Urban Meyer broke no laws. Urban Meyer did nothing wrong, within the broader perspective of a modern, civilized society.
The problem with Urban Meyer is that he did something stupid. He engaged in extremely poor judgment, personally and professionally. He put himself in a compromising position, smiled for the cameras, and otherwise ignored the reality that, in this day and age, we are all Big Brother. The defect in his brain that caused him to not get out of that situation before it became a situation invites very real questions as to whether he’s capable of making good decisions in other potentially tricky situations, including the various challenging situations that arise while coaching an NFL team.
From the team’s perspective, the far bigger crime is the perception that Meyer was diddling while the franchise burns. The Jaguars had just suffered, as Meyer described it, a “devastating, heartbreaking” loss to the Bengals. The Jaguars have now lost nineteen in a row. Falling to the Titans on Sunday will make the Jaguars only the third team in NFL history to lose twenty straight games.
Most coaches would regard the three extra days between Thursday of Week Four and Sunday of Week Five as a gift, an opportunity. A chance to spend even more time fixing the things that need to be fixed, in an effort to avoid joining the 1942-45 Cardinals and 1976-77 Buccaneers as the only NFL teams to lather, rinse, and repeat with the shampoo and conditioner of defeat, twenty straight times.
No, the first fifteen losses don’t apply to Meyer. But they attach to the franchise’s permanent record, and the franchise needs someone to give more than half a crap about keeping the twentieth consecutive loss from happening. To do everything in his power to avoid that outcome. If, indeed, the Ravens matching Pittsburgh’s 43-game streak of 100 or more rushing yards means anything (and it doesn’t), losing twenty games in a row surely means a lot more. In the worst possible way.
In a Friday conference call that rehashed the last-second loss to the Bengals, Meyer vowed that, as to the things that caused a 14-point lead to evaporate after halftime, “I’m looking at it all.” Meanwhile, Meyer was in Ohio, ostensibly “visiting the grandkids” and later that night, after the grandkids went to bed, definitely not burning the midnight oil while examining the issues that kept the team from finishing the job with a two-score lead.
“I played football for probably 16 years, total,” Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy said on Tuesday’s Brother From Another. “I coached for 28 years. I never went to a game where the head coach didn’t come back with my team, me and myself for 13 years as a head coach, 15 years as an assistant 15 years playing when the head coach went to a game, when we returned the head coach came back with us. So that to me, I just don’t know how you do that and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to stay in Ohio.’ . . . That was the mistake to me. What happened in the bar or whatever, that’s secondary. You go back with your team. We finished by getting home and getting everybody — that’s your responsibility as the head coach to make sure everybody lands on that plane, safe, everybody gets back to the facility, then you do what you have to do.”
Really, what NFL coach doesn’t fly back from a road game with the team? What NFL coach treats the mini-bye that players enjoy after a short-week game as a chance to have some of an in-season break? Nineteen losses in a row. The Titans are coming to town, with a superior roster and a former Meyer assistant, Mike Vrabel, running the show. A coach worth whatever money he’s making should have sprinted for the plane and ordered the pilot to fly it like he stole it back to Jacksonville, so that Meyer could start busting his ass for the chance to avoid twenty losses in a row, and to go 1-0 against a former colleague turned rival.
Meyer, frankly, abandoned his post. What he did while abandoning his post doesn’t matter. The fact that he didn’t return to Jacksonville with the team does. The strong possibility that he explained the situation by saying he wanted to spend time with his family but otherwise would be working hard remotely makes it a lot worse, given what he did — and given that he showed no self-awareness regarding the consequences that would result from his actions.
Nothing he says now will change that. Especially since the things he said during his radio show on Tuesday about trust and the sanctity of the locker room make what he did even more bizarre.
When owner Shan Khan called Meyer’s behavior “inexcusable,” he surely wasn’t referring to the things that happened in the bar. The problem came from Meyer not acting like an NFL should have acted after a game, ditching the flight back to his new home, failing to roll up his sleeves and work toward fixing the many flaws on the team, and ultimately rubbing it in the faces of anyone with the team who was, unlike Meyer, was giving the current predicament the attention it deserves.