Urban Meyer’s record at the college level speaks for itself. In 17 years at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State, the coach went 187-32. Meyer is also a three-time national championship winner, and he’s one of three coaches with at least 100 wins to have a winning percentage at .854 or above.
Meyer, who left the Buckeyes after the 2018 season, was hired Thursday as the new Jacksonville Jaguars coach. He’ll have the No. 1 pick in the draft — likely Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence — as well as 10 other draft picks. The Jaguars have ample cap space, which should allow Meyer room to build a team in his vision.
That sounds like a positive situation for Meyer to be in, but there’s no guarantee the 56-year-old will find success at the next level. Other college coaches have made the leap to the professional game in the past. And while some have worked out, the move is anything but a sure thing.
Let’s take a look at some of the coaches who have gone down this road before, starting with Alabama’s Nick Saban. Saban just secured his seventh national title this week — and sixth with the Crimson Tide — and has 256 college wins to his name.
But before Saban turned Alabama into what seems to be an unstoppable juggernaut, he coached the Miami Dolphins. And while that two-season stint wasn’t terrible, the 15-17 record didn’t amount to much.
There’s also Steve Spurrier, the long-time Florida and South Carolina coach. He amassed 228 wins in college, but he spent time leading the Washington Football Team, too.
That gig was riddled with issues, mainly surrounding owner Daniel Snyder and the lack of control Spurrier had over the team he coached. Spurrier resigned two years into his five-year deal, finishing 12-20 at the helm.
“The owner and the personnel guys, they picked the team,” Spurrier said in 2015 while on David Feherty’s Golf Channel interview program. “I couldn’t even pick the quarterback the second year. So I knew it wasn’t going to work, but that’s okay. I probably didn’t do a very good job, and the situation wasn’t what I was looking for, so it was time to move on.”
But there are instances in which college coaches thrive at the next level, and the most recent success story is Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. Carroll had two NFL head coaching stints before heading to USC — he was with the New York Jets in 1994 and the New England Patriots between 1997 and 1999.
In those two jobs, Carroll finished 33-31. But once he took over at USC, Carroll returned the program to prominence. The Trojans won a national title — and had another later stripped due to NCAA sanctions — and he finished with a 97-19 record while there.
Carroll departed USC and took over the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, and a decade later, Carroll has one Super Bowl title and a 112-63 record.
Before Carroll showed the jump between levels was possible to land, Jimmy Johnson made a successful move from college to the pros. After Johnson won a title with the University of Miami, he accepted the Cowboys head coaching position and led Dallas to two Super Bowls in the 1992 and 1993 seasons.
So there’s precedent laying in front of Meyer that transitioning from coaching in college to the NFL can work. Carroll and Johnson — as well as Dennis Green, Barry Switzer and Steve Mariucci — prove success can be found.
But there are the cautionary tales, too, including Saban and Spurrier and numerous others. Meyer will have his work cut out for him with Jacksonville, but he will also have plenty of draft picks and money to spend. Which side Meyer will end up on remains to be seen.
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