JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Urban Meyer is no longer the micromanager he used to be when he was one of college football’s most successful coaches.
Maybe he will be again. He probably needs to be given how things are going with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10).
Meyer said Wednesday he had an “A-plus meeting” with running back James Robinson after the team’s best offensive player was benched for the second time in as many weeks following a fumble.
“I should be more aware of the rotation at running back and who’s at receiver,” Meyer said, adding that “a lot of stuff happens on the sideline.”
Robinson sat out 20 plays against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday after Aaron Donald, one of the league’s best defenders, stripped the ball from his grasp on Jacksonville’s second play. Robinson was a spectator for 16 plays the previous week against Atlanta after fumbling in the second quarter.
Those were head-scratching decisions by running backs coach Bernie Parmalee that Meyer failed to explain afterward, repeatedly pointing to Robinson’s recent heel/knee injuries and saying he “doesn’t micromanage position coaches.” Meyer finally provided some clarity Wednesday.
“You bench yourself,” the coach said. “If you lay the ball on the ground and you come out for a few plays, then it’s up to the position coach to put you back in whenever that’s time.”
Meyer said the same goes for everyone else, but the Jaguars have stuck with players at every position following costly mistakes that include putting the ball on the ground.
Robinson acknowledged during a weekly television appearance Tuesday that he had become frustrated with the situation. One of the most interesting parts, to him, was being on the field in the closing minutes of a 30-point blowout in LA.
“I’m not sure what the point of that was,” said Robinson, who ended up with more carries in garbage time than he had in the first half.
Robinson has 678 yards rushing, 209 yards receiving and seven touchdowns this season. He had 1,414 total yards and 10 scores as an undrafted rookie out of Illinois State in 2020. He’s averaging a little more than 12 carries a game this year, about five fewer than he did as a rookie.
At least one prominent teammate believes Robinson needs more touches.
“I see the whole picture,” quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. “Bottom line is James is one of our best players and he’s got to be on the field, and we addressed it. ... I know and I voiced my opinion. James is one of our best players and he’s got to be in the game.
“I think we’re all on the same page, so there’s no confusion there. We’re going to move forward. I know James is a hell of a player, so I want him out there.”
The Jaguars insist they recognize and appreciate Robinson’s ability, but they also signed veteran Carlos Hyde to a two-year, $4.5 million contract in free agency and then drafted Clemson running back Travis Etienne with the 25th overall pick in April. And when the team’s first preseason depth chart came out, the starting running back was listed as Robinson or Hyde.
The way the Jaguars have used Robinson has become a weekly discussion, whether he’s been on the sideline in crunch time, at the goal line or just too often overall such as in the past two games.
Meyer admittedly used to have his hands in every team decision, but health concerns at Florida and Ohio State prompted him to reconsider even though “it’s all so hard to sleep at night when you don’t.”
“And you have coaches. ... It’s not my responsibility. It’s their responsibility. Hire a bunch of good people, coach the fundamentals as hard as possible, let them do their job. And a lot of times I get in the way of that, I noticed, too.”
Will he change his approach?
“That’s not the time now to do that,” he said. “It’s time to try to get the best effort we can the next five games and then re-evaluate everything.”
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Mark Long, The Associated Press