Every player can tell you his “Welcome to the NFL” moment. That time when his naivete – or arrogance – was exposed in decisive fashion, letting him know the NFL is an entirely different game than the one he assumed he’d mastered.
Well, Urban Meyer just had his.
The Jacksonville Jaguars announced under the cover of darkness Friday night that their walking dumpster fire of a strength coach Chris Doyle had humbly submitted his resignation a day after being hired, and that they had reluctantly agreed.
“Chris did not want to be a distraction to what we are building in Jacksonville,” Meyer and general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement issued at 11:35 p.m. ET. “We are responsible for all aspects of our program and, in retrospect, should have given greater consideration to how his appointment may have affected all involved.”
It took all of 24 hours for Meyer to be shown he can't run the Jaguars like his own little fiefdom, as he did at Ohio State and Florida. When he makes bad decisions, and I’ll get to just how bad this one was in a moment, it won’t just be a few grumbling fans that he can ignore. There will be push back from players. Former players. The media, national and local.
And, in this case, the influential Fritz Pollard Alliance, which characterized Doyle's hiring as a "failure of leadership" and rightly called Meyer out for fostering the NFL's "good ol' boy network."
DAN WOLKEN: Urban Meyer's 'character and leadership' con continues
Meyer is used to having his own way because he’s Urban Meyer and he’s got three national titles and has won everywhere he’s been. He doesn’t take losses well, and he takes anyone who questions his actions even worse.
But if Meyer is looking for the fawning deference he's always enjoyed, the NFL is not the place for it. Even in Jacksonville.
Anyone could have seen what a colossal mistake it was to hire Doyle. Iowa gave him $1.1 million to go away last summer after more than a dozen players, most of them Black, accused him of racism and bullying. Doyle was so toxic, a college team wouldn’t touch him even with a Hazmat suit on.
Urban Meyer at Trevor Lawrewnce's pro day on Friday. (Photo: David Platt/Clemson Athletics)
But Meyer was sure a locker room of grown men, in a league where more than two-thirds of the players are Black, would accept Doyle just because Meyer said so.
“I feel great about the hire, about his expertise at that position,” Meyer said Thursday.
“I vet everyone on our staff, and the relationship goes back close to 20 years, and a lot of hard questions asked, a lot of vetting involved with all our staff,” Meyer said when pressed further. “But we did a very good job vetting that one.”
So good that Doyle was gone a day later.
If this sounds familiar to the scenario that helped speed Meyer’s departure from Ohio State, well, it is. He turned a blind eye to credible domestic violence accusations against assistant Zach Smith, enabled him, and, then, when it blew up in his face, remained defiant in his certainty that he had done nothing wrong.
To succeed in the NFL, you have to learn from your mistakes. And that’s going to be a problem for Meyer, because he won’t even acknowledge he makes any.
It wasn’t even a month ago that Meyer was introduced as the Jaguars new head coach, oozing a striking amount of self-assuredness for a guy who’s never coached a day in the NFL. The NFL has chewed up and spit out Nick Saban, Chip Kelly, Bobby Petrino and any other number of top college coaches, but Meyer is certain he’ll succeed where they failed.
“(Jimmy Johnson) told me that you have to be much different when you’re in college, than you have to be in professional football,” Meyer said last month. “But he made clear that players want to win.”
They do – and they won’t suffer fools they believe are getting in the way of that. Just look at what’s going on in Houston these days.
Meyer has always been quick to make an impression, and his tenure with the Jags is shaping up to be no different. Instead of proving he can be a winner yet again, however, he’s showing just how much about the NFL he has to learn.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour
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