Sunday, December 26, 2021

Jaguars, Turning The Page

 BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When the Jacksonville Jaguars hired former Coach Urban Meyer on January 14, 2021 to turnaround the franchise misfortunes, there was excitement especially with the future arrival of Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence coming to town.

Meyer also drafted Lawrence’s running back Travis Etienne but unfortunately, he sustained a season ending injury therefore, didn’t play a down in his rookie campaign.

On Sunday, December 19, 2021, I finally had a chance to cover My first Jaguars game of the season vs the Houston Texans.

What should have happened was a meeting between two first year coaches, Urban Meyer vs David Culley.

What also should have occurred was a matchup featuring two former Clemson iconic QB’s, Lawrence vs DeShaun Watson. 

Due to off the field issues, Watson hasn’t played a down for the Texans in 2021.

But what we saw should have been Meyer roaming the sidelines.

Instead, Meyer was fired by Jacksonville for cause due to a myriad of incidents throughout his short tenure with the Jaguars.

There was the controversial hiring of former Iowa Coach Chris Doyle who left after one day after a track record with bullying and racism. 

Meyer kicked his kicker Josh Lambo during stretching exercises in training camp.

There were numerous feuds with players and coaches.

Lawrence called out Meyer for not using running back James Robinson citing the fact that the best players should be on the field.

But the biggest incident and undoubtedly the most embarrassing was when in early October, a video appeared to show Meyer touching a women who wasn’t not his wife while he was at his Columbus Area Restaurant. An incident that was a result of Meyer not flying home with his team following a 24-21 road loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday, September 30, 2021.

When you add up all of Meyer’s mistakes, you could hardly blame Jaguars Owner Shad Khan for ridding himself of all the drama that was created!

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During the week, on the Sports Exchange, Myself, Greg Fuchs, Rick Curti and Mel Farr Jr. discussed whether Meyer should ever get another coaching job. 

The link is included in this story and we encourage you to watch the show as everyone of us gave strong points of view about the coach who was ridiculed badly throughout the week on ESPN.

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Meyer was replaced Offensive Coordinator Derrell Bevel as interim coach. Bevell is no stranger to this roles because for the second straight season he’s in this situation.

A year ago, Bevell replaced Matt Patricia as the Detroit Lions interim coach.

Bevell calmed the Lions ship down and won is coaching debut defeating the Chicago Bears 34-30 on December 6, 2020. Bevell finished his tenure in Detroit with a 1-4 mark.

With a chance to audition for the Jaguars job, how did Bevell do against the Texas?

Not very good as Houston came away with a 30-16 win and the Texans have won eight straight games against Jacksonville. The Texans snapped a three game losing streak.

The Texans QB we did see was Davis Mills, who won for the first time in eight starts. The the rookie out of Stanford, who was drafted in the third round, connected with Brandin Cooks twice for touchdowns. The second touchdown pass was for 43-yards.

Cooks continued his success against Jacksonville. He finished with seven receptions for 102 yards and two scores and improved to 6-0 against the Jaguars, getting wins with New Orleans, New England and Houston. He has five 100-yard games in those six contests. He has 34 catches for 701 yards and five touchdowns against the Jaguars.

Houston improved to 3-11 while Jacksonville dropped to 2-12. The Texans have swept their rivals for the ninth time in 11 years.

As for Lawrence, he was 22-38 for 210 yards. He threw no touchdowns and had no interceptions.

Robinson had a solid day with 16 rushes for 75 yards and one touchdown.

Jacksonville led in total yards 296-281 but the only positive that came out of this game was Detroit defeated the Arizona Cardinals 30-12, and the Lions improved to 2-11-1, thus, at the moment, Jacksonville would own the top pick in the 2022 Draft.

When I took the five hour trek north on I-95 for this game, I thought the Jaguars truly had a chance to win this game with Meyer no longer and Bevell auditioning for the full-time job.

Even gamblers put enough money on Jacksonville to make Houston a five point underdog at kickoff, according FanDuel Sportsbook. 

But none of that came to fruition.

During the post game press conference, Bevell talked about the preparation after Meyer’s departure.

“It really ends up being a normal week. We’re used to all kinds of things that change, so we have to be ready to make adjustments and be able to adapt to the situation. I thought our guys, whether it was the players of the coaches, did a good job putting a plan together. The guys were ready. They were into it. We just didn’t play a clean football game today.”

Bevell also addressed his teams struggles in the red zone and whether these problems are fixable.

“Yeah, I thought there was things that we did better today. There was a little bit of explosion. You were able to find guys—we were able to create some space for people again. But again, there were opportunities to make plays. We didn’t make some of them, and we’ve got to catch the ball, we’ve got to throw the ball. We’ve got to protect better, and we’ll be able to find the end zone.”

Lawrence talked about the difference between Meyer and Bevell.

“You know, obviously it’s different. Coach Bev and Meyer are different personalities, so it’s very different. But I thought the guys handled it well, we’re excited, ready to play. Had a lot of energy. Obviously didn’t turn out that way we wanted it to, but we had our chance. In that game, it’s a one possession game and didn’t finish. But I thought all the guys were ready. We had some good energy on the sidelines, very positive. It was nice having Bev on the sidelines so I could go talk to keep building on it, keep getting better.”

Lawrence was glad that Robinson turned out to be a factor in the offense.

“I thought it was great. Obviously we’ve talked about how good a player James is and just continue to build on that. We need all of our players to play well, and that goes back to what I said earlier. We’ve all got our part in it, and we’ve got to play better. But yeah, it was great to see James, obviously, very involved. Yeah, I thought we started off strong and we just, like I said, got to finish.”

Bevell talked about what it was like to be on the sideline with his team.

“Yeah, I thought it was really good. I thought the communication was clean with all the coaches being able to go back and fourth on the defensive line. Our analytics guy upstairs, I was able to talk to him pretty cleanly, so I thought it went well for the first time out.”

After the loss, Bevell dropped to 1-5 as an interim coach with the Lions and the Jaguars.

How would things turn out as the Jaguars hit the road to face the New York Jets in a battle of the top two QB’s selected in the 2021 draft with Lawrence and Zach Wilson?

New York defeated Jacksonville 26-21. Wilson went 14-22 for 102 yards and had one touchdown pass. The rookie signal caller from Brigham Young rushed four times for 91 yards and had a touchdown to win the showdown.

Meanwhile, Lawrence went 26-39 for 280 yards with zero touchdowns and interceptions but was sacked once and had a fumble loss.

But the big story in this game was Robinson, who suffered a torn Achilles Tendon early in the game.

The Jets improved their record to 4-11 while Jacksonville dropped to 2-13. 

Bevell is now 0-2 as the interim coach and 1-6 overall.

On Sunday, January 2nd, Jacksonville has a road date with the 9-6, New England Patriots.

Through Sunday’s action, the Jaguars still own the No.1 overall pick in the 2022 Draft.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com and you can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.

You can see his broadcasts by subscribing to The South Florida Tribune You Tube Channel for free.

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