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Now that Jacksonville has hired Urban Meyer as its head coach in the NFL, and reportedly paid him millions and millions of dollars to do so, I’d like to get in line to ask several questions.
The first would be “are you guys crazy?”
I mean, the pro game and the college game are quite different. In college, you motivate and teach to young men hungry to learn so they can make it to the next level. The NFL is the next level, so to the players in the league, it’s a job, not an apprenticeship.
What worked in college most times does not work in the NFL.
Look no farther than Nick Saban, the guy who seems to make winning a college national championship a staple of January television viewing. He tried the pro game with the Miami Dolphins back in 2005 shortly after winning a national title in college with LSU.
He lasted 2 years. Went 15-17.
Then there was the time noted NFL personnel and coaching expert Dan Snyder decided Marty Schottenheimer – who had started off 0-5 before getting things together at 8-8 in his only season in Washington – was too dull a coach and went out and backed a truck of money to Steve Spurrier's door. In what he announced with similar expectations to what Jacksonville is doing today, Snyder hired Spurrier to bring winning ways and wide open offenses to Ashburn.
The Ol’ Ball Coach also lasted two years. He went 12-20.
Hmmmm. Both Meyer and Spurrier gained their national reputation at the same school: Florida.
Tell me this doesn't sound like Spurrier 2.0.
There have been some college coaches who made it in the NFL. Tom Coughlin went from Boston College to Jacksonville and prospered, going 4-12 in the team’s initial expansion season, then making the playoffs 4 straight years. But he had also spent time as an assistant with the Eagles, Packers and Giants over a 6-year period, so he knew the game.
Pete Carroll is another held up as a successful transition from head coach in college to head coach in the NFL. But he spent 15 years in the NFL, including head coaching gigs with the Jets and the Patriots before taking the job at Southern Cal. It wasn’t so much that he was transitioning from college to pro as it was he was returning to the level he had the most experience in.
Jimmy Johnson is probably the only one I can think of who made the jump without prior pro experience. That success might be attributed to the notion he ran the program like it was a pro team (and if you listen to the rumors, including paying players) but other than him, I can’t think of a head coach in college with no prior NFL experience who was successful going straight to a head coaching job in the NFL.
You generally think of people like Chip Kelly, Lou Holtz, Bobby Petrino, Spurrier and Saban.
Meyer's NFL experience as a coach at any level is zilch, nada, zip, zero. Plus there’s the issue of Meyer’s background, where he always seemed to have some controversy simmering in the background at both Florida and Ohio State. There are some who have even nicknamed him “Urban Liar” for his handling of some of those events.
Then, of course, there’s his health. Twice he’s been under fire for some of these controversies. Twice he’s had health issues when the heat of those controversies rose to high levels at that very same time. Those health issues were the reasons he left those jobs at Florida and Ohio State.
I doubt the doctors will be any better in the NFL.
So Jacksonville has thrown a reported $10 million a year at Meyer, is letting him pick the next general manager (that was Kelly’s undoing with the Eagles, picking players) and essentially giving the keys to the bus to him to drive an NFL road he’s never been on.
All because he was really good in college. Like many who hit potholes in the road before him.
I give him two years.