Bad Coaching in the NFL: Urban Meyer and bad, bad hires


We’ve seen a litany of teams hire their next NFL head coaches, and here at C’mon Coach, we’re already concerned for some of them.

In this week’s edition of C’mon Coach, we look into our crystal ball to see precisely how the Urban Meyer era will go for the Jacksonville Jaguars, try to determine just why the Los Angeles Chargers left Brian Daboll at the altar for someone named Brandon Staley, and provide whiparound coverage of the latest comings and goings among the coaching ranks.

But first, let’s talk about race, diversity and hiring practices! That’s sure to go over well.

Aunt Ethel vs. The Rooney Rule

As the coaching carousel turns in an all-too familiar direction, it’s important to recognize the NFL’s hivemind isn’t racist the way your nutty Uncle Carmine is racist. The NFL’s hivemind is racist the way your sweet Aunt Ethel is racist.

Uncle Carmine believes the COVID vaccine contains tracking software. He donated $20 last summer to save the statue of Confederate General Beauregard Surrendermuffin in your town square. Few NFL decision-makers think like Uncle Carmine, because it’s nearly impossible to be that myopic and regressive while successfully running a high-profile multi-million dollar business. Even if you inherited that business from daddy, it’s essentially a turnkey money factory and you have the most inspirational life coach/faith healer in the world at your side.

Aunt Ethel, on the other hand, absolutely loves and respects many very specific people of color, like the deacon and his family and the late, great Luther Vandross. But Aunt Ethel and all her Facebook friends still expect the world to look and sound the way it still looks and sounds on Me-TV and get a little uncomfortable when it does not.

C’mon, Coach isn’t singling out any organization (we swear!) or individual coaching hire. We know some extremely progressive folks near the top of NFL org. charts, and it’s not fair to rip every new head-coaching hire for not being Eric Bieniemy. We’re talking about the big picture, the dreaded implicit bias, the undertow that tends to sweep one group of coaching/executive candidates safely to the boardwalk funnel cake stand and the other group out to sea.

Most NFL owners, team presidents and high-ranking decision makers are of the demographic that likes to watch network television crime procedurals. And all network television crime procedurals are essentially the same.

The hero is almost always a white guy, usually a former heartthrob from the 1980s or ’90s, now charmingly leathered and silvered, playing a cop/lawyer/first responder/leader of a covert strike team that is not-at-all shady.

His partner? Often a no-nonsense black guy with a tight haircut. Throw in a comic relief “tech expert” who is a quirky goth woman/some other ethnicity/openly-gay-with-unseen-partner and you have “diversity” that Aunt Ethel can enjoy (she had a serious thing for the hero back in ‘87) and even Uncle Carmine cannot grumble too much about.

Now look at the NFL’s all-too-typical hiring cycle (like this one). Young white coaches and executives with outstanding hair leap to the top of the list. Candidates of color tend to bottleneck at defensive coordinator or as the majordomos to offensive masterminds: the NFL’s version of the “acceptable” tough-talking buddy-cop sidekick.

We inevitably hear through the grapevine that some up-and-comer “blew away the interview” while someone else who has been waiting years for a promotion “interviewed poorly.” Think about what those phrases mean. What does it mean to be exactly who the owner was looking for?

What do these wealthy, powerful, mostly-white mostly-men respect, value and consider the prerequisites for leadership? How many of them do you think still take all over their social cues from CSI: Piscataway? Remember that many of these decision makers still claim to be able to judge a young man’s character by looking him in the eye.

Of course coaches of color break through occasionally, as new New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh has in this hiring cycle. Aunt Ethel hates discrimination, after all. It’s just, you know, some men look and sound like executives or leaders, and some don’t, right?

So given two candidates with similar qualifications, or even one candidate with overwhelming qualifications and another who had a great year, if one candidate has really good diction and “carries himself a certain way” and the other doesn’t, hey, that has nothing to with race, right? Right?

Times are changing. Queen Latifah is the star of a crime procedural now. But the NFL hivemind is insulated and insular. It policies itself with the Rooney Rule the way C’mon Coach strictly watches our calories: we truly value nutrition, but today we are stress eating, tomorrow is a special occasion and Friday is cheat day.

A league full of men still yammering about “establishing the run” isn’t suddenly going to become hip to its own implicit bias and figure out that it’s not hiring from the best applicants, but from the applicants that look the most like the folks at the top.

Perhaps Saleh won’t be the only head coach of color hired by the time you read this. Perhaps another general manager or decision maker of color will be hired, too. But real change will only come when the NFL hivemind stops seeing the world through Aunt Ethel’s bifocals and starts realizing that embracing diversity isn’t just good for society, but can help teams win, too.

Urban Meyer’s Future Imperfect

Now that Urban Meyer is officially the new head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, C’mon Coach used our uncanny psychic powers to determine how his entire NFL coaching career will unfold:

Next three weeks: Meyer stacks his coaching staff and front office with buddies and loyalists who have lots of NFL experience, a little of it actually worthwhile. Each hire is hailed as a shrewd choice who will aid Meyer’s transition to the NFL. Scott Linehan, your basic Brand X knockaround coordinator last seen in the NFL getting fired from Jason Garrett’s Cowboys staff, will be framed as a source of deep wisdom to rival Yoda.

Draft and free agency: The Jaguars use the top-overall pick on Trevor Lawrence and their extra first and second-round picks on other top prospects while spending their league-high $73 million in cap space on a big name or two.

They will win the offseason for the fifth time since 2010! So many fluffy “OMG I can’t wait to watch the Jaguars offense” blogs will be written that WordPress headquarters will actually catch fire.

The 2021 season: Meyer’s Jaguars go 7-9 (or 7-10 if the schedule expands) and compete for the Wild Card until mid-November. Lawrence has Justin Herbert’s rookie season. Every somewhat-interesting play design gets turned into a GIF and blasted across Twitter as a sign of Meyer’s genius (see Rhule, Matt and Brady, Joe).

Meyer gets Coach of the Year hype from his many fanboys among C’mon Coach’s colleagues. The Jaguars become fashionable 2022 Super Bowl sleepers. Everyone politely ignores the fact that they lost their final three games by a combined 56 points.

February, 2022: Meyer learns for the first time that the salary cap really is a thing and that he cannot keep all of his in-house veterans.

April, 2022: Meyer learns for the first time he doesn’t always get four draft picks among the first 50 and can’t attract rookies to the Jaguars by visiting their homes and regaling their parents with Tim Tebow stories.

May, 2022: Meyer learns for the first time that the NFLPA is very serious about the length and nature of offseason practices, and will bury him in grievance paperwork if he treats the players like a bunch of 18 year olds.

June, 2022: Convenient leaks about a “culture problem” in the Jaguars locker room start to spring from the folks who called Meyer a Coach of the Year candidate in 2021.

September, 2022: The Jaguars start out 1-3.

October, 2022: Linehan fired.

November, 2022: There are reports that Jaguars players are unhappy with Meyer and that Meyer is unhappy with Jaguars players, management, etc. Meanwhile, three plum collegiate jobs open up.

December, 2022: Meyer resigns with two games left via text message to Jaguars owner Shahid Khan. “It’s not working out. It’s not u it’s me. Sorry. Bye. Three crying emojis.”

New Years Day, 2023: Florida State announces Meyer as their new head coach. Jaguars schedule an interview with Titans passing game coordinator Bill O’Brien.

Brandon Who???

The Los Angeles Chargers announced the hiring of 38-year old Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley as their new head coach on Sunday.

Staley marks the Mini McVay Factory’s first foray into defensive models: Staley was a coordinator at minor-to-midmajor college programs like John Carroll University and James Madison through the 2016 season, when he rocketed up the NFL coaching ranks on Vic Fangio’s Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos staffs, joining Sean McVay’s staff as Wade Phillips’ replacement this year.

Staley’s qualifications speak for themselves (they’re almost a parody of the Next McVay mentality), but the big story out of the Chargers insignificantly-tiny corner of Los Angeles is that the team was expected to hire Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll as their head coach as of Saturday.

And Daboll went to the same high school as Chargers general manager Tom Telesco: you don’t get much more “qualified” than that in the NFL unless your last name is Schottenheimer!

So what happened? C’mon Coach has no inside information (no one knows actually anyone within the Chargers organization or really cares about them), but a few theories:

  • The Chargers figured out Daboll isn’t that great a candidate. Daboll has been an NFL offensive coordinator for four teams across seven seasons, but the 2020 Bills are his first offense to finish in the top 20 in yards. Maybe the Chargers realized that they were buying high on a guy who had one hot year. Then again, maybe not, since they switched to an inexperienced dude whose most established qualification is telling Aaron Donald to “go get ‘em.
  • The Chargers did not want to wait for the Bills to be eliminated from the playoffs. It’s important to get that two-week jump on filling out your coaching staff and creating a long-range plan, especially for an organization so excellent at planning that they spent two years playing home games on the bocce lawn behind a microbrewery.
  • Daboll wanted too much money. Daboll will likely have other suitors and may be content to bide his time with a stable organization and perhaps hit the head coaching market again in 2022 with a Super Bowl ring on his finger. Staley is a relative unknown on a team about to be torn to shreds by the salary cap, making him more eager to jump on the first offer. And Chargers owner Dean Spanos is the type who doesn’t tip the DoorDash kid.

Money is by far the most likely reason why the Chargers chose Staley over Daboll. It’s also the one reason you are least likely to hear.

Coaching Carousel Quick Hitters

Steelers replace offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner with quarterbacks coach Matt Canada. The Steelers idea of sweeping change is ordering creamy Italian dressing instead of ranch dressing on their iceberg lettuce side salad.

Jets head coach Robert Saleh names Mile LaFleur as his offensive coordinator. LaFleur tried to move into Dowell Loggains’ old office, only to discover Loggains did not have an office, just some pillows, a laptop charger and a fidget spinner on the floor of Adam Gase’s office.

49ers replace LaFleur with running-game coordinator Mike McDaniel as their offensive coordinator. Oh no, are we running out of Shanhans, LaFleurs and Taylors? Quick: someone make more!

Eagles conduct all-day interview with Josh McDaniels. Are we 100 percent certain this was an interview and not a hostage situation?

University of Tennessee fired head coach Jeremy Pruitt amidst an investigation of recruiting violations. Adam Gase seen paratrooping onto Tennessee’s campus with a Letter of Marque from Peyton Manning.