The question the Jacksonville Jaguars should be asking isn’t whether Urban Meyer is worth a whopping $12 million per year to coach the team, as ProFootballTalk reports he is seeking.
It’s whether he is worthy of a golden opportunity to use the Jags’ considerable current resources — four top-50 draft picks, including the No. 1 overall, and some $81 million in salary-cap space — to reconstruct the roster on the fly.
If so, then even that much money doesn’t matter. (Meyer would be one of the highest-paid coaches in the league, although well behind Bill Belichick, who likely gets more than $20 million per year in New England.)
NFL teams can always make money. They rarely have this much going for them while trying to rebuild.
Meyer is an intriguing candidate and not just because he won three national titles at the college level, including two at the nearby University of Florida. It’s how he won those titles that stands out — creating culture and maximizing talent — because it could translate perfectly into the Jaguars’ overhaul.
There is no guarantee, of course, Meyer will win in the NFL. The pro ranks are littered with great college coaches who couldn’t do it, including Nick Saban. And Meyer has struggled maintaining his health under the stress of college seasons, where losses are rare. How will he handle the Any Given Sunday world of the pros?
There is, however, never a guarantee. Belichick, Andy Reid and Pete Carroll were all fired at one point. The NFL is a meat grinder.
Meyer’s success has been his ability to create a winning, even perfectionist, mentality, and then use it to attract high-level competitors who want to get the most out of their talent.
You need great players to win. That’s true in college and the NFL. Meyer won with a lot of them. He also won by lifting what he inherited before he could just stack a roster. He went 17-6 in two seasons at Bowling Green and then 22-2 at Utah, churning out big victories quickly.
At Florida, Meyer won a national title in Year 2, then took home another two seasons after that. He “retired” for a season, reemerged at Ohio State and went 12-0 in his first season in Columbus. Two seasons later, he led the Buckeyes to a national title. That’s a lot of winning with other coaches’ players.
When it came to his own recruiting, part of Meyer’s secret was an ability to identify not just extremely talented players, but the extremely talented players who were also extremely competitive. He valued the latter over nearly everything.
“I don’t believe NFL, college or high school coaches [realize the importance of competitiveness],” Meyer said a few years back. “And I was guilty of it for a while. You talk about his competitiveness for a while and then you start talking about his footwork. I don’t really care about his footwork. When we coach him, we’ll go over that. We can teach that. You can’t coach competitiveness.”
He annually ran a recruiting camp dubbed “Friday Night Lights.” He’d get as many great high school prospects he could find, put them all under the lights inside the campus stadium, blast some music and have them battle in various drills and events.
Then he’d sit back and figure out which guys would deliver a championship.
A player’s “desire to win is without question the most important thing,” he said. “I used to be into, ‘Is he a three-quarter [throwing motion]? Does he have four fingers on the laces or five?’ I don’t care anymore.
“Will he choke you to win a checker game?” Meyer asked. “If he does that, I’ll take him.”
Does that translate to the NFL? If the Jags think so, then Meyer might be perfect.
The assets available to the new coach and general manager are enticing. With the No. 1 draft pick, Jacksonville can have Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who pro scouts call the best QB prospect in nearly a decade — one who was known in college for his competitiveness and leadership.
Then there are three more draft picks (a first-rounder and two seconds) that should fall between the early 20s and No. 47 overall. Plus all that money for free agency, with Meyer now back as a recruiter, promising a new day in Jacksonville.
While the worries about Meyer handling the inevitable losing (no NFL team rebounds from 1-15 overnight) will persist, the Jags offer the kind of freedom to put his imprint on the team. It’s a better fit for him than, say, Houston, which has Deshaun Watson, but sits nearly $16 million over the cap and no draft picks in the first two rounds.
If nothing else, Meyer creates excitement and confidence, which is in desperate need for a franchise that has always battled to capture the imagination of its region.
The Jags have reached a respectable three AFC championship games in 26 seasons, but ticket sales often lag to the point the team plays annually in London (and had two games originally scheduled there for the 2020 season).
Meyer helps with that. So, too — even more so — does Lawrence.
If the Jags believe Urban is worthy of handling a situation that the franchise can’t afford to blow, then a couple million extra per year shouldn’t matter.
He’ll earn it.
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