Urban Meyer – The Latest “Big Thing”

Yesterday, I ran across this Tweet from humorist and culture critic, Brad Dickson, who formerly wrote for the Omaha World Herald:

“In NFL news Urban Meyer is recovering from a pulled groin, an injury he suffered in an Ohio bar.”

If you have not seen the “viral video” of Urban Meyer and a much younger female “dancing”/”flirting” in a bar scene, it would not take very long for you to find it.  There is nothing particularly interesting or titillating there; it is probably not all that unusual either save for the fact that the older guy happens to be a famous college and professional football coach.  In any event, this has become a “thing” and folks have found a need to react to the “thing”.

Meyer sort of kicked off the “reacting to the thing” business by telling Ian Rappaport of NFL Network that he had convened a “full team meeting” and in that meeting he “expressed responsibility and remorse” for staying behind in Ohio last week after the Jags had lost on Thursday night to the Bengals in Cincy.

Obviously, I was not at that “full team meeting” and have not had any access to any recording(s) of what happened there.  Nevertheless, if I take Meyer’s statement to Ian Rappaport as “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” – – Ha! – – then Urban Meyer can rightfully be nominated for the title of Tone-Deaf Dork of the Year.

  • Memo to Coach Meyer:  Your error was not in staying behind in Ohio while the team returned to Florida.  Your error was getting far friskier than is proper with a young woman at a bar where someone photographed you seemingly with your hand on her posterior.

It is the context around this event that makes it a “thing”.  Most recently, Meyer had been hired as the guy to reverse the fortunes of a woebegone Jacksonville Jaguars franchise.  His success at the college level – three national championships – made him the prize catch in last year’s NFL game of musical chairs involving coaches.  His successes in college were undeniably noteworthy; could he translate that success to the NFL?  I took time to look back at some collegiate coaches whose success translated and others whose success did not.

So, how did Meyer’s little chat with Ian Rappaport tamp down interest in the “thing”?  The short answer is that it did not tamp it down at all; it may have increased scrutiny.  Reporters from various media outlets took Rappaport’s report and asked players who were nominally at the “full team meeting” how it went down.  Michael Silver of SI.com reported that a player told him:

  • Meyer has zero credibility left with the players.
  • Meyer apologized to the team position group by position group and not as a whole.  Silver’s source said Meyer was “too scared”.

Let me interject here that the fact that the Jags’ record under Meyer this year is 0-4.  I believe that fact makes the situation with the team much more difficult than it would be if the record were 4-0.  As they say around the NFL, winning cures just about anything.

At some point earlier this week, the Jags’ owner, Saad Khan, thought that he needed to be on record with his position relative to the “thing”.  Here is the meat of that statement:

“I have addressed this matter with Urban. Specifics of our conversation will be held in confidence. What I will say is his conduct last weekend was inexcusable. I appreciate Urban’s remorse, which I believe is sincere. Now, he must regain our trust and respect. That will require a personal commitment from Urban to everyone who support, represents or plays for our team. I am confident he will deliver.”

And what else might you suspect the owner would say at this moment about this “thing”?  The only other statement even marginally likely would be to announce that Meyer had been fired and that Joe Flabeetz would take over the team for the rest of 2021.

So, how does this “thing” come to its natural end?  For most instances of this type, public interest wanes as the next viral video comes onto the scene to claim the title of “latest and greatest thing”.  The problem here is that Urban Meyer will remain very publicly noticeable as he is shown on the sidelines of weekly NFL games and as he holds mandatory postgame press conferences and the like.  Should the Jags continue to lose football games – and they give every indication that they will lose lots more than they will win in 2021 – a narrative will develop that this “thing” was a significant “distraction” that caused a not-very-good team in the first place to underachieve.

That narrative – when it emerges – will miss the point.  If the team is “distracted” by such behavior, then the team is awfully fragile to begin with.  The rough spot in this whole “thing” is an issue between Urban Meyer and his wife and family not with the Jags’ players and coaches.  If those people are indeed “pros” and “dedicated to winning”, a simple statement of “My bad!” from Urban Meyer should be about enough to get people to move on.  After all, it is not as if we have never seen an NFL player who might have been flagged for “illegal touching” in a nightclub who then went out and played for the team the next Sunday.

Urban Meyer was just hired into the job in Jax during the last offseason.  Terms of that contract were not announced but reports said that Meyer sought $12M per year during the negotiations and after the signing Khan said that he was going to be in Jax “for a long time”.  I mention this because there is obviously a lot of money at stake should the Jags seek to fire Meyer early in the span of that contract.  [Aside:  Forbes estimates Kahn’s net worth to be $8.5B so shed no crocodile tears here, please.]

When I did my NFL Pre-Season Predictions back on September 7th, it never occurred  to me that Urban Meyer would be one of the “NFL Coaches on a Hot Seat”.  I did not think the Jags would be very good, but I did not think they would stink out the joint again in 2021 and/or that Urban Meyer would create a situation that brought back to mind the label he acquired along the way in his collegiate coaching career – – “Urban Liar.”  However, as of this week, Urban Meyer’s tenure in Jax is indeed in question.

Do not get me wrong here; I am not predicting that Urban Meyer’s coaching career is over.  If – – I said IF – – the Jags fire him tomorrow and he acquires a “disgraced image” for a while, I would be willing to bet that there are a half-dozen major college Athletic Departments that would inquire about his availability to come and take over the football program there.  I will just throw out four such landing spots here:

  1. Florida State
  2. LSU
  3. Miami
  4. USC

Finally, since I began all of this with a Tweet from Brad Dickson, let me close today with another one:

“U.S. Postmaster General just announced starting next Friday first class mail will be moving slower. How’s he gonna accomplish this? Replace the mail trucks with three-legged burros?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………