Meyer’s hiring comes with big risks; chances for bigger rewards

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The Jacksonville Jaguars hoped they finally found their man to lead the hapless, often laughable, franchise from the bottom on the National Football League.

It’s clear the Jaguars needed a major overhaul. They needed a bold new direction. They needed a restart like no other.

Hiring Urban Meyer was the thunderclap that got everyone’s attention. Added with presumed pick of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first pick of the NFL Draft, 10 other draft picks and $80 million in salary cap, there’s plenty of reason to feel good about the prospects of finally fielding a competitive team.

Meyer certainly has an attractive record. He won two national championships at Florida and another one at Ohio State. As a college coach, he was 187-32 and 12-3 in bowl games.

As a professional coach, however, his record is 0-0.

It’s clear Shad Khan was laser-focused on resuscitating Meyer’s career – literally – for the third time. He left Florida after six years for health reasons. He left Ohio State after seven years for health reasons. See a pattern?

The Gators won 65 of 80 games – including five of six against Georgia in Jacksonville – during his tenure, 31 of his players were arrested, including tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was convicted of murder.

He left after the 2010 season because of chest pains, which eventually was diagnosed as Gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Shortly after he left, there were reports the Gators’ locker room had a “toxic atmosphere” with Meyer creating a circle of trust that only included star players who were allowed to skip workouts and whose positive drug tests results were kept from the public.

Florida went 7-6 the year after Meyer left.

Less than two years later Meyer made a miraculous recovery to become the head coach at Ohio State. He stayed with the Buckeyes for seven seasons, compiling an 83-9 record and the 2014 national championship.

In his final year, before the season Meyer was placed on administrative leave after the university learned Meyer knew about spousal abuse allegations against assistant coach Zack Smith.

Meyer returned to take Ohio State to a 12-1 record and a 28-23 victory against Washington in the Rose Bowl. Meyer announced his retirement before the game due to health reasons.

Now he’s back.

The reality is, if Meyer can last on the Jaguars sideline for six or seven years, that would be a tremendous sign of success. That means Jacksonville not only was competitive, but a winner. Fans won’t put up with much more losing and penny-pinching decisions that keeps sending its best players to greener playing fields on another roster.

Win now, or pack up for London.

Khan was prudent to not fall into the Tim Tebow trap. While the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback may have been one of the greatest college players of all time, his skills didn’t translate well to the NFL game. Signing Tebow would have put fans in the stands, but it wouldn’t help the team win games.

Khan apparently is convinced Meyer isn’t a Tebow in disguise.

To be successful, Meyer will have to avoid all the other pitfalls of legendary college coaches who were complete failures at the professional level. Who remembers how Steve Spurrier was supposed to save the Washington franchise? He lasted two years and had losing records in both.

And let’s not forget Nick Saban. Arguably one of the greatest college minds of all time, Saban was a flop with a 15-17 record with the Miami Dolphins.

The biggest college-level loser in the NFL was Bobby Petrino. He left a successful Louisville program to take over the Atlanta Falcons. He was 3-10 in his first season when he walked out on the team with three games remaining. Not since Gen. William Sherman had Atlanta been burned so badly.

But there have been winning crossovers. Jimmy Johnson left the University of Miami and took the Dallas Cowboys to a pair of Super Bowl wins. Speaking of Cowboys, Barry Swtizer left Oklahoma after winning three national titles and he took Dallas to a 1995 Super Bowl win.

To join Switzer and Johnson, Meyer will have to learn to adjust to the NFL way of life. That means dealing with men who have big contracts. He can’t have any inner circles, and he must understand he has to work with authority without being distant.

If not, Spurrier is always looking for a fourth to play golf.

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