For Urban Meyer, success doesn't hinge on Tim Tebow or Travis Etienne. It's all about validating Trevor Lawrence.

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·5-min read

He hired, and then quickly unhired, a controversial strength and conditioning coach. He drafted a running back in the first round, and then had him take reps at wide receiver during a rookie minicamp.

And he has, as of Thursday morning, officially signed 33-year-old Tim Tebow ... to try out at tight end no less. It's a one-year deal that amounts to little more than a camp invite, but, hey, it's never a dull moment in Jacksonville these days.

If Urban Meyer bombs out as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the narrative is already set. These early decisions will be pointed to as proof that Meyer, an undeniable force at the college level where he won three national titles, wasn’t ready to adapt — or conform — to the professional game that deals with grown men, not college kids.

In truth, none of the above will significantly impact Meyer’s success or failure in the NFL. Most of it is offseason noise, something to fill the insatiable vacuum of interest in the game.

Only one decision really matters so far, and that one was non-controversial — drafting Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence first overall in April’s draft.

Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer speaks with Trevor Lawrence during rookie camp on May 15 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer speaks with Trevor Lawrence during rookie camp on May 15 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

If Lawrence turns out as good as scouts and personnel directors expect him to be, then Meyer has an excellent chance to achieve at least moderate, and perhaps pronounced, success. If nothing else, he’ll have time to grow into the job and learn from his missteps, the way every coach does.

If Lawrence isn’t that kind of player, then there is almost nothing Meyer can do about it. They aren’t called franchise quarterbacks for nothing. You either have one or you don’t. And unless there is an incredible supporting cast around him (Jacksonville doesn’t have one) then the QB can drag everything down with him.

Lawrence isn’t your typical No. 1 draft pick. After three brilliant seasons at Clemson, he has been hailed as the most sure-fire prospect since Andrew Luck arrived in Indianapolis in 2012 and compared to Peyton Manning in general.

Luck led the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons before injuries derailed his career and led to his retirement after seven years in the league. Manning reached four Super Bowls with Indianapolis and Denver, winning one in each spot, set a slew of records and will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.

Those are, to say the least, significant standards to live up to for Lawrence. If he comes close to either, though, the Jags are in business. And so is the coach who drafted him.

If Lawrence isn’t that good, if he’s just average or turns out to be an epic bust, then Meyer is doomed. No amount of minicamp reps for Travis Etienne at any position is going to matter. Neither is the backup tight end.

Meyer has walked into both a good and bad situation in Jacksonville. The good was owning a bunch of draft picks, including No. 1 overall, and $80-something million in salary cap room to overhaul the roster. The biggest problem is that it needed a complete overhaul in the first place.

The Jags went 1-15 last year and they earned every bit of it. They ranked 30th in points scored and 31st in points allowed. Their 15 losses were by an average of 12.9 points a game.

One player doesn’t turn things around. Luck, for example, joined a Colts team that went 2-14 due to an injury to Manning, but had made nine consecutive playoff appearances prior to that. The core of a winner was there. They just needed a QB.

Jacksonville needs a bit of everything, which is part of why heads turned across the NFL when Meyer spent his second first-round pick on Etienne, a dynamic talent also out of Clemson, but someone who plays a position that isn’t often given first-round value in the league. We’ll see who is correct here.

Great quarterback play can buy time to get there. Lawrence doesn’t have to duplicate Luck in the win column as a rookie (11-5). That is almost assuredly not happening. He needs to show All-Pro potential though.

Luck’s rookie stat line was just 54.1 percent completion percentage, 23 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Yet everyone knew the Colts had their guy for the future.

Meyer’s decisions so far aren’t fatal. Hiring Chris Doyle, a strength coach who left the University of Iowa following allegations of bullying and racist language, made little sense, of course. Meyer quickly reversed it and cited “the distraction it caused.”

Really though, strength and conditioning coaches aren’t that hard to find, and propping them up as difference makers is a college recruiting tactic. In the NFL, all the players relentlessly work out, usually with their own guy.

As for Etienne, hey, he could be great. Or maybe the Jags could have used another offensive lineman or defensive back or anything. What position he practiced at a minicamp is irrelevant.

Tebow? The contract he agreed to gives him a chance to try out for the Jags, but assures nothing. As such, this is more outside noise than anything else. The Jags can bring 90 players to training camp to produce a 53-man roster. One spot doesn't matter. And even if Tebow makes the team, we’re talking about a backup tight end/H-back. Maybe there's something there. Maybe not. If it's obvious he can't play, Meyer will dump his old college quarterback in a heartbeat. He isn't the sentimental type.

The media circus this is sure to create might actually be a positive … the less attention lasered in on Lawrence and his development the better, because, in the end, the quarterback is nearly everything in the NFL.

And that’s what Meyer should focus on (and likely is focusing on). If Lawrence is as good as advertised, then all of this will become forgotten footnotes, just some colorful stories from Urban Meyer’s first offseason in the NFL.

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