My usual Saturday routine is to turn on the TV as soon as I get home from my son’s basketball game and then spend the rest of the day flipping between games. This past Saturday, it was hard not to notice the crowd surrounding the Big Noon Kickoff set and the way they openly campaigned for Urban Meyer to be the next head coach at Nebraska.
Meyer has been the subject of speculation all week after Nebraska fired head coach Scott Frost. It makes sense. While Meyer is the worst coach in the history of the NFL, he remains the most eligible coaching bachelor in the college game.
I get that most former coaches that are now on a TV set have a competitive itch that needs to be scratched, and I appreciate that. Scratching that itch in the past is what gives the great ones the perspective they need to be so good on television. But this time, it is in Urban’s best interest to keep itching.
There is no mistaking the way I feel about Urban Meyer. I’ll own it. I think he has lost a lot of credibility as a football coach. The Jacksonville tenure started off with arrogance and ended with incompetence. But I think he is really good on FOX. Everything you want a coach-turned-analyst to do on TV, he does well.
What win is there for him in going to Lincoln to coach the Cornhuskers? Did you watch them on Saturday? Clearly, Scott Frost was not that team’s only problem. There is absolutely no talent on that roster.
Urban Meyer has more influence in college football on FOX’s pregame show than he would as the head coach of Nebraska. On top of that, FOX’s top analyst and his family are not under a microscope the way the coach of Nebraska or any other top college football program is. He isn’t scrutinized by fans week in and week out. He doesn’t have to worry about keeping boosters and their money happy. On top of that, broadcasting isn’t a job that has ever made him unwell!
How is Meyer’s current lifestyle not preferable to the one where any spare moment you have is supposed to be spent on the phone with high school students trying to trick them into wanting to move to Lincoln, Nebraska?
To be completely fair, Pete Thamel of ESPN reported on Saturday that Meyer expects to stay at FOX. I’m sure Thamel is well-sourced and that is the coach’s intention, but I would bet it was his intention to stay at ESPN before Ohio State came calling and his intention to stay at FOX before the Jaguars came calling.
How many former coaches have to go back? How many guys have to leave the studio, return to the sideline and fall flat on their faces before Urban Meyer and others like him get it? Broadcasting is a pretty good gig. It may be a better gig than coaching.
Some guys were just born to compete. I get that. To quote Nigel the Pelican from Finding Nemo, “fish gotta swim, birds gotta eat,” and I will add to that coaches gotta coach. But there are so many cautionary tales.
Look at Gene Chizik. He won a national championship in 2010 as the head coach at Auburn. Now, I don’t think you will find anyone that will tell you Chiz was an awesome head coach. He had the good fortune of a quarterback named Cam Newton that he rode to a title. He was fired two years later.
Chizik landed at the SEC Network. He was really good on TV. Just like Meyer, he was good at explaining what was going on in a coach’s head in specific situations. He could explain scheme as clearly as he could motivation. It was a pleasure to watch.
For whatever reason, he decided to leave TV at the end of the last college football season to become Mack Brown’s defensive coordinator at the University of North Carolina. The Tar Heels are currently 3-0, but the defense has received some pretty dreadful reviews.
This isn’t just a college problem either. Look at Jon Gruden. Now, let me be totally honest with you. I am a Buccaneers fan. I appreciate that Gruden was willing to come in and give the Super Bowl XXXVII ring that rightfully belongs to Tony Dungy a good home, but I have zero delusions that he was actually a good coach.
I also did not think much of him as an analyst on Monday Night Football, but it was clear that ESPN did. It wasn’t just the huge paycheck that showed how much he was valued by the network. ESPN also created spots for him on TV and radio where he was a much more dynamic presence than in the booth.
There was no reason he had to go back to the sidelines, but in 2018 he did. That put him in a position to respond to emails from Bruce Allen and now both his coaching and broadcasting careers are over.
Those are two specifically bad situations. I think Urban Meyer and any other former coach on TV are smart enough to resist going back to be a coordinator and I think Gruden serves as enough of a cautionary tale that any of them would be more disciplined on email. But maybe the message to take away is bigger than worst-case scenarios.
Mark Jackson’s name was mentioned in connection to a few open jobs after the last NBA season. At the time, Andy Masur wrote a great piece for the site arguing that none of the jobs Jackson had been connected to were better than being part of the league’s top play-by-play team on TV.
Ego can ruin a good thing. Success in sports demands sacrifice. Success in broadcasting after you have had success in sports? Not so much.
Urban Meyer still has a seven-figure paycheck. I am sure he has plenty saved from his previous coaching gigs too. He and his wife are not “scraping by” by any means.
Life should be pretty good for him on the Big Noon Kickoff set. He should be done with sacrificing and ready to take advantage of the free time needed to actually enjoy life. I appreciate the competitive spirit, but I don’t understand how taking Nebraska to the Duke’s Mayo Bowl is better than what Urban Meyer has right now.