JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Is it the players or coaches?
Sometimes football isn’t about the X’s and O’s as much as it is about the Jimmies and Joes. But then there are other times that it is all about the X’s and O’s. Simply put, there are one of two reasons that can be applied for almost every loss.
1. The team was out-talented.
2. The team was outcoached.
No one is going to argue that the Jaguars have the talent in-house to win a Super Bowl this year. But this isn’t a roster devoid of talent. The players and coaches have repeatedly said they believe that they have the talent needed to win football games.
Well, that hasn’t happened to this point. But if talent isn’t the problem, then based on my earlier oversimplification, there can only be one other option. That arrow is pointing squarely at Urban Meyer and the staff.
After the Broncos game in Week 2, I flat out asked Meyer if he felt like he was outcoached in that game. He responded by saying, “Outcoached? I don’t know if I got outcoached. We lost a game. That’s a good question. I’ve been asked that question before. We lost a game.”
He continued to say, “it’s an us issue. We have to make some plays. We have to do a lot of things better as a team, and that includes when I say team, it’s always us. The one thing I’ll never do is take a player and do that or a coach and do that. But do we have to get better? We’re 0-2. You made that point. We have to do we — when I say we, I’m talking about the whole team has to do a lot of better things”
The “we” of the Jaguars have to do better in all aspects. That is accurate. But the players have played well enough to win multiple games this season. The coaching staff on the other hand has not coached well enough to win any games.
Is calling a flea flicker inside your own 20-yard line putting your rookie quarterback in a place to succeed?
Is going for it on fourth and 1 on the 1-yard line before the half instead of kicking a field goal putting the team in a position to succeed?
Is taking James Robinson — who had over 100 yards rushing that point in Titans game — off the field on fourth down from the 1-yard line giving your team the best chance to succeed?
Is asking Matthew Wright to kick a 53-yard field goal when the longest field goal he made in the NFL or college is only 50 yards what is best for the team?
The answer to all of those questions is no.
Those are isolated incidents, but they illustrate a bigger problem. Coaching. This team struggles with simple things. After the Titans game, I asked Trevor Lawrence about his receivers working to get open when he starts to run.
Lawrence said, “honestly we didn’t work on enough early. The last few weeks as I was starting to use my legs more, we just talked about it more and more because that’s such a big part of the game.”
Not working on something enough in practice is on the coaching staff. How about not working on something at all? The Jaguars have yet to run a quarterback sneak this season and the reason is that they don’t feel comfortable calling it.
“That was our staff, the offensive coaches said that. Trevor [Lawrence] is comfortable doing anything. The comment made to me was, ‘We have not done it live,” Meyer said after the loss to the Titans.
You mean to tell me that practicing a quarterback sneak never came up? Sure, a QB sneak isn’t a play you use often. But when you need it, you really need it.
It is easy to point the finger at the losses and say that Meyer is in over his head. But instances like the ones above make it extremely clear. All of the blame for these decisions doesn’t solely fall on Meyer’s shoulders. But as the head coach, the failures of the staff are his failures.
So how do they fix it? There are only two options for that as well. Either end the Meyer era early, or Meyer and his staff must do a better job.
This isn’t to paint a picture of Meyer as a bad head coach but to call attention to the need for drastic improvement from the entire staff. Anyone who expected Meyer to come into the NFL and be an elite coach on Day 1 has not paid attention to the NFL. Even for coaches that have spent their entire coaching career at this level, there is always a learning curve.
I asked Meyer before the Week 6 game against the Dolphins about his growth as a coach. He said, “I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about the daily grind and the weekly — what you’re getting ready to face each week. To say someone is ready for that, they are not. To say that you learn, and you lean on your staff, I’ve certainly done that. And now, how to—you’re in a marathon now.”
Well, now it is up to Meyer to decide how and when this marathon ends. Meyer needs to make major strides as an NFL game manager if the Jaguars are going to turn around.
The reasoning of letting his coaches coach or not wanting to micromanage is not enough. Up to this point, the coaching staff has failed the players. Now the responsibility falls to them to practice what they preach and respond to adversity.