There’s a difference between coach speak and dishonesty.
Coach speak happens every week in news conferences at all levels of football. For instance, consider when a head coach is asked whether he is benching a struggling starting quarterback. If the coach says, “We have full confidence in Steve’s ability to lead the team,” then the starting QB will keep his job because the backup is worse. If the coach says, “We will evaluate that position like any other this week and then make a decision,” then the backup QB will be playing soon. That’s coach speak, and no one thinks the coach is dishonest for using it.
What Urban Meyer was saying week after week was not coach speak. It was dishonest. And that was the root of the problem with Jaguar football.
The lies ranged from odd, strange details to major whoppers.
When Meyer was filmed acting inappropriately with a young woman in a Columbus bar, he painted a picture of a group of stalking fans wanting to take a picture with a celebrity and trying to pull him out to the dance floor. It wasn’t true. The camera doesn’t lie. Why not just apologize for acting inappropriately, accept full responsibility and move on, rather than craft the “stalking fan” narrative?
When James Robinson, the Jaguars’ best player, fumbled for the first and second times in his career, he was benched during crucial times in consecutive games. Meyer claimed he was pulled due to injury, and also blamed his assistant coaches for the benchings. It was later revealed that Meyer himself ordered the benchings as punishment for the fumbles. Why not say you don’t tolerate fumbles from anyone under any circumstances, accept full responsibility and move on rather than blame your subordinates?
The dishonesty finally came to a head last weekend, before and after Sunday’s humiliating 20-0 loss to the Tennessee Titans. It was reported that Meyer called his assistant coaches “losers” and that he had a screaming match with respected veteran player Marvin Jones after dragging the wide receiver repeatedly in public and private.
Of course, Meyer denied some of the reports, and then complained about “leaks” and threatened to fire “sources” within the building. Putting aside the fact that it makes no sense to attack “leaks” if what is being said is false, what was most concerning is that there were multiple people in the organization that were so fed up with Meyer’s schtick that they are talking to respected reporters. What a toxic Dumpster fire.
His lies, small and big, spoke to something more — a complete inability to hold himself accountable for poor decisions or mishandled situations. It’s never him, it’s always someone else. Or something else, like a medical issue (Gator fans remember that one).
If you are the successful head coach of a major college football program, you can avoid accountability for a long time. The NFL is a different animal. Players have significant power, owners have more power than university presidents, and the media spotlight burns brighter than anywhere else in American sports.
When Meyer was an analyst on Fox Sports, he said that “trust issues” between players and their coach was the number one issue of a struggling football team. Did anyone think that Jaguar players trusted their coach when he spoke? Did you trust him?
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As Jaguar fans suffer, again, through a miserable season, there is hope. Trevor Lawrence is an elite, franchise quarterback. He just needs the right coach and offensive talent around him.
The coach who leads Trevor and Jag Nation to the promised land won’t be Urban Meyer, and we knew that before today’s announcement. When owner Shad Khan was recently asked about Urban’s future, rather than assure his survival, Khan said he was going to “do what’s the right thing for the team and the right thing for the city.” That’s owner speak for “goodbye.”