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Don’t feel bad for Jags’ Urban Meyer. This is what he wanted.


As the losses pile up and the frustration mounts this season, just remember this was what Urban Meyer wanted.

After winning everywhere he went in college, the challenge of the NFL was simply too great to resist. Never short on confidence, Meyer was certain he could succeed where so many other great college coaches have failed.

And maybe he will, eventually. So far, though, he looks as overmatched as those others did.

Ugly as the score would suggest, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 37-21 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday was actually worse. This was not the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Kansas City Chiefs the Jaguars were playing. Meyer wasn’t matching wits with Sean Payton or Bill Belichick.

Jaguars coach Urban Meyer reacts during the second quarter Sunday.

Jaguars coach Urban Meyer reacts during the second quarter Sunday.

But David Culley, who was also making his debut as an NFL head coach, had his team more ready to play than Meyer did. The Texans were more organized, more productive and, most surprising of all, more disciplined than Meyer’s Jaguars.

The Jaguars had 10 penalties, double that of the Texans. They couldn’t make stops when they needed to, or even in what would have seemed the simplest of scenarios. The Texans got the ball at their own 31 with 37 seconds left in the first half, and they still managed to score.

With Tyrod Taylor as their quarterback.

“We’re still a work in progress, as you see,” Meyer said after the game. “I did not anticipate that today.”

That’s his job, though. This job that he wanted.

There is no denying Meyer is a great coach. You don’t luck into three national titles. But the NFL is a completely different game than college.

With the exception of the bowl game and maybe the conference championship, Meyer could be confident that he had the better roster. That’s not the case in the NFL, and certainly not with the Jaguars.

That means there is no margin for error. Missed tackles here, penalties there, bad decisions by Trevor Lawrence everywhere – they will cost you in ways they wouldn’t have in the college game because the line between most NFL teams is so thin.

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“That’s the great thing about this sport. It’s not like we have to make a secret pass call or protection call. It’s just work,” Meyer said. “That’s the greatest thing about the game of football, go out and work. And that’s what we shall do.”

But there also has to be a recognition that the NFL requires a different formula for success, and Meyer can’t operate as he did when he was at Ohio State or Florida or Utah. Nothing he has done so far has shown he recognizes that.

He hired a strength coach, Chris Doyle, who’d been accused of racism and bullying at Iowa by more than a dozen players, most of them Black, and was shocked when he got pushback. He brought in Tim Tebow, who hadn’t been in the NFL for six years, and tried to convert him to a tight end, an experiment that went as well as everyone but Meyer and Tebow predicted.

He also drew the ire of the NFL when he said the Jaguars took vaccination status into account when making roster cuts. A coach and general manager would be foolish not to consider that, given the competitive advantages being vaccinated provides, but you can’t say it publicly. Sure enough, the Jaguars had to do damage control, just as they did after Meyer hired Doyle.

All of these growing pains are fixable, as are the Jaguars’ mistakes Sunday. But that is going to require Meyer to acknowledge he doesn’t have all the answers, and he’s never done anything that would indicate he’s capable of that kind of humility.

“I’ve been warned for a long time this is a marathon, not a sprint, so calm down, relax – not relax but onward, soldier, move on,” he said. “Let’s go Monday and get back to work.”

Meyer does not take losing well, and he’s likely to finish this season with more losses than he had in seven years at Ohio State (nine). Maybe even more than the 15 games he lost in six years at Florida.

The Jaguars play the Denver Broncos next week, followed by the Arizona Cardinals. (If Chandler Jones could do what he did to Ryan Tannehill, imagine what’s in store for Lawrence.) There’s also a date with Russell Wilson in Seattle in Week 8, and one with Belichick in Week 17.

There were already jokes and rumors Sunday afternoon about Meyer going back to the college game, and those will only increase if the season disintegrates. But it was Meyer who wanted the challenge of the NFL.

If it goes badly, he has only himself to blame.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Urban Meyer won’t get much sympathy in NFL; this is what he wanted

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