Each year, one of the most hotly contested aspects of the NFL Draft is which team the number one pick will go to. Typically, the decision is ‘made’ prior to the draft; based on last season’s record, there’s one loser who will win big with a first pick.
This year, that team was the Jacksonville Jaguars. Since flipping ownership to business magnate Shahid Khan in 2011, the team’s records haven’t improved. With a 1-15 record from the 2020-21 season, Jacksonville headed into the Draft will all eyes on Clemson’s star quarterback, Trevor Lawrence.
But this season hasn’t focused solely on whether the rookie can make a difference in the big leagues—instead, just as many pundits have kept their eye on Ohio State Buckeyes’ former coach, Urban Meyer, to see if he’d be able to make a difference in Florida.
Even with a talented new quarterback at his disposal and a roster of young talent, Meyer has categorically failed to elevate the Jaguars. Typically, these types of road bumps are expected during a full overhaul; few miracles come in a single season.
And the dog days aren’t totally bleak. Typically, teams in desperate need of a rebuild attract support from bettors who use risk free bets to capitalize on underdogs, as well as pundits who closely follow talented staff like Meyers and players like Lawrence to see if they’ll be the tangible difference.
But with a five-game losing streak under his belt, no bet is worth backing the Jaguars under Meyer this year. Is it a case that demonstrates the (irreconcilable) differences between the NCAA and NFL from a staffing point of view? Or does Meyer just need a bit more time and faith to turn the Jaguars around?
The Perfect Storm
Any coach would’ve coveted the chance to land a coaching position in Jacksonville. When Khan fired former coach Doug Marrone in January, he wasted no time signing on Meyer only ten days later. With an illustrious career behind him with the Buckeyes, many thought the match was solid.
Still, not many NCAA coaches have successfully transitioned to the NFL—and Meyer may be the poster boy for such arguments. Despite entering the 2021 season with superior draft picks, plenty of cap space on the roster, and a record that should be easy to beat (1-15), Meyer has faltered.
It seems the bulk of his missteps have focused on leadership and staffing. First, he brought on Chris Doyle as a director of sports performance after Doyle had been dismissed from Iowa for mistreatment of players; while this may not affect Doyle’s insight into the game, it had a clear effect on team morale.
So it also went with a viral video that showed Meyer hanging out with an unnamed woman in a restaurant he owns in Ohio. Whether or not players and staff judged him for the incident doesn’t seem to be the major issue; instead, his decisions once again had a clear effect on how the team viewed their leader.
As sportswriter Adam Silver of Bally Sports, “One player told me, ‘He has zero credibility in that stadium. He had very little to begin with.’”
Lawrence in the Background
As mentioned above, all eyes haven’t been on Meyers. Just as many Draft fanatics have closely studied Lawrence’s progress in his rookie season. By mid-October, many were hailing Lawrence as a quality leader in Jacksonville who would be factoring in heavily for future wins.
Though his first three games saw nine crucial turnovers and left him low in advance stats rankings, he’d turned around by Week 5. He scooted up to No. 7 in terms of success rate and posted a No. 5 position in completion percentage over expectation.
Despite all signs pointing to the rookie having found his footing, Lawrence’s ratings and stats have fluctuated since then. The week after a 37-7 loss to the Rams, Lawrence spoke candidly about needing to see the team’s best offensive player, running back James Robinson, on the field.
Meyer has a history of benching Robinson following fumbles, though he says the ultimate decision was on running back coach, Bernie Parmalee. However, inconsistencies related to Robinson’s time on the bench versus fellow RB Carlos Hyde have brought up even more questions for the team’s head coach.