The issues Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer continues to have with his team are becoming a major concern.
While it would make sense that a newly-hired head coach would have some issues early on to begin his time with the team (especially one that hasn’t coached in the NFL before) this team continues to be very Jekyll and Hyde on both sides of the football.
Simply put, they can’t string together four quarters of winning football.
That much has been evident through five weeks, and what is becoming more evident as time passes is that there is a general disconnect between Meyer and the rest of the football team.
That is, at least, the impression that Meyer has given time and time again as he conducts press conferences following the team’s five losses.
Following Sunday’s 37-19 loss to the Titans, Meyer once again would question some of the decisions, putting blame not only on himself but (perhaps inadvertently) on others around him. The answers to some of the questions weren’t satisfying on their own and prompted even more questions from fans and media alike.
Here are my five takeaways from Meyer’s press conference:
1. It appears no one knows if a quarterback sneak is in the team’s toolbox
At one point during the contest, the Jaguars had the ball on the Titans’ 1-yard-line. The situation was a 4th-and-1, and it came just after the referees overturned the call of a touchdown from Trevor Lawrence’s four-yard run on the play prior.
The Jaguars did not convert, and Tennessee would take over. However, what happened on the play is the main issue.
On the drive, Jaguars running back James Robinson was taken out of the game for backup running back Carlos Hyde. Once the team made it to the 5-yard line, they then proceeded to throw the football twice, before attempting a run with Lawrence.
On fourth down from the 1-yard line, the Jaguars would hand the ball off to Hyde, instead of Robinson who at that point in the contest running the football for 8.4 yards-per-carry or 143 yards on 17 carries.
Here’s the result:
Hyde was unable to score, but the possibility of handing the football off to Robinson wasn’t ever an option, and neither was a quarterback sneak, at least according to Meyer.
“And the quarterback sneak, he’s not quite comfortable with that yet,” Meyer said in postgame referring to Lawrence. “We’ve been practicing that. I know that might sound silly, but when you’ve never done it, it’s something that we need to continue to make that, so you can make that call in that critical situation.”
Meyer’s right. It is silly.
Without getting into the nature of the game of football, and practicing a quarterback sneak five weeks into the regular season, Lawrence’s answer to the question of whether or not he was comfortable with sneaking the ball in made what Meyer said that much more concerning.
“No, I feel comfortable,” Lawrence said in postgame when asked if he was comfortable running a sneak.
“Obviously, I haven’t really ran it before in a game, but I feel comfortable. It’s something we’ve worked. We trust our guys up front, we trust our backs in that situation. Obviously, I’d love to get in there, but if we make the play, it’s like no one says anything, but it’s a TFL, and that doesn’t look great obviously.
“So, we all can get better. But no, a QB sneak is something we can all get to and I feel comfortable with.”
The Jaguars have not run a quarterback sneak throughout the year. But the idea that a 6’6” quarterback wouldn’t be comfortable with it, or that the team wouldn’t feel comfortable enough with him doing it five weeks into the season, is concerning. It was a perplexing response from Meyer.
2. Meyer passes the buck, doesn’t want to “micromanage” player usage
There’s no need to re-hash the same situation listed above, but Hyde’s usage during the team’s final sustained drive of the contest was another perplexing decision by the Jaguars.
That, apparently, isn’t a decision the head coach of the football team can make, and something he says he should have made, but simply doesn’t want to micro-manage his coaches.
“I just met with Bev (offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell) and we talked about it. I don’t micromanage who’s in the game,” Meyer said. “I should have — James is running really hard, but so is Carlos. I’ve got to go find out if something was dinged up with James on that situation.”
Meyer, the team’s head coach, said that he should have micromanaged who was in the game for Jacksonville at the time.
But the most concerning part of the quote wasn’t even that.
Meyer questioned, even after meeting with the team (that included coaches and players alike) whether or not Robinson was “dinged up” during that situation.
When Robinson met with the media, he made no mention of any bump or bruise that would have prevented him from entering the game — simply saying that he trusts his teammates to execute whatever is called.
Furthermore, the team’s head coach ought to know whether or not one of his best offensive players was hurt, especially considering the drive was several plays long, and Robinson was not in the game during a critical moment.
3. Jaguars finally do research on Myles Jack
The Jaguars started this year off by moving to a 3-4 base defense, moving players around including starting linebacker Myles Jack. With Joe Schobert shipped off via trade to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team gave Jack the “green dot” on his helmet, signifying he’s the one calling plays on defense for the team.
Jack has worn the dot through four games of the regular season, calling the team’s plays, and taking the calls from defensive coordinator Joe Cullen through the in-helmet headset.
But throughout the year, Jack hasn’t seemed very adept at making sure everyone is lined up properly before taking care of his own assignment.
While he has said plenty of times that he is comfortable with the responsibility, the Jaguars felt the need to strip Jack of that for today’s contest, opting to give it to both safety Rayshawn Jenkins and linebacker Damien Wilson.
Following the game, Meyer stated that the team did some research into Jack, and realized now that he played better without the responsibility:
“We have been evaluating that because Myles plays three positions — base, nickel, dime, and it’s something we’ve been working on. He played his best football. We just did some research, he plays best when he doesn’t have to make the call. So we gave it to Damien and also Rayshawn. So you were right when you saw that.”
The issue here is simple: Why did the Jaguars not do research prior to the season when the decision was made to give Jack the green dot. In 2019, Jack owned that responsibility, and his play suffered as a result according to the Jaguars’ previous coaching staff.
In 2020, Jack played the best season of his career, and a lot was the result of him being able to play without thinking too much, without the responsibility of making sure everyone else, including himself, was lined up to do what they needed to do.
While this gaff isn’t all on Meyer, it is his responsibility as the team’s head coach to do this “research” prior to the season, or at the very least, question his staff prior to the season, not five games in.
4. Confusion on defense is a question for Meyer too
Today was another day of Meyer questioning what the heck was going on... on the field.
Meyer was asked why the defense seemed to be confused at times on the coverages they were assigned. He said it was a question that he had as well, something that the team will need to get corrected.
“Kind of asked that same thing on the sideline, and we’ve got to get that corrected. I see the same thing you see,” Meyer told the reporter. “I see a defense that sometimes plays outstanding, elite football, like the first half against the Bengals and the latter part of the game of the one we just played.
“But then we’re putting pressure on the quarterback and the guy is wide open. That was a miscommunication. It was man coverage, and the guy didn’t cover his man. It’s that simple.”
When asked whether or not the team was confused due to multiple players making the play call on defense, Meyer seemed to not have a clue. And said he was going to ask the same question.
“I don’t think so. That’s a question I’m going to ask, and you’re certainly welcome to ask it as well.”
Certainly, a reporter will ask Cullen this week what the issue was. But what question did Meyer ask the coordinator, or any coach, on the sideline, if not what the issue at hand was? He questioned it during the game, was there simply no answer?
5. There are mixed signals coming from the team’s QB and head coach
A final confusing occurrence would come as the team reaches its 20th-straight loss dating back to last season, tied for the second-longest losing streak in NFL history. When asked how desperate the team is for a win, Meyer didn’t mince words: they’re desperate.
“Desperate for a win, desperate for the way they go to work each day, each week. Desperate for a win,” said Meyer. “But we can’t worry about the past, worry about the future, and a trip to London and try to get a win. Some guys are playing their tails off. But, yeah, we’re desperate for a win.”
This is the type of response one would give when they’re truly desperate, and the Jaguars are certainly in that category, unable to finish games thus far this season.
What is concerning, however, is the message that’s being sent from both Meyer and then again from Lawrence. Lawrence’s response mirrored a more even-keel response, something one would expect the head coach to say. The team, simply put, cannot be desperate.
“You can’t get desperate,” said Lawrence. “You’ve got to just keep going to work. We’re going to win some games. We’re going to turn it around. We all thought today was the day we were going to get that first win and it wasn’t.
“We didn’t execute enough down the stretch, but we’re going to figure it out and we’re going to turn this thing around. It’s going to be a lot of fun when we do. But yeah, the locker room, we want to win. All the guys, we’ve got so many hard workers.
“Everyone’s so invested. It’s not a team where we’ve got guys that aren’t really committed or don’t care. Everyone’s all in. So, it will come. When you have guys like that and you have talent, and we have enough talent. So, I’m not concerned, but we do need to get some wins.”
Lawrence said the team doesn’t discuss the losing streak within the locker room because it’s not good for a team to dwell or think about something as negative as that. The message shouldn’t be confusing between both of the team’s primary leaders. But it seems as though it certainly is.