Urban Meyer: The ‘winner’ who, in 13 games, lost his job

Urban Meyer was a great college football coach. He won national championships at Florida (two) and Ohio State (one). He took Utah to an undefeated season. His winning percentage at four colleges — Bowling Green was the first; he won there, too — was .854. Nick Saban’s is .804. Bear Bryant’s was .780.

Because Meyer is among the best college coaches ever, it’s possible someone — not tomorrow, but maybe in the next decade — working for a university will ask if he’s interested in coaching that school’s downtrodden team. (No NFL club will touch him again.) Don’t say it can’t happen. Bobby Petrino has held four jobs since deserting the Falcons, three since falling off his motorcycle at Arkansas. He just went 8-4 at Missouri State.

First-year Jacksonville head coach Urban Meyer was fired Wednesday after a brief and tumultuous tenure.Meyer is the first NFL head coach since Bobby Petrino not to finish his first season.Darrell Bevell will serve as interim head coach of the Jaguars for the rest of the 2021 season.Team owner Shad Khan had stood by Meyer until a report surfaced that Meyer kicked one of his players in practice in August.Petrino, who was hired in 2007 after Jim Mora was fired, lasted only 13 games before leaving for Arkansas.Petrino was hired in part to maximize Michael Vick’s talent.But when Vick got entangled in a federal dogfighting investigation, Petrino became disenchanted with his new job.Petrino had a 3-10 record with the Falcons.Urban Meyer was 2-11 with the Jaguars

The catch: Even when Meyer wins, he leaves his former employer wondering if winning was worth it. By his admission, the Florida program he exited was “broken.” Ohio State suspended Meyer three games for hiring and protecting an assistant coach facing allegations of domestic violence. In its investigation, the school found Meyer had asked how to delete text messages from his cellphone.

Meyer resigned from Ohio State for, he said, health reasons. He’d said much the same when he left Florida. Eleven months later, having spent the fall flying off to work weekends for ESPN, he pronounced himself fit to coach again.

In the wake of Meyer’s Florida exit, Matt Hayes of Sporting News wrote a post-mortem entitled: “From Champs to Chomped.” It described how Meyer coddled veteran players, who were bunched into something called the Circle of Trust. Of this, Meyer said: “I’ve never heard of the Circle of Trust in my life.”

Over Meyer’s six seasons, 31 Florida players were arrested. Aaron Hernandez became an All-American tight end under Meyer. Hernandez would go on to play for the New England Patriots. He died in prison after being convicted of murder.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are the NFL’s least-noticed club. Since 2007, they’ve had one winning season. Jacksonville hired Meyer as head coach, a move guaranteed to command attention. At 12:51 a.m. Thursday, the Jaguars fired Meyer. He lasted 13 games. His team won twice. It was the shortest NFL tenure since Petrino lit out for the Ozarks.

At least Petrino had a scintilla of an excuse: The quarterback he’d come to Flowery Branch to coach was headed to prison for dogfighting. Meyer drafted the highest-rated quarterback of this century — Trevor Lawrence of Cartersville — and still made the usual Meyer mess.

He hired a strength coach who, while at Iowa, was accused of making racial remarks and mistreating players. One day after the Jaguars announced Chris Doyle’s hiring, they announced his resignation. “Chris did not want to be a distraction to what we are building,” Meyer said in a statement. With Meyer in charge, no other distractions are required.

He signed Tim Tebow, who hadn’t played football since 2015, to play tight end, a position he hadn’t manned. Tebow was cut after one exhibition. Meyer was fined $100,000 for ignoring non-contact rules during OTAs. He waited until late August to name Lawrence his starter, having conducted much of training camp making the rookie split time with Gardner Minshew, who was then traded.

After a Thursday night loss in Cincinnati dropped the Jaguars to 0-4, Meyer opted not to return to Florida with his team. He drove to Columbus, his stated plan being to spend time with his grandchildren. Videos were posted showing him in his bar — Urban Meyer’s Pint House — in close proximity with a woman who was neither his grandchild nor his wife. (In the videos, Meyer is wearing white Bermuda shorts. I saw him address the Atlanta chapter of Florida alums wearing gym shorts.)

On the night in question, Shelley Meyer, his wife of 37 years, posted on social media that she was in Jacksonville giving an apparently different set of grandchildren a bath. A few days later, she would post on Twitter: “We all are sinners.” That, she said, would be her last tweet.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan called Meyer’s behavior “inexcusable.” He also said: “I appreciate Urban’s remorse, which I believe is sincere.”

Sincere? Urban Meyer? C’mon, man.

By then, it was clear Meyer had no idea what he was doing. (Coaching pros isn’t the same as coaching collegians.) Lawrence begged the Jaguars to stop benching running back James Robinson for fumbling. Meyer said safety Andre Cisco “is playing a little bit more, I believe.” This came after a game in which Cisco logged no snaps.

Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reported that receiver Marvin Jones left the team complex after Meyer ripped the receivers. Jones returned to the building and held a full and frank exchange of ideas with Meyer. Pelissero also noted that Meyer labeled his assistants “losers” and demanded they recount what in their wretched lives made them worthy of serving a master as great as he. Meyer described himself as “a winner.”

Meyer denied all of it. Then he pledged to fire anyone caught leaking to the media.

Early Thursday, Meyer was himself fired in a bury-the-lede statement that read: “Darrell Bevell will serve as interim head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars for the balance of the 2021 season. Darrell succeeds Urban Meyer.”

The final straw beggared belief. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reported Wednesday that former Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo claimed Meyer had, um, kicked him before a practice. Stroud’s recitation of the accompanying high-level dialogue:

Meyer: “Hey, (censored). Make your (censored) kicks.”

Lambo: “Don’t you ever (censored) kick me again.”

Meyer: “I’m the (censored) head ball coach. I’ll kick wheneyou ver the (censored) I want.”

Those are lines that should prevent anyone from giving this man custody of another team. He’s the “winner” who kicked a kicker. He’s the “winner” who gets to kick whatever the (censored) he wants. He’s the “winner” who leaves it to lesser folks to sweep away the debris. With Urban Meyer, there’s always debris.