The Jaguars were the first team to hire a head coach, and they made the NFL’s most fascinating hire since the Eagles pulled Chip Kelly from Oregon in 2013. Urban Meyer, 56, is a three-time national champion with Florida and Ohio State and will go down as one of the greatest coaches in college football history. But the one hole in his résumé is that he has never tried his hand at the NFL, and now he comes out of retirement to prove his mettle, going to about as perfect a situation as he could dream up.
The Jaguars have the No. 1 pick, and Meyer will get a crack at quarterback Trevor Lawrence, considered by some as the best prospect since Andrew Luck. The Jaguars also have extra picks in the first and second rounds, a boatload of cap space, and Meyer will be given full control of the football operation. It’s a big-time hire for Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who has invested plenty of resources into his football team and is desperate for sustained success.
Meyer is known as one of the greatest program-builders in college football history, and the Jaguars, with one playoff appearance and the NFL’s lowest win percentage over the last decade (.295), certainly could use a stronger culture.
But the NFL is a different ballgame. Meyer can’t recruit all of the best players like he did in college, and he now has to worry about the salary cap. He can’t keep a watchful eye on his players like he did in college. And Meyer doesn’t have a great history of developing quarterbacks for the NFL, with Tim Tebow, Dwayne Haskins, Cardale Jones, and even Alex Smith for several years struggling to adapt to the pros. It will also be interesting to see how Meyer fills out his staff, because all of the coaches from his tree, save for Mike Vrabel, are college coaches.
The history of college coaches going to the NFL is mixed. Pete Carroll (who had previous NFL experience), Jim Harbaugh, and Jimmy Johnson succeeded after making the jump. Kliff Kingsbury and Matt Rhule are still to be determined. Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, Bobby Petrino, and Kelly flopped.
Meyer is walking into a near-perfect situation with the Jaguars and his likely new quarterback, Lawrence. He will go down as one of the greatest college football coaches of all time. Now he can prove that he’s a great football coach, period.