- With their 37-19 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday the Jacksonville Jaguars have now lost 20 straight games.
- This is the second longest losing streak in NFL history. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost 26 straight games in 1976 and 1977.
- Much of the blame for the Jaguars’ struggles has fallen on head coach Urban Meyer who looks lost at the NFL level despite a very successful college coaching career.
The Jacksonville Jaguars opened the 2020 NFL regular season with a 27-20 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, September 13. They haven’t won since. Following a 1-15 season in 2020 they’ve lost five straight to open the 2021 season including a 37-19 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. That puts their losing streak at 20 games–the second longest in NFL history. They have a very realistic chance of tying or breaking the all time record for most consecutive losses set by the 1976 and 1977 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The expansion Bucs went 0-14 in 1976 and lost their first 12 games in 1977 before tasting victory for a run of 26 straight losses.
There’s no guarantee that the situation won’t get worse before it gets better in Jacksonville. They’ve got a potentially elite quarterback to build around in former Clemson starter Trevor Lawrence but he’s spent most of the 2021 season running for his life behind a porous offensive line. That he’s only been sacked eight times speaks volumes about his evasiveness and ability to get rid of the football. The defense isn’t any better which is why the Jags have a NFL worst -10 turnover ratio. Thirteen of their twenty losses have been by double digits. They’re 1-4 against the spread this year after a reasonable 7-9 ATS last year. As late as November 11, 2020, the Jaguars had a winning record against the spread (5-4 ATS) but covered just 2 of their final 7 games. That puts their current ATS run at 3-11 against the number.
Lawrence has all of the tools necessary for success as a NFL quarterback except a very important one–a capable head coach. The Jags’ decision to hire longtime college coach Urban Meyer for his first NFL gig is looking more and more like an unmitigated disaster. His top assistant is another NFL debutante–Charlie Strong was at one point a rising star in the college ranks. Under head coach Steve Spurrier, he transformed the University of South Carolina’s defense into a ferocious unit. He spent four years at South Carolina before heading to the University of Florida where he initially worked under Ron Zook until he was fired. The following season, Urban Meyer took over and retained Strong–the only assistant from Zook’s staff not given his walking papers. Strong eventually got a shot as head coach and started off well with a 37-15 record in four seasons at Louisville. Since then, he’s been a .500 college coach going 16-21 in three seasons at Texas and 21-16 in three seasons at South Florida. He spent the 2021 season as a defensive analyst at Alabama. His official title in Jacksonville is ‘Assistant Head Coach/Inside Linebackers Coach’.
Meyer’s entire coaching staff is questionable. The defensive coordinator is Joe Cullen–he’s got a long resume as a NFL assistant but has never been responsible for an entire defensive unit. His offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has at one point in fairly high demand but that won’t be the case after he leaves the Jacksonville grease fire. Meyer’s most dubious assistant coaching hire was Chris Doyle as strength coach. Doyle had been forced out after 20 years at the University of Iowa after a lawsuit accused him of bullying and discrimination. An outside law firm determined that the program’s rules “perpetuated racial and culture biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity”, and allowed coaches to demean players without consequence. Not surprisingly, when Meyer hired Doyle there was an immediate backlash to which the head coach gave this downright ‘Trump-eque’ response:
“I feel great about the hire, about his expertise at that position. I vet everyone on our staff, and like I said, the relationship goes back close to 20 years and a lot of hard questions asked, a lot of vetting involved with all our staff. We did a very good job vetting that one.”
Doyle resigned the following day. Meyer’s most impressive move in his short time at the Jags’ helm was the ersatz ‘controversy’ over him partying–and I use that term loosely–with a woman not his wife at an Ohio restaurant he owns. It was probably the least erotic example of ‘dirty dancing’ in history but the footage quickly went viral:
Meyer initially made a feeble defense of his actions before he was called on the carpet by team owner Shad Khan:
I have addressed this matter with Urban. Specifics of our conversation will be held in confidence. What I will say is his conduct last weekend was inexcusable.”
“I appreciate Urban’s remorse, which I believe is sincere. Now, he must regain our trust and respect. That will require a personal commitment from Urban to everyone who supports, represents or plays for our team. I am confident he will deliver.”
As ugly as this incident was for Meyer, the biggest problem is one that will be much more difficult to fix–he doesn’t have a clue about coaching at the NFL level. His inability to communicate with professional athletes was already a story before the ‘bar dancing’ situation. Since then?
Meyer’s poor coaching continued on Sunday. In the fourth quarter, the Jags had the ball close to the goal line down by 12. Instead of doing the obvious thing–a quarterback sneak for Trevor Lawrence–he ran a handoff to running back Carlos Hyde who was stuffed. The team came away empty and after the game Meyer suggested that QB Lawrence wasn’t up to the task of running a sneak:
No one bought it when he said it. Nothing says ‘leadership’ like a head coach throwing his rookie quarterback under the proverbial bus instead of just taking the blame for a play call that didn’t work. Trevor Lawrence played his college ball at a small South Carolina school called ‘Clemson’ and won a national championship as a true freshman. He’s still learning the NFL game but he’s pretty much oozed poise since he first stepped on the field in a Tiger uniform. Lawrence had too much class to throw his coach back under the bus but made it clear that he wouldn’t have had an issue trying to run a sneak:
“No. I feel comfortable. Obviously I haven’t run it in a game, but I feel comfortable… But no, a QB sneak is something we can all get to and I feel comfortable with.”
NBC Sports‘ Peter King gave Meyer this ‘vote of confidence’–at least he got props for taking Trevor Lawrence with the Jags’ first overall pick:
Well, look on the bright side. Meyer did draft Trevor Lawrence. (It was one of the easiest draft choices in recent history.)
Simply put, the hiring of Meyer is on the way to being a colossal mistake. He can change the current narrative by winning, and by being an adult. As for Meyer’s actions 10 nights ago: He’s in a bar in Columbus, where he’s still revered by many after winning the 2014 national championship at Ohio State. He’s having his picture taken by some fans. For anyone in the public sphere to think it’s okay, whether there’s a camera in plain sight or not, to have a woman grinding on him is incredibly poor judgment. It might make his wife want to divorce him, but it is not fireable. It is crass and tone-deaf and idiotic, however.
Lawrence summed up the team’s mentality about the 20 game losing streak and sounded more like a NFL head coach than Meyer:
“We don’t really talk about that [losing streak]. I don’t think that’s good to talk about that. You can’t get desperate. You’ve got to just keep going to work. We’re going to win some games. We’re going to turn it around, and 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. We’re going to turn this thing around. It’s going to be a lot of fun when we do. We want to win. All the guys. We’ve got so many hard workers and everyone’s so invested. It’s not a team where you’ve got guys that aren’t really committed or don’t care. Everyone’s all-in, so it’ll come.”
Meyer, on the other hand, served up this inscrutable assortment of cliches and platitudes:
”I see a group of warriors. I see a group of players that I love to death. I see a group of players that are spilling it on the field and we’re not getting it. We’re not closing it out.”
At this point, it’s hard to see Meyer making it until the end of the season. He’d have to dramatically turn things around and I’m not sure he has it in him–let alone the dubious state of his offensive and defensive lines. It’s insane how quickly Meyer ran this thing into the ground. When BetOnline.ag released their ‘First NFL Coach to Be Fired’ odds in late June, Meyer was +5000. There were only five coaches given longer odds to be pink-slipped: Kevin Stefanski (+100000), Sean McDermott (+10000), Bill Belichick (+25000), Bruce Arians (+25000) and Andy Reid (+50000). Today, the thought of mentioning Meyer among this elite group of coaches is unfathomable. On September 14, his price had dropped to +450 making him the second favorite ‘first to be fired’ coach behind Matt Nagy (+400). Depending on how individual sportsbooks worded this prop Meyer might have been ‘let off the hook’ by Jon Gruden’s resignation as head coach of the Raiders.
The Jaguars have one of their best opportunities to get a win coming up on Sunday as they play the Miami Dolphins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. It’s still White Hart Lane to me. That might be true in theory, but they’re facing a Dolphins’ team that has lost four straight and is pretty desperate for a victory themselves. Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores has called out the team’s defense after Sunday’s embarrassing 45-17 loss to Tampa Bay. It’s difficult to see Miami phoning this one in. After this game, the Jaguars have a bye week before playing at Seattle, home against Buffalo, at Indianapolis, home against San Francisco and Atlanta followed by road games at the LA Rams and Tennessee. If they don’t get a win out of this scheduling segment they’ll break the Tampa Bay Bucs’ record for consecutive losses.