What’s not to like about Urban Meyer?
The appointed savior of the Jacksonville Jaguars football team won more than 85 percent of his games during an illustrious 17-year college-coaching career. He was as sure of a bet to win in the postseason as almost anyone, as his teams have gone 12-3 in bowl games, including a perfect 3-0 in title games.
He’s come a long way since Bowling Green — and made a lot of green on his way to Jacksonville. He put Utah football on the map, and restored glory at Florida and Ohio State. He’s just one of two coaches to lead two FBS schools to college football titles, along with some guy named Nick Saban.
But that’s where the comparisons stop, at least for now, because Meyer is looking to prove he can accomplish something that Saban, and numerous other successful college head coaches couldn’t do: win in the NFL.
Win in the NFL.
What does that mean? A division championship? A conference title? The Lombardi Trophy?
Go ahead: pick your definition because most likely, Meyer won’t do it, based on about a quarter-century of history.
The NFL is a different world than when Paul Brown left Ohio State and turned the Cleveland Browns into a juggernaut. The league also has come a long way since when Jimmy Johnson strode into Dallas after coaching the Miami Hurricanes. He fleeced the Vikings in the Herschel Walker trade and the Cowboys parlayed it into three Super Bowl titles.
For every Brown, there’s a Steve Spurrier, and for every Johnson, there’s a Bobby Petrino.
Since 1995, there have been at least 15 men who went from being a college football head coach to running an NFL squad without having previously been a head coach of a professional team.
This eliminates Pete Carroll, who was fired by the Jets and Patriots before building a dynasty at Southern California and fleeing to Seattle, where he has taken the Seahawks to two Super Bowls and is a Malcolm Butler interception away from being a 2-0 in the big game.
Here’s the list: Jacksonville’s Tom Coughlin (1995-2002), St. Louis’ Rich Brooks (1995-96), San Francisco’s Steve Mariucci (1997-2002), San Diego’s Mike Riley (1999-2001), the New York Jets’ Al Groh (2000), Cleveland’s Butch Davis (2001-04), Washington’s Spurrier (2002-03), Miami’s Saban (2005-06) Atlanta’s Petrino (2007), San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh (2011-14), Tampa Bay’s Greg Schiano (2012-13), Philadelphia’s Chip Kelly (2013-15), Houston’s Bill O’Brien (2014-20), Arizona’s Kliff Kingsbury (2019-present) and Carolina’s Matt Rhule (2020-present).
That’s 15 coaches and 48 collective seasons. How many of those seasons ended in the playoffs? Seventeen (35 percent).
How many can say they won more than two playoff games before getting fired? Coughlin, Mariucci, Harbaugh and O’Brien. How many got to the Super
Bowl? Just Harbaugh, whose team lost.
Overall, the 16 coaches have gone a combined 366-379-2, for a winning percentage of .490, which is greatly bolstered by Harbaugh (44-19) and Mariucci (57-39), who have a combined winning percentage of .635 in San Francisco.
The 49ers previously struck gold when they hired a coach out of the college ranks. Recall they also thought it was a good idea in 1979 to hire a Stanford coach
named Bill Walsh. He sold them on this seemingly crazy “West Coast Offense” that ended up pretty much revolutionizing the game.
What should concern Jacksonville with Meyer? Other than Harbaugh, no coach jumping from college to the NFL has earned anything but a quick boot out
of town in the past 15 or so years.
Let’s not play revisionist history here.
Kelly arrived in Philadelphia with more fanfare than Rocky after beating Apollo Creed. Kelly never won a playoff game.
Saban, after leading LSU to a national title, was pegged as the Dolphins’ next Don Shula. Saban never won a playoff game. He was gone after 32 games.
O’Brien strolled into Houston from Penn State and immediately led Houston to three straight winning seasons. Houston has yet to make it past the divisional round of the playoffs. Are the Texans really in better shape today than when he arrived in 2014?
Maybe Jaguars fans should ask Washington football fans about Spurrier, who was run out of the nation’s capital faster than Nixon after Watergate. And Tricky Dick didn’t lose 10 of his final 12 games like the Head Ball Coach did.
What makes Meyer’s chances for success any greater than any of them?
He’s taking over a 1-15 team that needs a total rebuild. It’s a massive undertaking for anyone, let alone for Meyer, who at 56 has seen his health deteriorate to the point where he needed to step away while at Florida and Ohio State.
“While Urban already enjoys a legacy in the game of football that few will ever match, his passion for the opportunity in front of him here in Jacksonville is powerful and unmistakable,” Shad Khan, the Jaguars’ owner, said this week. “I am proud to name Urban Meyer the next head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.”
History indicates Khan’s victory lap could be short-lived.
–By Jon Gallo, Field Level Media