he gap from college football to the NFL is notoriously hard to bridge, but right now, as the two main men in Jacksonville lead the Jaguars to London to face Miami Dolphins, it must look particularly chasmic.
The NFL’s worst team made, among their many moves for improvement this offseason, two major ones: drafting the most exciting quarterback prospect in a generation with the No1 pick and bringing in, to nurture his talents, one of the most successful head coaches in college football history.
Five weeks into their respective NFL careers, Trevor Lawrence has lost more games as a professional than he had previously in his life, while Urban Meyer is already fortunate to still be in a job — and is not out of the woods yet.
Together, they have only been on board for the most recent quarter of the Jaguars’ 20-game losing streak, but the way things are going, you would not bet against them riding this troubled train all the way past Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl era-record of 26 in a row.
Meyer, 57, is one of only three coaches in history to have won the college National Championship with more than one university, but had never set foot in the big leagues until latching on to Jacksonville’s SOS this summer.
After a pre-season littered with strange decisions and controversies, questions about his suitability for the role remained going into the campaign. They were answered after the week-four defeat by Cincinnati Bengals, when Meyer ditched his team and their flight home to stay in Ohio, supposedly to see family, only to then be filmed in a bar with a young woman dancing in his lap.
His fumbling apology and flimsy explanation hardly helped his credibility in the locker room, which, if reports are to be believed, has already turned, while owner Shad Khan was not best pleased either, publicly stating that Meyer would have to work to “regain our trust”.
That this is the backdrop to the Jaguars’ latest London excursion is no doubt of particular frustration to Khan, the owner of Fulham and one-time prospective buyer of Wembley, who repeatedly brings his team to these shores in an attempt to show their best face and grow their market. Before you feel too much sympathy, though, remember who hired Meyer.
That sympathy would be better directed at Lawrence, a 22-year-old who strolled out of Clemson a hero earlier this year but already has the weight of a desperate franchise on his back.
Unfortunately, he has been playing like it, making too many high-risk throws in a bid to make something — anything — happen for a team that have lost all but one of their games by a double-digit margin. The result has been a pass completion rate below 60 per cent and a total of eight interceptions, the second most in the league behind fellow rookie Zach Wilson, who British fans saw crash and burn for the New York Jets last weekend.
Quarterback and coach’s shared states of embattlement have done little to foster the kind of us-against-the-world comradeship that might make the best of the situation.
Last week, Meyer blamed Lawrence not being comfortable on a play for one of his botched calls, only for the latter to insist that he had been ready to run it. Lawrence went on to urge calm. “We can’t get desperate,” he told reporters, but his summation of the atmosphere in the camp? “We’re pretty desperate for a win.”
As they head to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to seek it, not only are the pair not singing from the same hymn sheet, they are not even in the same church.