Urban Meyer addressed the elephant in the Zoom room.
“If you’re asking me if I’m going to enjoy losing,” the Jacksonville Jaguars’ new head coach said Friday, “I think we all know the answer to that.”
The three-time college football champion coach rarely lost in his 17-year career. He won two national titles with the Florida Gators (2006 and 2008), and his third came in 2014 with Ohio State. He was also previously a head coach at Bowling Green and Utah and has a 187-32 college record.
When Meyer stepped down from Ohio State in 2018, citing health and family reasons, he said he believed he would not coach again.
Now, he’s at the helm of a Jaguars franchise that won just one game in 2020 but owns the top draft selection this spring.
Why is Meyer, 56, making the leap to pro football? And why now? Here are five things we learned Friday from Meyer and Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s introductory news conference:
What made this opportunity different?
Meyer said his first NFL overture came nearly 10 years ago. “NFL has always been an intrigue,” he added, but “it wasn’t the right time and wasn’t the right situation.”
At Jacksonville, he partners with an owner in Khan who is adamant about giving Meyer latitude to guide decisions and establish an organizational culture. Meyer will have the opportunity to draft his top selection among a 2021 draft class which he said boasts “elite” quarterbacks, including Clemson star Trevor Lawrence, who is widely expected to be the Jaguars’ man behind center.
Meyer and Khan spoke about this opportunity last year at the Super Bowl in Miami, with Khan impressed by the “fire in his belly.” Unlike previous pitches, Meyer was compelled by this one in a state where he’s already starred. “We have to be in a position to go win a game,” Meyer said, “and I believe this is the place.”
Urban Meyer on coaching the Jaguars: “If you’re asking me if I’m going to enjoy losing, I think we all know the answer to that.” pic.twitter.com/ovp4R9WIQZ
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) January 15, 2021
Will he call plays?
No doubt Meyer’s schematic acumen is proven. His analysis of the game, including the 2021 quarterbacks, was pointed even on Friday’s call.
“I’ve been very active in play-calling throughout my career (and) I’ve done halfway decent,” Meyer said. “I know what it’s supposed to look like and feel like and the fundamentals. But schematically, the NFL is different. I’m not going to be the play-caller.”
Meyer wants someone with experience exploiting the weaknesses of professional defenders, he said. Former Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is a candidate for the position, according to ESPN.
Meyer will aim to give that play-caller the best talent, particularly at quarterback. That decision will make or break the franchise, Meyer said.
“Whoever takes that snap, we have got to be right on,” Meyer said. “Who we pick at the quarterback spot (is) going to be one of the most important decisions I’ve made in my lifetime.”
What about the reasons he retired?
Meyer’s 2018 retirement from Ohio State was complicated, but family and real health concerns – including a cyst on his brain that led to stress-induced headaches – contributed. Meyer said he Zoomed with his family about the decision and after deep conversations, they were “all in.” Regarding his health, Meyer said he didn’t have much new information to share but his doctors are comfortable with the decision, and he would aim not to overdo it.
“I’m older,” Meyer said. “… I will be the head coach, but I’m going to hire great coaches who are going to be expected to do their job. I’m not going to be running around like a nut.”
Meyer has spent the last two seasons as a college football analyst for Fox Sports. It gave him the freedom for family time and better health flexibility, while still enabling him to stay connected to the game. Why wasn’t he content with that balance?
“There’s not a day that goes by that you see that grass, you see the team, you see a locker room and … then you start thinking about the [calling] of your life,” Meyer said. “The comment I made (about emerging from retirement) was, ‘It would have to be perfect.’ College, I just don’t plan on doing it. I don’t see that happening.
“I felt like this was not only the right time for me to return to coaching but the right place in Jacksonville as well.”
NFL Meyer vs. college Meyer
Meyer spoke with Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson, who won a national championship at Miami before coaching the Cowboys to two Super Bowls, about the transition.
Meyer wants his Jaguars to be the fastest on the field, which he said refers less to their 40-yard dash and more to the cohesion and efficiency with which they perform. He’ll tailor scheme to players, capitalize on his strengths and demand ownership of their growth. Coaches will teach players who make mistakes. But “I want you to own it,” Meyer said, “and if you don’t want to do that, you really can’t be here.”
In addition to the top draft selection, Jacksonville has a league-high $73.4 million in projected effective salary cap space, per overthecap.com. The resources are there. Khan said Meyer will have significant power to allocate them.
“We need to be a coach-centric team in our organization where the head coach really has to lead the type of players he wants,” said Khan, whose Jaguars have posted a winning record just once since 2007. “The general manager and I have to support that. … Somehow, some way, that had been lost.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What can Jacksonville Jaguars expect from Urban Meyer? Five takeaways from his introduction