In Jacksonville, You���ll Find A Rare Combination: Trevor Lawrence, Urban Meyer And Hardship

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — If it’s weird to walk into a nadir and find Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence dwelling within, then it’s plenty weird around here.

a baseball player holding a bat on a field: The Jaguars' Trevor Lawrence had a great first drive against the Broncos but then sputtered Sunday. (Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) © Julio Aguilar/Getty Images The Jaguars' Trevor Lawrence had a great first drive against the Broncos but then sputtered Sunday. (Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Here they’re having a nadir following upon previous nadirs. It’s a nadir when a home opener with a hot new coach and a hot new No. 1 pick at quarterback sighs with great swaths of empty teal seats in the upper decks, when a visiting team such as the Denver Broncos brings a throaty throng, when at moments it feels just a little like Denver without the mountains. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ home of TIAA Bank Field feels like a place hosting a team that has endured 17 consecutive defeats, 23 defeats in the past 26 games, 37 in 46.

“Same issues still apply,” cornerback Shaquill Griffin said of reaching 0-2 in 2021 with a 23-13 loss Sunday. “You’ve got to stick with it.”

Here’s the rut that comes before whatever comes next, when a team such as Denver (2-0) arrives and gives up an off-the-bat touchdown and then makes rather like a python on the home team all the slow way to 23-7. It’s the rut of the early part of the Meyer-Lawrence adventure in Jacksonville, set to become a reference point for later, happier days — or not. It’s also the first rut in the careers of Meyer and Lawrence.

Lawrence went 52-2 as a starter at Cartersville High in Georgia, 34-2 at Clemson and 68-0 in regular seasons there and there. Meyer had 17 seasons at four colleges and started 2-0 in 13 of them, 1-1 in three of them and 0-0 in the one (2018) in which he served a three-game suspension.

That’s how the 57-year-old coach trailed off mid-thought as he talked about the way to handle 0-2. “Oh, it’s just the loyalty amongst each other and not let the nonsense start to seep in,” the first-year NFL coach said. “I’ve seen nonsense seep into organizations when you’re 2-0, and I’ve seen it when you’re 0-2.”

Oh, wait.

“I guess I haven’t seen it when it’s 0-2.”

That’s right.

“But I’ve seen it when you lose a game. And the good thing is I don’t see that happening. . . . I see zero-point-zero of it — [just] a bunch of good players, good guys and coaches working their tails off.”

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In any hard combination of rut and nadir, bright spots may appear but refrain from staying. That’s what happened Sunday when Jacksonville got the ball to start the game and made off on as pretty of an 11-play, 83-yard drive as one would see on any Sunday. Lawrence’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones Jr. on the right edge of the end zone qualified as gorgeous, heading toward Jones’s gut well before Jones’s gut got to the spot.

Lawrence went 5 for 7 for 73 yards on that drive. He went 9 for 26 for 45 yards thereafter. As Teddy Bridgewater (26 for 34, 328 yards) and Courtland Sutton (nine receptions, 159 yards) carried on a steady little party, Denver’s defense solved whatever that was and dropped more souls into coverage, of which Jones said, “They did drop them back, but we still need to keep making plays,” and, “Sometimes, it’s unexplainable.” By it, he meant football.

“I thought I saw it pretty well,” Lawrence said of the defense, but things just kept not working, the last eight possessions featuring progressions of minus-2, 38, seven, 45, zero, 23, one and 40 yards, with two interceptions and two missed long field goal attempts from a kicker, Josh Lambo, who got booed.

They boo kickers during nadirs, but at least there aren’t too many booers.

In a September game with 94 percent humidity that felt double that and intermittent rain, Jacksonville announced tickets distributed at 58,461, well shy of the 67,814 capacity but also well shy of 58,461 by the looks of it.

It was in the aftermath that the Jaguars shined, for they could make a person feel better for having watched them struggle. It placed Meyer and Lawrence in the position of cajoling, and being good at that has been part of their lifelong success.

Lawrence, impressive in his ability to handle postgame interviews as though he has expected to conduct them all his life (as he has), joined teammates in seeing the Jaguars as getting “close.” If at one point he said, “Kind of like I said last week,” that’s how it goes in nadirs.

“I thought we were better today than last week for sure,” he said, referring to an opening 37-21 loss at Houston. The penalties had gone from a garish 10 to a less garish seven. He said that when teams drop masses in coverage, he aims to “use my legs. You saw it a few times today.” He had two carries for 21 yards, including a fourth-down conversion that looked promising. “That was something I wanted to get better from last week, and I thought I did so that was a positive. . . .

“The good thing is, bright spot is, we really have good-enough players to win these games — just got to play better. . . . Obviously a lot of people say it, but just got to do it. . . . I think our mental space is really good.” He said it’s part of his job to sustain his confidence.

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Meyer said: “There’s a lot of fight in this team. There’s 15 games left. And my goal, our goal, is to have the strongest locker room that you could possibly have. I feel like it’s extremely strong right now. Players want to win; players are sticking together. That’s the best part of our organization right now. . . . It’s been a long haul for Jacksonville here, and I appreciate [the fans] being here, and we have a saying around here — ‘We’re going to own it’ — and we’re going to own it, but I speak on behalf of our players, and it was good. . . . The one thing about Jacksonville and [the 904 area code], go to sleep knowing there’s not going to be any group work harder to get this thing flipped.”

“We’ll get to that point,” Jones said. “And that’s the thing. We’re still working through it, and that comes in practice and that’s not a problem. . . . It’s going to be great once we get all that figured out.”

From there, everyone walked out into the stillness.

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In Jacksonville, you’ll find a rare combination: Trevor Lawrence, Urban Meyer and hardship


In Jacksonville, you’ll find a rare combination: Trevor Lawrence, Urban Meyer and hardship