Gene Frenette: Urban Meyer bar video is a bad look, even if Jaguars' coach did nothing wrong
What is it football coaches say about the tape? Oh, yeah, it never lies.
In this instance, it's subject to wide interpretation. But if what millions of social media users have seen on video from Urban Meyer having what appears a little too good of a time at his Urban Chophouse restaurant/bar in Columbus, then the Jaguars’ winless head coach has a more awkward public relations mess to deal with than previous ones in his career.
For those who haven’t seen the gone-viral video of Meyer, which occurred Friday night on a team off day and 24 hours after a Thursday night road loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, let’s just say you probably wouldn’t care to share it with your kids.
The video of Meyer lasts only a few seconds, but the look is undeniably troubling. The reaction might be something like, “What is the Jaguars’ coach doing and who is he with?” Or depending on how somebody feels about Meyer, the response could be something more sinister.
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It shows a young, unidentified, blonde woman that is clearly not Meyer’s wife of 35 years, Shelley, dancing to music in front of him while his right hand is hidden right next to her.
People will infer what they want, but you can’t definitively tell what Meyer is doing in that sequence. At the very least, he should have never been in that particular spot.
Urban Meyer should be aware of social media age
Nobody can rightfully fault Meyer for unwinding a bit at his own restaurant on an off day. But as an NFL head coach, he must be aware that iPhones are everywhere and know the consequences of being depicted in a potentially compromising position, even if Meyer did nothing wrong.
Whatever took place, a league source acknowledges it’s Meyer in that lounge area of his restaurant having a good time. The young woman, looking toward where music is playing, is dancing in front of him and how suggestive that appears will be subject to differing opinions.
Nobody knows who took the video, which was put on social media Saturday night and later taken down, or what its original intent might have been.
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Regardless of what Meyer will say on this matter, it’s a terrible look. He has to know that. It’s not the kind of thing that would help an 0-4 NFL coach galvanize a team or earn public trust.
This will not help a fan base — much of it optimistic about the Jaguars’ future, others skeptical — to be convinced that Meyer is the answer for turning around a franchise saddled with a 19-game losing streak.
Urban Meyer scheduled to speak Monday
Suffice to say, any explanation Meyer offers, which is likely to come during his scheduled Monday media availability, may not dissuade people from shaking their head about why he would publicly put himself in such a bad position. His long-standing reputation for being arrogant, especially when he was coaching in college, only adds to the awkwardness.
As a high-profile, married father of three kids, he should have known better. Celebrities are well aware that anywhere they go in public, someone with a camera in their pocket is probably going to document what they’re doing.
For the 57-year-old Meyer, already off to a rocky start in his first Jaguars’ season, the timing of this video surfacing is bad. It’s not like he’s working as a college football analyst on television and this situation would be little more than a blip on the radar.
Meyer is now leading a winless NFL team, where the spotlight is far more intense. Part of the expectations of being in that job is conducting himself in exemplary fashion off the field and in public.
No matter how he chooses to handle this PR conundrum, Meyer must now confront the perception — unfair as it may be — of people wondering if this video will negatively impact his job performance in any way moving forward. It’s certainly not being treated as a social media afterthought.
The video sent Twitter into a tizzy with a wide variety of memes. Meyer was already a polarizing figure, so this video has made him a convenient punch line, which means the Jaguars also become a target by extension.
Will Jagaurs owner Shad Khan or the front office react?
How much this diminishes his credibility with fans and those in the Jaguars’ organization is going to be water-cooler conversation for a few days. Owner Shad Khan never showed more delight in his nine-year tenure, at least outside the 2017 playoff run, than when he hired Meyer. A smile has never left Khan's face since when talking about him.
The Jaguars' owner speaks or issues statements on a very limited basis, so it’s doubtful he addresses this matter. Some will dismiss this video as tabloid fodder or just feeding the TMZ beast, judging by the limited coverage given so far by the mainstream media.
From a national perspective, it certainly helps Meyer that this video surfaced on the same weekend that “Sunday Night Football” features Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady’s return to face his former employer, the New England Patriots. That will be the overwhelmingly dominant topic.
If this video was of any married Jaguars’ assistant coach or player not named Trevor Lawrence caught on video doing the same thing, it would blow over quickly. But this is different because Meyer is the head coach, one given all the power by Khan to run the organization as he sees fit.
I hope for his sake this was just Meyer enjoying a festive atmosphere and not intentionally doing anything wrong. But that video makes him subject to a highly negative perception, which former Jaguars’ lineman Uche Nwaneri panned in “Saturday Night Live” fashion on his “The Observant Lineman” podcast. Barstool Sports, a sports and pop culture blog, had a field day with it.
What also makes this image problematic is Meyer has plenty of experience with PR messes of his own making. It happened at Ohio State by not responding better to the alleged domestic abuse situation involving former assistant coach Zach Smith.
Then there was the controversial hiring of Chris Doyle, the former Iowa strength and conditioning coach accused of being racist by Black players, as head of the Jaguars’ Sports Performance. That had to be rescinded in about 24 hours.
All this video does is make it harder for people to give Meyer the benefit of the doubt. He’s an NFL head coach and he should act like it. Everywhere he goes.
Urban Meyer should think of this as a tough lesson about self-awareness. Don't let it happen again.
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