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Um, is it okay to kick Urban Meyer when he’s down?

John Romano | The Jaguars coach hastened his firing after being accused of kicking a player, but this end seemed inevitable given the circumstances.
He lasted less than a season in the NFL, and yet this sad portrait of Urban Meyer will forever be a part of his coaching legacy.
He lasted less than a season in the NFL, and yet this sad portrait of Urban Meyer will forever be a part of his coaching legacy. [ GARY MCCULLOUGH | AP ]
Published Dec. 16, 2021|Updated Dec. 16, 2021

On another day, with another coach, this would seem horribly sad. In another setting, with another personality, this would appear unduly harsh.

Instead, today, with Urban Meyer, this somehow feels … poetic.

The Jaguars ensured Meyer’s place in coaching infamy Thursday morning when they fired him just hours after Rick Stroud detailed accusations in the Tampa Bay Times that the Jacksonville coach had kicked former player Josh Lambo.

And what’s so remarkable is that it doesn’t seem terribly shocking.

If there was a yearbook for NFL coaches, Meyer would have been voted Most Likely to Implode. He was wound that tightly, and his reputation was that precarious.

Don’t get me wrong, the man was a legend as a college coach. He won wherever he went, including two national titles at Florida, one at Ohio State and had a 12-0 season at Utah. You don’t leave a trail of accomplishments that wide without being smart, focused and driven.

The problem is Meyer had an equally long track record of rubbing people the wrong way.

He did what he wanted, when he wanted and didn’t much care about anyone who got in his way. That’s why Thursday morning’s news felt more like comeuppance than disappointment.

I once described Meyer as having all the appeal of a televangelist. It was a creepy mix of arrogance, intensity and false piety that would make a gameshow host seem sincere.

And it seemed to work much better in a college setting where the players were more easily controlled, and the boosters were just happy to stand in the man’s presence.

None of this means we should be pouring Gatorade over Meyer’s grave today. No matter how distasteful his persona, it’s no trivial matter to see a career go up in flames. But this should be a cautionary tale for those who believe winning trumps honesty, integrity and common decency.

To me, the most intriguing part of Stroud’s story was that it was Jacksonville’s former placekicker who accused Meyer of physical intimidation. Not a linebacker. Not an offensive lineman. Not a player bigger, stronger and potentially meaner than the 57-year-old coach.

No, Meyer chose a specialist. Almost as if he was pushing a nerd into a locker in the high school gym. And that’s sort of how Lambo described it. He told Stroud he was speaking out because the world needs to stand up to bullies.

Now, to be honest, I didn’t expect Meyer’s tenure in Jacksonville to turn out this way. At least not this brutally quick. I thought he would flame out before ever winning big, but that his gung-ho style might initially lead to success for a franchise that lacked direction.

Instead, he didn’t even last a season. His team wasn’t winning and wasn’t improving. And Lambo was not the first player to express unhappiness. There were stories that the man in charge was quick to shift blame to players and assistant coaches for Jacksonville’s train wreck of a season.

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Meyer’s near-catatonic stare when shaking the hand of former colleague Mike Vrabel after losing to Tennessee last week would make a psychiatrist cringe.

In the end, the Lambo story did not get Meyer fired. He was heading in that direction almost from the time he was hired. A coach can sometimes survive scandal. He can occasionally survive losing. But when you combine scandal, losing and an abrasive personality, the result is inevitable.

And so this is Meyer’s legacy. His career up until 2021 was worthy of Hall of Fame consideration, but he will forever carry the baggage of what happened in Jacksonville.

He’s certainly not the first college coach to have bombed in the NFL, although the circumstances of his departure have probably made him the most spectacular.

So move over, Lou Holtz.

Take a seat, Steve Spurrier.

Adios, Bobby Petrino.

There’s a new leader in the pantheon of NFL coaching busts. If you look at it that way, Meyer has finished on top again.

John Romano can be reached at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.

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