The NFL has not broken Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer, but it has bent him like a cheap paper clip, and the metal is turning white. Four winless games into his NFL career, Meyer’s sideline anguish and postgame soul-bearing would be sad if the outside world believed he was worthy of empathy.
Jacksonville, Urban Meyer off to 0-4 start
When Cincinnati kicker Evan McPherson knocked through a walk-off field goal that gave the Bengals their first and only lead Thursday night, Meyer had officially lost as many games in a month — four — as he lost in his first four seasons at Ohio State.
Losing is so foreign to Meyer, his body rejects it like tainted meat. Spend even 10 minutes watching a Jaguars game, and you’ll get the sense his new job causes not only emotional distress but actual physical pain. His hands-on-knees, head-down pose might as well be Jacksonville’s logo.
Meyer was the best at what he did for much of his life. Now, if the standings are to be believed, he’s the worst.
“Devastating, heartbreaking,” Meyer told reporters not long after McPherson’s kick gave the Bengals a 24-21 win. “I see a good team in there, I see good guys. Good hearts.”
“We are getting better each week,” Meyer said, with some validity. “It’s just sickening that we didn’t win that thing. Like I told you, I’m not wrong about that. I’m not wrong about that room. They’re going to keep swinging as hard as they possibly can.”
Jaguars blow 14-0 lead
All losses hurt Meyer, but this one probably stings the most of his young NFL career. The Jaguars were up 14-0 at halftime — and the lead would have been more had Meyer simply taken the 3 points instead of going for it on a fourth-and-goal gamble inside the 5. Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 pick Meyer saw as his shortcut to NFL excellence, got stood up short of the goal line, keeping the Bengals in a game they probably had no business winning.
It was one of two questionable game management decisions made by Meyer Thursday night. The other was punting from midfield on a fourth-and-4 play late in the second half. He decided to give the ball back to red-hot Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, who had torched the Jaguars’ defense much of the second half.
It was the last time a Jaguars player would touch the ball. Burrow directed a 10-play, 73-yard drive that took every remaining second off the clock. He used the primetime platform to prove that he’s the whole way back from last year’s torn ACL and that the Bengals are for real after going 4-11-1 a year ago.
Meyer one-and-done in the NFL?
That one-season turnaround is the flickering light at the end of the tunnel for Meyer, who has already had to shoot down speculation that he might bail on the NFL after one year and take the USC job. A quick ripcord wouldn’t be a surprise, considering his history of wanderlust.
Meyer would be wise to stick it out. The Jaguars have a wildly talented young quarterback of their own in Lawrence and gobs of cap space to build around him in the coming years.
But that assumes Meyer has the patience — and pain tolerance — to wait out what could be a historically bad year. An already thin offense got even thinner Thursday when wide receiver DJ Chark broke his ankle in the third quarter. He’s presumably out for the year.
Plus, there won’t be many games this year that the Jaguars lead by 14 points in the second half. There won’t be better opportunities to win with a poor roster.
Meyer pounded the table in frustration when a reporter pointed out that the Jaguars lost despite not committing a turnover. When asked a specific question about the game, he acknowledged that he couldn’t remember the sequence and that his “head’s spinning right now.”
And when a questioner made a passing comment about luck playing a role in the game’s outcome, Meyer shut down the line of conversation immediately.
“There’s no breaks,” Meyer said. “You create your own breaks.”
Four games down, 13 more to go — we think.