(Folks. If some of this looks familiar, it’s because it is an expanded version of the early morning blog on Urban Meyer, rewritten for print purposes. It made more sense to post it as a new blog than replace the old one. Thanks.)
He has had chest pains for four years. He has headaches that Advil can’t fix. He has a cyst on his brain that becomes inflamed every time he’s under significant stress, which for an SEC coach begins at breakfast, assuming you have breakfast. He recently suffered from such dehydration and dizziness following the SEC championship game that he fainted.
Urban Meyer was thinking clearly when he announced he was stepping away from coaching. Now he’s not thinking at all. He may be the best coach in college football today, but he just committed the cardinal sin of his profession: He made a decision based solely on emotion.
Since Meyer pulled a 180, kinda, sorta, about his future, we have been inundated by conspiracy theories. Maybe he was just trying to motivate his team for the Sugar Bowl. Maybe he was just showing early signs of PTS (Post-Tebow Syndrome). Maybe he is still going to leave coaching (for now) but decided to push back his OK-I-really-mean-it-this-time announcement until after National Signing Day. (That would be the worst scenario of all: a lying coach who claims to have his players’ interests first.)
Here’s the most plausible explanation: The man is a complete and utter mess — mentally, physically, emotionally.
A coach doesn’t use faith, family and health as reasons to step away one day and then change his mind after one football practice 24 hours later unless he’s one step from green Jell-O Tuesdays at the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm.
Just a guess: I don’t think Meyer’s coming back. Post Sugar Bowl, he’ll add definition to his indefinite leave, at the behest of his family, his doctor and the small corner of his brain that hasn’t yet suffered a hostile takeover by his ego.
Just another guess: Whether Meyer comes back or not, it doesn’t matter. Florida just became vulnerable.
If Meyer was a player — effectively flip-flopping on a retirement decision — many of us would be second-guessing his level of motivation and commitment for next season. Committed people don’t make emotional decisions. Committed people are driven 24/7 and don’t flip-flop. That’s one thing that makes Meyer a great head coach, much like the coach he lost to in the SEC championship game (Nick Saban).
Meyer isn’t a player. He’s a head coach. That makes what just happened worse.
A player changing his mind on retirement can still sometimes get himself up for game week and squeeze out one more season. To some degree, his sudden flaws can be covered up by teammates around him. A college football head coach is always on the clock: recruiting, coaching, game-planning, guiding, leading. There is no escape.
Cautious doesn’t work. Cautious certainly doesn’t win SEC championships or get you into BCS title games. Cautious is not what got Meyer here. If he comes back, he won’t always be on the clock. He’ll be looking at the clock. With a new, cautious Urban Meyer, the Florida program suffers.
When asked how her husband would handle leisure time, Shelley Meyer said: “I’ve never seen him handle leisure time. That’s like an oxymoron.”
If Georgia was looking for an opening, this is it.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not projecting the Gators’ program is going to suddenly implode. But odds are, Florida takes a significant step back. A program led by an emotionally drained head coach who’s preoccupied with concerns about his health and quality of life is a program led by a coach who’s losing his edge.
The Gators had potential issues before this. Tebow is gone after the Sugar Bowl (you might’ve heard something about this). Several other senior leads also will leave. Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong left for Louisville. Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen left last season for Mississippi State. Now, the team will be run in the interim by offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, whose offense sputtered for much of this season. Addazio hasn’t been a head coach since high school in 1994.
Some of these hits generally can be overcome. But only if a determined and resolute head coach is running things. That isn’t the case any more.