Is Urban Meyer Going to Take the USC Job?

In my post about the Clay Helton firing, I wrote that USC was foolish for waiting this long to fire Clay Helton when Urban Meyer has been on the market since January of 2019. Obviously the moment he stepped down at Ohio State, he became the #1 head coaching candidate. Now he probably wanted to take some time away from coaching and not just jump right into a new situation, so there was never really a chance USC could’ve hired him in early 2019. But they could’ve gone after him in early 2020.

Maybe they did and he said no. I have no clue.

And maybe USC offered him the job early this year and he turned them down to take the Jags job. Again, I have no idea. I’m just speculating.

But at any rate, now Urban Meyer is in the NFL, having just finished his first game as head coach of the Jaguars. And now USC decides to fire Clay Helton–after Meyer is off the market.

Or is he?

The second the Helton news broke, social media began speculating about Urban Meyer taking the USC job. Most of it was in jest, apparently People In The Know are taking the idea seriously.

Mike Lombardi says he’s hearing some things from some people:

Today he went on the Pat McAfee show and expanded on his tweet.

He said he got a text from someone he knows and trusts that said “Urban to USC.” At first, Lombardi says, he didn’t believe it, but then the guywho texted him said, “Wanna bet?” indicating a high degree of confidence.

Lombardi said the source was from Columbus, and that the guy added that “pro football might not be sitting well with Urban.” As in Urban Meyer feels like he made a mistake going to the NFL and already wants out.

Lombardi then went on to talk about the timing of the Helton firing. Not only was it after USC’s ugly blowout loss to Stanford, but it was also after the Jaguars’ ugly 37-21 loss to the Texans.

Why, Lombardi asked, would USC pull the plug on Helton just two games into the season instead of firing him in the offseason? Lombardi said it made “no sense” given that there’s still plenty of time to turn things around, and that “there’s gotta be more to this.”

In other words, Helton might not have just gotten fired for the Stanford loss. He might have gotten fired because Urban communicated to USC that he was open to taking the job.

It would be a pretty extraordinary move for Meyer to bail on the Jaguars not even a year into his tenure, and after just one game. But hey, if he feels like he made a mistake in going to the NFL, and his heart’s not in it, then it’s almost obligatory that he steps down. You can’t coach an NFL team half-assed.

When Meyer was hired by the Jaguars, I wrote that I thought he would succeed there because, first and foremost, he’s a winner and a leader. But I’ll admit that throughout his entire career, anytime any Urban Meyer NFL rumors came up, I was always skeptical. I just have never seen Urban Meyer as an NFL-type guy.

Still, though, it would be shocking if he gave up this quickly. I mean, he’s been a college coach since the mid-1980s. That’s over 30 years. And he’s never worked in the NFL before. Obviously there’s going to be an adjustment period there. New situations and new jobs always take some getting used-to and settling in. It’s hard to believe a guy as competitive as Urban Meyer would throw in the towel and admit defeat this quickly.

Even though Nick Saban didn’t work out in the NFL, he still gave it two years.

The one example that comes to mind here if indeed Urban is ready to bolt back to the college ranks is Bobby Petrino, who, just six months after signing a 10-year contract with Louisville, left for the NFL to coach the Atlanta Falcons, but then, after just 13 games with the Falcons, resigned and went back to college, taking the Arkansas head coaching position.

Petrino got massive blowback for double-crossing both Louisville and the Falcons in a span of two months. Now, in his defense, when he took the Falcons job in 2007, he thought he was going to have Michael Vick as his QB, but then during his first training camp, the dogfighting news about Vick broke. So that probably played a big role in why Petrino got cold feet. But Petrino also turned out to be a pretty big scumbag (remember when he crashed his motorcycle in 2012, said he was by himself, but then later admitted that his mistress was with him–his mistress who he had also given a job with the Arkansas athletic department?)

Still, though, Petrino at least stuck around for 13 games. We’re talking now about Urban Meyer potentially being done with the NFL after one game. And Urban Meyer has Trevor Lawrence as his QB, not Joey Harrington like Petrino had.

There are a few other examples of short-tenured NFL coaches. Obvously there’s the infamous story of Bill Belichick being the head coach of the New York Jets for one day before announcing his resignation to take the Patriots head coaching job.

Then you have Lou Holtz, who moved from college to the NFL, but only lasted 13 games as head coach of the Jets before resigning, saying “God did not put Lou Holtz on this earth to coach in the pros.” He then went on to coach Arkansas, interestingly enough, and then Notre Dame, where he had a ton of success.

(Why did both Petrino and Holtz only last 13 games? Probably because that’s right around the time the college football season ends and head coaching vacancies open up. Why did both Petrino and Holtz bolt the NFL to coach Arkansas? That’s probably just a coincidence.)

So it’s not as if Urban Meyer won’t ever recover if he pulls a Bobby Petrino. If he starts winning big at USC–and more than likely, he will–then all this will be largely forgotten, other than in Jacksonville.

Okay, then: will this actually happen? Will Urban Meyer give up on the Jaguars not even a full season in and bolt for USC?

I don’t know. It seems crazy, but then again crazy things happen. Urban Meyer has a reputation as being a flaky kinda guy. And things don’t appear to be going well in Jacksonville. If there’s already chatter about him giving up this quickly, that can’t be a good sign, can it?

I could see it happening. I’m a person who tends to believe where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Not always, but usually. Obviously not all rumors turn out to be true, so I’m not going to act like this is happening just because someone with a good reputation said it might be happening.

But if there’s any coach out there I could see doing this, it’s Urban Meyer…

Austin Frank

Sports blogger

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