Opinion: Urban Meyer's 'character and leadership' con continues as Jags hire ex-Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle

Dan Wolken

If Urban Meyer had taken the job at, say, the University of Texas and tried to hire a staff member who lost his previous job because a large number of former players came forward with credible allegations of bullying and racist language toward Black players, the response would be simple and overwhelming. 

It would have been justified outrage at Meyer for running his longtime "Character and Leadership" con while excusing or overlooking some truly terrible behavior by his subordinates, complete and utter contempt for the athletic director who allowed it to happen and righteous indignation at a system that allows someone like former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle to resurface without significant consequences. 

So … why not have that same energy now that Meyer has done this in his first few weeks with the Jacksonville Jaguars? 

Let’s lay this out very simply. Meyer’s first big whiff as an NFL coach came Thursday when the Jaguars announced Doyle, whose alleged misdeeds came to light last summer as current and former Iowa athletes spoke out about racial disparities in the program, as their director of sport performance. 

Jags coach Urban Meyer is already defending his hiring of ex-Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle.

Though Doyle denied wrongdoing, he took a $1.1 million buyout to go away after being placed on administrative leave. He would have essentially been unemployable at any big-time college football program. And eight months later he essentially gets … a promotion?

And in this case, it makes so little sense because of how unnecessary it is. Out of the hundreds of people qualified to run a sports performance department for an NFL team, you couldn’t find someone who hadn’t been accused of telling a Black player at Iowa he would get sent back to the ghetto? Or that “Maybe you should take up rowing or something, you know? Oh wait, Black people don’t like boats in the water, do they?” 

Understand that these were not random, anonymous accusations. They were made in a public forum by former players who were willing to go on the record. And there were several of them, all of the same variety, painting the picture of a bully reveling in showing players how big and bad he was by stereotyping them and insulting their culture. 

That’s why Meyer’s typical, tired excuse — oh, I know the guy so I know the real story — just doesn’t fly here. 

“Yeah, I’ve known Chris for close to 20 years. Our relationship goes back to when I was at Utah and he was the No. 1 strength coach, and really he was doing sports performance before sports performance became a high priority in college sports, and so I’ve known him, I’ve studied him, we’ve had a relationship,” Meyer told reporters Thursday.

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“I vetted him thoroughly, along with our general manager and owner. I feel great about the hire, about his expertise at that position.”

Pressed again on the decision and whether he had any reservations, Meyer said: “I vet everyone on our staff, and the relationship goes back close to 20 years, and a lot of hard questions asked, a lot of vetting involved with all our staff, but we did a very good job vetting that one.”

Sure thing, Urbs.

Meyer may well be as good of an NFL coach as he was in college, but his fundamental flaw remains just as much a part of his pathology as it was at Ohio State and Florida. Meyer not only believes everyone is redeemable as long as they’re a value add from a football standpoint, but also that he is uniquely incapable of misjudging someone. 

If Meyer had been at all objective about Zach Smith, his former assistant at Ohio State, he would have seen a human resources trainwreck whose long history of irresponsible behavior had practically planted red flags in front of the Woody Hayes Center, and that it was only a matter of time before something blew up and dragged Meyer into the muck. 

Instead, even all these years later after Smith was fired amid domestic abuse allegations and an investigation that revealed how poorly Meyer handled his problematic employee, Meyer doesn’t believe he fundamentally did anything wrong. 

Only that same variety of delusion could lead to Meyer hiring someone to an NFL operation whose name would only register to players for the toxic things he was alleged to have done. 

Sorry, but this isn’t college football anymore, where in some towns they put the strength coach on billboards. Can you even name one NFL strength coach? Of course not. In fact, as of Thursday, Doyle is the only one. 

That should go over great in the locker room.

Of course, unless Doyle is a complete idiot, there won’t be any racist comments or so-called motivational tactics when he’s working with the Jaguars. That would be a level of boldness he’d quickly come to regret, one way or another. 

But in a league that couldn't bring itself to give Colin Kaepernick a quarterback job because of the so-called distractions that came with him, what does it look like when a college coach comes into the league and not only brings aboard a guy who has never publicly addressed these allegations in a substantive way, but calls him “the best of the best.” 

Maybe that’s true when it comes to training football players. But this whole situation is the worst of the worst.