Tim Tebow Signing Shows Urban Meyer Is In over His Head as Jaguars Head Coach

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystMay 23, 2021

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer talks with an assistant during an NFL football rookie minicamp, Saturday, May 15, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

It's a time of great change and optimism for the long-suffering fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars. By virtue of last year's 1-15 debacle, Jacksonville landed the most highly touted quarterback prospect in a decade in Clemson's Trevor Lawrence. Jaguars owner Shahid Khan turned over the reins of the franchise to a head coach in Urban Meyer who won a staggering 85.4 percent of his games at the collegiate level, including three national championships.

But dark clouds are already starting to obscure the Florida sun. Before Lawrence has even taken a single snap in the pros, his head coach has made a number of puzzling moves, punctuated by signing a washed-up former quarterback to play tight end.

The Tebowmania sideshow has come to Jacksonville, and with it Meyer has demonstrated something quite clearly:

He's in over his head.

There had been reports for some time that the Jaguars were considering signing Tim Tebow, who starred for Meyer under center at Florida from 2006 to 2009, as a tight end. That signing became official Thursday, and Tebow released a statement thanking the team for the opportunity while embracing the challenge to come:

"I want to thank the Jaguars for the opportunity to compete and earn the chance to be part of this team. I know it will be a challenge, but it is a challenge I embrace. I am dedicated to taking the direction of our coaching staff and learning from my teammates. I appreciate everyone's support as I embark on this new journey."

John Raoux/Associated Press

Calling this a challenge is the understatement of the decade. It's also a farce.

The last time Tebow was on an NFL field was in the spring of 2015 in a tryout with the Philadelphia Eagles. His last regular-season game action was in 2012 with the New York Jets. Since then, the 33-year-old has been pursuing a baseball career that went approximately as well as his tenure as an NFL quarterback. As Tyler Greenawalt reported for Jets Wire, there was an attempt in 2012 to transition Tebow from quarterback to tight end while with the Jets.

According to former NFL quarterback and teammate Greg McElroy, it was a mess.

"[The Jets] tried switching him to tight end, and he wasn't good," McElroy recently said on SiriusXM. "That's what people don't acknowledge. Tim is a good dude, and I hope the best for him. But it's a sideshow."

For the record, here's a look at Tebow's only career passing target in the NFL:

Pick Six Podcast @picksixpod

Tim Tebow has ONE career NFL receiving target and it hit him in the face https://t.co/cB2eW3Ov2X


Tebow is a wildly popular player in the state of Florida who is already selling jerseys like hotcakes. But there is no way you can make the argument with a straight face that a 33-year-old who hasn't played football since 2015 with no real experience playing tight end can make the Jaguars a better team. It doesn't matter how bare the cupboard is at that position in Jacksonville.

You know it. I know it. Meyer knows it. Tebow knows hit. And his new teammates know it too.

According to McElroy, the media circus that followed Tebow everywhere in New York didn't sit especially well with some teammates.

"It's going to affect locker room chemistry, just like it did for us with the Jets," McElroy said. "Not because anyone had any animosity toward Tim; they just have animosity with the coverage Tim receives. So, I think it's a stupid move."

Sure enough, ESPN's Jeff Darlington reported on SportsCenter that even before Tebow signed in Jacksonville, the brouhaha surrounding his arrival was already making waves in the organization:

"When you cite the resume, when you talk about all of these things, it sounds pretty wild, and that certainly is the mindset of those in the Jaguars building. Not everybody—obviously, Urban Meyer is the one behind all of this—but not everybody in the Jaguars building is thrilled with this. They don't think that it necessarily sends the proper message to the rest of the team in the locker room and the guys trying to make this team. Urban Meyer, though, is quite the opposite. They said this can be a 'cultural jolt' in the locker room to kind of send a message that Urban wants."

Who you know is seemingly more important than how you play, as former wideout Torrey Smith noted:

Torrey Smith @TorreySmithWR

A perfect example of how success in life is about who you know. https://t.co/XrvkLTh01P

That this is the message Meyer "wants" smacks of hubris in the highest degree—it's the mindset of a coach who believes he is the unquestioned lord and master of all around him, the way he was at Florida and Ohio State.

News flash: he isn't. Meyer isn't Bill Belichick or Pete Carroll, head coaches who have built respect from veteran players in their locker room through years of hard work and success. He's a rookie who hasn't accomplished squat in the pros.

Meyer also isn't dealing with teenagers and 20-year-olds anymore. He's dealing with grown men who also happen to be multimillionaires. This isn't a crowd that responds well to "because I said so." Or to limited roster spots being divvied out as personal favors to old friends.

This also isn't the first time that Meyer has stepped in it since taking the Jaguars job. Back in February, Meyer hired strength coach Chris Doyle as a member of his staff. According to the Associated Press, Meyer touted his longtime relationship with Doyle as one of the reasons he was brought on board.

"I feel great about the hire, about his expertise at that position," Meyer said. "I vet everyone on our staff, and like I said, the relationship goes back close to 20 years, and a lot of hard questions asked, a lot of vetting involved with all our staff. We did a very good job vetting that one."

What Meyer didn't mention was that Doyle left the University of Iowa after multiple accusations of bullying and racial discrimination against players. After a firestorm of criticism, Doyle resigned from the Jags.

This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Urban Meyer has long done as Urban Meyer pleases, and "accountability" has never been a big part of his coaching toolbox.

John Raoux/Associated Press

Meyer's time at Florida was marred by multiple arrests of players, and after he departed, former player Bryan Thomas told Sporting News' Matt Hayes, "The program was out of control." In his last year at Ohio State in 2018, Meyer was suspended for three games for "mishandling [assistant Zach] Smith's misconduct that included domestic violence allegations, a drug problem and poor job performance."

Making up the rules as he went along may have worked for Meyer in college, but it won't in the NFL.

This doesn't mean that Meyer and the Jaguars are doomed. The odds that Tebow will make the cut (if said cut is at all merit-based) are slim. Once he's gone, the whole thing could blow over. Maybe Meyer will even learn something from the fallout and criticism.

However, Meyer hasn't shown an affinity for changing how he does things. He seems convinced that he doesn't need to change or adapt to succeed in the NFL, and if Tebow somehow makes the 53-man roster, this sideshow will continue making headlines right into the regular season.

We've seen this movie before. Greg Schiano treated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers like his personal fiefdom when he made the jump from Rutgers. Chip Kelly did his best Napoleon impression after moving from Oregon to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The two combined to go 39-56 in the pros, and neither coach lasted more than four years.

If Meyer isn't careful, his tenure in Jacksonville won't be any different.