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Couch: Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer already in need of a mid-major cupcake

Op-ed
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

I don't know how to describe the look on Urban Meyer's face. It wasn't anger, exactly, or 4 a.m.-tired. There was too much focus for that. As he watched his new quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, and his new team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, fail Monday night, Meyer's face was somewhere in the family of forlorn, defined as pitifully sad and abandoned or lonely.

The NFL actually had a marquee preseason game, with Meyer/Lawrence facing the New Orleans Saints and their QB combatants Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill.

The big story was Winston. At least that's what everyone's saying. He completed nine of 10 passes in one quarter and had a nearly perfect passer rating. He was hailed for his consistency and his two extremely lucky – my words – deep touchdown passes to Marquez Callaway, who made miracle catches against what could end up being one of history's worst defenses.

I didn't think Winston's play was as exciting as all the analysts thought. He was the first pick in the 2015 draft and should be better by now. His career has been spectacular, as in following a spectacular play with a spectacularly stupid one. And both of his touchdowns Monday went over 40 yards in the air and could have gone either way.

In my view, Meyer was the actual story. Meyer's face, actually, and how he kept shaking his head in disbelief and dismay.

I wonder if he's starting to realize what he has gotten himself into.

The Jaguars lost 23-21 Monday, but it was 23-3 going into the fourth quarter. Jacksonville made a comeback against New Orleans' deepest backups. The Jaguars are now 0-2 in preseason, if anyone's counting.

And Meyer surely is. He is not used to this. In seven seasons at Ohio State, he lost nine games. He'll top that number by Christmas, maybe Thanksgiving. We've seen Meyer's career at Florida and then Ohio State, taking both of them to the top.

But he also left both jobs in bad health. Look it up on YouTube: You can see him taking a knee on the sideline or bent over at the waist trying to catch his breath and get rid of a crushing headache.

The stress showed up in his physical health, usually in the biggest games. Now it might be happening in preseason.

We've seen young quarterbacks, such as Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, come into the NFL lately and be a success quickly. The Jaguars promised to give Meyer new facilities and the support he needs.

Looking at that team Monday, and watching Lawrence, this isn't going to be a quick turnaround.

The Saints came after Lawrence, and they kept pounding him. Jacksonville's offensive line couldn't block for the run or the pass. The Jaguars averaged 2.25 yards per rush and didn't pick up a first down on their first four possessions.

When you have a young quarterback who needs developing, you like to rely on quick passes or the running game for protection. Lawrence will not be protected at all.

Traditionally people say that quarterbacks take a while to adjust to the speed of the NFL. But Lawrence isn't fighting the speed. His offensive line is like a broken dam.

When he was at Clemson, his line could hold back everyone. His receivers were running open downfield, easy for Lawrence to hit.

It's not like that any more. The only time Lawrence had any success Monday was in the two-minute offense, which allowed him to get the ball off fast enough to avoid being hit.

Jacksonville was 1-15 last year, and Meyer and Lawrence aren't going to work miracles immediately.

It's going to be a grind for years. Even then, Lawrence might not pan out any more than Winston has. Meyer might melt down.

"I'm looking for guys who show that spark, show that energy," Meyer said after the game.

Years ago I went to an Ohio State-Purdue game, and the Buckeyes were scoring points about as fast as I could count them. It was so easy for Meyer and not about any genius schemes. He simply had the far better players.

How many games did Meyer win like that? And yet he broke down twice back then and had to leave.

Every game will matter now. Every game will be challenge, and he's the one playing with the Purdue-level roster.

You'd think that two games into his first preseason, Meyer wouldn't already have that look on his face, dropping his head or shaking it in disbelief.

In 17 years as a college coach, Meyer averaged fewer than two losses per season. Two losses in preseason already have him looking like a man desperate to face Middle Tennessee State.
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