Violating Your Own Code
Urban Meyer got fired and wasn’t able to finish a full year after getting a contract that made him one of the highest paid coaches in the NFL in his first year. The owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars gave him everything that he asked for
He was a beloved and successful coach at Ohio State University. In the course of his seven-year career as Ohio State's head coach, Meyer led the team to an 83-9 record, three Big Ten titles and a national championship when his Buckeyes won the title in inaugural College Football Playoff.
As a lifetime OSU fan and Ohio boy, I followed him. He authored a terrific book called Above the Line. It wasn’t primarily about football. It is one of the best books that I have read in the last five years about managing your life, living with integrity, and leading well. I’ve used it in training leaders and challenging us all to excellence across the board. Meyer said these were the principles he followed at Ohio State, and these were key to them wining the national championship.
In Above the Line Meyer talks about E + R = O. E means an Event that which you can’t control. R is the response that you CAN control. The event you can’t control plus the response that you can control equals the Outcome, which is what you can only influence. That was the standard he said he lived by, and he appeared to at Ohio State.
But with the pro football team, the Jaguars, Coach Meyer violated every principle he had espoused. He had said that in the NFL there are only good coaches and good players to had made it that far. The problem is always one of three things – trust Issues, a dysfunctional environment, or selfishness. To quote him exactly, here is what he said on Fox College Football game day November 2020.
“Every time I've had a team struggle, it's fallen into one of three categories. Number one: There's some trust issue. The players don't trust the coach, the coach doesn't trust the players or it’s awful when the players don't trust each other.
Number two: It's called a dysfunctional work environment where the expectations are extremely high, but we don't work hard. The coach has to be really clear with his team, say, ‘Wait a minute, that's going to lead to frustration, anger, disappointment because we want to win a championship. I got news, guys, we're not working hard, so stop with the expectations.‘ Your work ethic must exceed or equate your expectations. That's a good environment.
And the last one is really obvious. You've got a selfish team, man. You got problems on your team. Football is an unselfish sport. That means you have to do the nasty. That means I'm a running back; I have to go protect for my quarterback. You don't always get to carry the ball. Sometimes you have to run down a kickoff twenty-two miles per hour and throw yourself at someone running fifteen miles per hour the other way. That's not fun, why would you do that? Because you love your team and your teammates.”
In coaching professional football Urban appeared to violate all or most of his priori standards. violated everyone in his relationships with the owners, players, fans, himself. It was a rocky, tumultuous tenure of just short of a year—only thirteen games--- filled with incidents and controversy.
His friends he hired as assistants were accused of racist language and actions. There were off season workout violations, resulting in a total of $300,000 in fines. Meyer had several issues with the coaches and players in Jacksonville. Meyer called his assistant coaches "losers" in team meetings (a report he didn't refute).
He struggled with mutual respect with players, having a spat with wideout Marvin Jones, had a disconnect with Trevor Lawrence over QB sneaks, and skirted responsibility for James Robinson's benching in recent weeks. He also gave Mike Vrabel the cold shoulder following a loss to the Titans in Week 14.
After a loss to the Bengals on "Thursday Night Football" that dropped the Jags to 0-4, the now-infamous video of Urban Meyer grinding up against a co-ed hits the internet. It's weird and awkward, completely unprofessional, and against his own stated standards. . Meyer didn't travel with the team back to Jacksonville following the loss, something that's a complete deviation for NFL coaches. He called players names and kicked a player in the leg during a practice.
The Ohio State Coach Meyer himself would diagnose the Jaguar situation as all three illnesses: trust issues, dysfunctional environment, and selfishness. He violated his own rules. Paul Finebaum of the SEC network said, “Anyone who wants to write a speculative piece today about ‘where will Urban end up?’ the answer is nowhere. This man is dead professionally and he did it to himself. You can talk about the most spectacular flameout in NFL or coaching history, but it was easily predictable.”
Sad. Now Urban Meyer has an opportunity to show us humility and repentance in failure. My hope is that he will. So far, the silence is deafening.
You and I can learn. I hope we do.