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It was fourth down on the 4-inch line, the Jacksonville Jaguars about as close to a touchdown as physically possible. They trailed Tennessee by 12 with 10:28 in the fourth quarter.
This was part of the good news for the embattled Urban Meyer. His team clearly hadn’t quit on him.
After a series of coach-created “distractions,” as Meyer dubbed it, the professional football players in Jacksonville were acting like professionals. They continued to battle. They still had a chance. Bang it in here and it’s a one-score game.
Meyer could have called for his athletic 6-foot-6 quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, to sneak it. Or, apparently, maybe not.
“He’s not quite comfortable with that yet,” Meyer said. “I know that might sound silly, but if you’ve never done it, it’s something that we need to keep [working on], so that we can make that call in that situation.”
Wait? What? Lawrence can’t run a QB sneak? A guy that big and strong and talented can’t do it five weeks into the season?
“No, I feel comfortable,” Lawrence said later. “Obviously, I haven’t run it in a game, but I feel comfortable. …QB sneak is something we can always get to and I feel comfortable with.”
OK then. Well, regardless, Meyer could have dialed up running back James Robinson. The 5-9, 220-pounder would finish with 149 yards and a touchdown on just 18 carries, a star performance that was a key reason the Jags were even in the game.
Instead, Jacksonville went with Carlos Hyde, a backup back who just happened to play for Meyer back at Ohio State. Why? Apparently it was all on offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who didn’t even have Robinson in the game and didn’t give him the ball once on a set of downs that started first-and-goal from the 5.
“I just met with Bev and we talked about it,” Meyer said. “I don’t micromanage who is in the game. James was running hard but so was Carlos. I’ve got to go find out if something was dinged up with James in that situation.”
Robinson didn’t mention being hurt postgame. He just shrugged at not being in the game.
“I just go with the call,” Robinson said. “Whatever is called, I go with it. I trust my teammates to get the job done.”
They didn’t, of course. After the Titans made a defensive line shift just before the snap that neither Lawrence nor anyone else adjusted to, Hyde got stuffed for a 3-yard loss.
That was essentially the game, Tennessee all but assured the 37-19 victory that would follow.
It was a disastrous result of a disastrous play; the wrong call to the wrong guy. But that’s on Bevell or Lawrence or whomever teaches QB sneaks in Jacksonville, apparently.
After the play, television cameras flashed to Meyer, who was bent over at the waist, his hands on his knees, wearing a look of pain to the point of vomiting. It’s classic Meyer — suggesting he takes losses harder than anyone else in football — that defeat is enough to push him to the brink of physical collapse.
Of course, Meyer was so broken up about last week’s loss in Cincinnati that he decided to skip the team plane home, went to visit his “grandkids” and wound up in an Ohio bar the next night with a young woman draped over him.
He looked like a guy who easily compartmentalized the Jaguars’ winless status and got on with the party. Perhaps it was reflected in the team’s performance this week.
“It is literally self-inflicted wounds,” defensive back Shaquill Griffin said. “We’ll be out there talking and then [due to] miscommunication someone is open by himself. Those are the things that can’t happen in football. They just can’t. They have to stop. Miscommunication has to stop.”
“We’re just really hurting ourselves,” Robinson said. “When we miss little details, those are the things that hurt us and that’s when teams go up on us.”
This game was at home, in downtown Jacksonville, so presumably, perhaps hopefully, Meyer left TIAA Bank Stadium and spent the night at his office trying to figure out how to beat Miami next week in London. He needs to embrace a different kind of grind.
There isn’t a moment to spare, not with a coach who still has never won an NFL game and a roster that has the looks of one that might not this season.
It’s not easy to tell if Jacksonville is just a bad team or it just has a bad coach. It may be both. When the coach and the quarterback can’t agree on whether he can score from four inches out, who knows what is happening.
“Our chemistry has to get better,” Griffin offered. “We have to believe in each other.”
Meyer was hired to change the culture and the competitiveness while developing Lawrence, the No. 1 overall draft pick last spring.
Lawrence has continued to show some promise: 22 of 33 for 273 yards and one touchdown and one interception.
Other than that, the team was the butt of more jokes this week than fans they drew to the game. Meyer apologized for being a distraction, but each time he spoke to the media this week his tall tales explaining his actions became additional distractions.
The Jaguars have now lost 20 consecutive games, including five this season with four of them by double digits.
Meyer told Denver coach Vic Fangio that coaching in the NFL is “like playing Alabama” every week. Sure, and the Jags aren't Texas A&M.
He explained one reason he stayed in Ohio last week was because he needed to “get out of Dodge” so he could “clear his head.” Yet, the season wasn’t even a quarter over.
London is calling, though, and if you need to get out of Dodge, or Duval, that’s a long way away to do it. Meyer needs a win. His team needs a win.
“Desperate for a win,” Meyer said.
At least the Jags haven’t quit on him. Yet. Give the players credit for that much.