for a return. After sitting out in 2019 and missing parts of 2020 with lingering issues, he still went 5-1 as a starter for the WFT.
“Of all the players I've ever coached—and I would tell people this when people didn't know how tough he was—he’s one of the toughest cats I've ever been around,” bragged Meyer.
“He's obviously, he’s one of those guys, never had a B, was like, just really smart, photographic memory. He did the things in the spread offense before people even knew what he was doing. And then when I saw him, and I was embarrassed to say that I knew he had a bad injury—he’s so private—I had no idea how bad until I watched that [Project 11 documentary].
“I looked at my wife, she's sobbing, as we're watching that documentary, and I know his wife Elizabeth and Alex are dear friends, his parents were dear friends. He's one of the great stories in NFL history.”
Smith was the first in what became a long line of Meyer products to flourish in college football and the NFL. He was the coaches quarterback at Utah, leading the Utes to a 21-1 record as a starter, finishing as a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2004 and becoming the No. 1 overall pick for the San Francisco 49ers in 2005. He was drafted by former 49ers and current Jaguars General Manager, Trent Baalke.
With his former college coach and first NFL GM now in Jacksonville, there was a major push to bring the 16-year NFL veteran to Florida. But the uncertainty around his leg injury led Washington to release him and cause concerns on the First Coast, even with Meyer and Baalke pushing for Smith, according to the head coach.
“We had conversations with him and and there is some, you know there's some medical people that in our organization that were very concerned,” Meyer revealed.
The Jags are getting ready to draft Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. But he’ll need a mentor, and the locker room needs a leader. So Urban Meyer isn’t quite ready to shut the door on the possibility of Alex Smith joining the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"You got two people in Jacksonville (Meyer and Baalke) that love that Alex as much—that was deeper than a player now, he's like our family. Both of us feel so strong about him. But, no, that's something that we're just going to keep an eye on because I hope it comes back.”