There Might Never Be Another Urban Meyer

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Urban Meyer was one of the most successful coaches in the history of college football—he won 84 percent of his games across 17 seasons at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State, the highest winning percentage in FBS history. Here was a man so competitive and psychotically addicted to winning that the mere specter of losing nearly killed him—twice! And yet, his tenure as the soon-t0-be former head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars has been one of the most surreally terrible stints in recent NFL memory.

While all happy NFL teams are alike, every unhappy NFL team is unhappy in its own way. The New York Giants are a prim gridiron adaptation of The Remains of the Day; the New York Jets are corporate malfeasance in shoulder pads; the Detroit Lions are hard-charging driftwood. But even amongst their cohort in the NFL basement, the Jacksonville Jaguars are unique in the sheer cursedness of their vibes. In just the first year of his seven year, $70 million contract, Meyer has: alienated his whole team by going postal after a preseason loss, skipped a team flight to receive a lap dance from a woman who isn’t his wife at his own tacky steakhouse, called his hand-picked staff of assistants losers, publicly threatened to fire any loser assistant coach who leaked that he called them losers, and revealed that he might not even actually watch the games. 

All of this is to say that Urban Meyer is my favorite coach in the NFL.

Over the last few years, sports have been consumed by the same kind of optimization-fetish that’s long defined business. More than the Money Ball-kanization of sports, it’s been the McKinsey-ization of them, a bloodless right-sizing of complex operations until they're as frictionless and algorithmically sound as possible. NFL teams now consult spreadsheets to make fourth down decisions and throw the ball more every year because that’s what the math says to do. And although these decisions are all technically correct, they’re also boring because unwavering sameness is boring. Analytics used to be an exciting new strategic and epistemic frontier, it’s now the sterile status quo; the counter-culture has become the culture.

In this sense, Meyer is exciting because he’s the last barbarian who hasn’t been pushed out of the gate. He represents a truly bizarre incompetence from when we used to be a country, a proper country. Whereas it feels like most NFL coaches are just different versions of Sean McVay, Meyer is refreshing in his utter rejection of the way that Things Should Be Done; with each passing week, Meyer and his despotic gym teacher brain rot pioneer new ways of sucking at this job. If Robert Saleh or Dan Campbell or Joe Judge are empty quarter-zips who spout buzzwordy platitudes like creatine-huffing Kendall Roys, Meyer is more Roman-esque, failing in increasingly colorful and deranged ways. Even if there will always be incompetent football coaches, their badness will assume a more conventional and less fun form.

Soon, Meyer will be fired and replaced by some replacement-level 43-year-old whiz kid who properly appreciates the importance of a Shanahan-style offense and two-high defensive coverages. By this time next year, the Jaguars will simply be yet another 6-10 team that nobody thinks about. But, for now, Meyer is still making the NFL a weirder and more interesting place. Appreciate him when you still can.

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