Football Team

Hughes: Washington avoided disaster with Meyer

Football Team

Just think, it could have been us.

The complete disaster that has transpired in Jacksonville involving Urban Meyer this season nearly happened here, in Washington.

If you recall, Meyer attended a game at FedEx Field as a supposed guest of wide receiver Terry McLaurin's in December of 2019. He was in the owner's suite chatting it up with then-injured quarterback Alex Smith, whom he coached in college at Utah. He was watching Dwayne Haskins start at quarterback. 

Meyer also coached Haskins in college. And McLaurin. And he was clearly looking for an avenue into the NFL.

So, Washington hosted him and, surprisingly you could argue, let him slip away. It's not often Daniel Snyder loses out on a coveted free agent or big-name coach. It's his Woo-per Bowl, and Meyer was right there at his stadium, for all the cameras to see. All of that seemed intentional, like it would lead to something.

Meyer to Washington wasn't completely slammed at the time, either. They were at a low point, in the middle of a lost season and two months removed from firing head coach Jay Gruden. They needed a new coach, a new savior, and Meyer had left Ohio State one year prior as a national champion, the second school he led to a title.

In fact, Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins even argued it should be considered, writing days after Meyer's appearance in Landover "if the Redskins can grab him, they should, and fast. Frankly, it wouldn’t be the worst experiment they ever tried."

 

Granted, Jenkins' take on the matter was very self-aware, how both sides were meant for each other. And she wasn't the only one. I'll admit, I thought it could work. Washington needed discipline and... yeah, it all seems so ridiculous in hindsight.

As Jenkins and others highlighted at the time, hiring a college coach would have fit a pattern. Washington had recently failed with Mike Shanahan, a veteran coach, plus Gruden, an upstart offensive coordinator. They hadn't tried the Steve Spurrier route in 16 years. Maybe a college coach was next in the cycle of sadness.

If Washington had hired Meyer, they would be kicking themselves right about now. Well, someone would have been kicked.

How about that, by the way? In case you haven't heard, Meyer allegedly kicked Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo in August and called him all sorts of names. After that final straw, Jaguars owner Shad Khan kicked him out.

That kicking incident, which came to light just hours before Meyer was fired by the Jaguars early Thursday morning, was just one of many transgressions that led to his departure only 13 games into a five-year contract. 

He also hired a strength coach with disturbing allegations of racism during his time in the same position at Iowa, oversaw a reportedly toxic culture on his coaching staff and among his players and stayed back in Ohio after a night game in Cincinnati to star in a viral video in which he danced with a woman who was not his wife. Remember, that happened in public and in broad daylight.

All of it amounted to one of the more sudden downfalls of a public figure in the sports world. There are others who have done worse, and Meyer wasn't exactly squeaky clean when he arrived in Jacksonville. But you would be hard-pressed to find an unraveling quite like this one.

Washington has had an even longer list of culture problems in the last several years, some much more disturbing than what Meyer produced. And that's just what we know of the Wilkinson Report, which was delivered to the NFL after an investigation of Washington's workplace environment but never made public in written form.

But if there was one head coach candidate who could have made things even more dysfunctional here, it appears Meyer would have been the guy.

Ron Rivera was instead their choice and, though he hasn't completely stopped the embarrassment off-the-field, he has seemingly improved their trajectory in that regard. The worst of the indiscretions in Washington predated his arrival and have been unrelated to him. Rivera appears to have the respect of his players and has done his best to change the culture. 

 

Imagine if instead Meyer was thrust into the atmosphere in Ashburn. It would have been the football equivalent of splitting the atom.

Washington appears to have dodged a bullet by not hiring Meyer. It's not often they are the ones who avoid disaster. For once, they were spared.