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Urban Meyer's NFL Experiment Could Be Saved From Disaster By Trevor Lawrence

Ryan Phillips
Urban Meyer, Utah v USC
Urban Meyer, Utah v USC / Meg Oliphant/Getty Images
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Urban Meyer has reportedly agreed to a deal to become the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. It will be a fascinating experiment, where an extremely successful college coach takes an NFL job and maybe leaves the thing he does best behind. This could be a disaster for Meyer, but the fact that he'll almost certainly be starting off with Trevor Lawrence as his starting quarterback could change his fortunes.

Plenty of former long-time college coaches have failed in their transitions to the NFL. Nick Saban is the most high-profile example. The game is wildly different at the next level and most coaches never fully adjust. Meyer could face problems. The basis of Meyer's success in college was incredible recruiting classes and a run-heavy spread offense. Recruiting will be left at the college level, and he'll almost certainly have to make big changes to his offensive philosophy in Jacksonville.

In its most pure form, Meyer's offense relies heavily on zone-read plays and the threat of the quarterback taking off and running. On passing plays, the threat of those runs tends to open up passing lanes as the defense has to respect the run game. Other than Lamar Jackson, there isn't an NFL quarterback with the speed or instincts to run as many designed runs Meyer's offense demands.

Meyer is a smart guy and surely realizes he'll have to make changes. What should help with those changes is one of the best quarterback prospects to ever enter the league. It's almost certain that Meyer wouldn't be making this decision if the Jaguars didn't have the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and, therefore, the right to select Clemson's Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence will likely make the transition much smoother.

With Lawrence at quarterback, Meyer can certainly have some designed quarterback runs sprinkled in, but will also be able to heavily use run/pass options in place of the zone-read runs. Lawrence's arm and quick-read ability should open things up for the offense.

The Jaguars also have talent at the skill positions with surprise running back star James Robinson, talented young wideouts in D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault and -- almost certainly -- Lawrence. That's a nice base to start from.

This is a crazy, risky experiment for the Jaguars. Meyer has never coached in the NFL at any level. Yes, he's won three national titles and coached successfully in the SEC and the Big Ten, but the hallmark of his teams has been an insane talent advantage. He'll now be dealing with salary caps and won't be able to just grab whichever available players he wants. That will certainly hurt from a talent development standpoint.

Without Lawrence I'd say this situation was almost certainly doomed to failure. But an elite, top-level quarterback changes the calculus on everything. If Meyer succeeds it will almost certainly be because Lawrence is the star who has been promised.

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