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Urban Meyer was Terry McLaurin’s guest at Sunday’s Redskins game

Injured Redskins quarterback Alex Smith talks with his former college coach, Urban Meyer, in the owner's box during Sunday's game. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer’s presence in owner Daniel Snyder’s box at Sunday’s Redskins-Eagles game was news to Washington rookie quarterback and former Buckeyes star Dwayne Haskins.

“He was here? That’s cool, man,” Haskins said after throwing for 261 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Redskins’ 37-27 loss at FedEx Field. “Those spirits were there for sure.”

The 55-year-old Meyer won two national titles at Florida and one more at Ohio State before resigning his position with the Buckeyes after last season, citing health reasons. He has spent this season as a college football analyst for Fox Sports, but hasn’t ruled out an eventual return to the sideline.

When Meyer’s employer showed him in Snyder’s box during the first half of Sunday’s broadcast, Fox play-by-play man Thom Brennaman explained that Meyer attended Saturday’s Army-Navy game in Philadelphia and stuck around to visit family in the D.C. area. Sunday’s game in Landover offered Meyer an opportunity to see several of his former Ohio State players, including Haskins, in action, and to catch up with injured Redskins quarterback Alex Smith, whom he coached at Utah in 2003 and 2004.

“Coach Meyer was here to support me, and Dwayne,” Redskins rookie wide receiver and former Ohio State star Terry McLaurin said after the game. “He was in town. He called me last night and he wanted to come support me at the game. He was my guest. It was good to see him again, good to talk to him. … It has nothing to do with his coaching status at all. It was good to just have him support me again.”

McLaurin had five catches for 130 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown.

Despite McLaurin’s insistence that Meyer’s appearance had “nothing to do with his coaching status,” it’s natural to wonder if he’ll emerge as a candidate to replace interim coach Bill Callahan after the season. The Redskins haven’t commented publicly on their plans for finding a permanent replacement for Jay Gruden, who was fired after a Week 5 loss to the Patriots.

“Let’s just say we’ve heard from every agent,” team president Bruce Allen told NFL Network’s Andrea Kremer three weeks after Gruden’s dismissal. “They found our phone number.”

Urban Meyer will be a perennial coaching candidate, even in retirement

Meyer has already been linked to another NFC East team this season. In October, Meyer spoke highly of the Cowboys’ coaching job and told Fox’s Colin Cowherd he would have “absolutely” considered taking it if Dallas owner Jerry Jones contacted him about it in the past. With Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett in the final year of his contract and his team in the midst of a disappointing 7-7 season, NFL Network reported earlier this month that the Dallas front office had spoken with Meyer. Jones denied that was the case.

“I can confirm that it is absolutely, not correct,” Jones said during an interview on 105.3 The Fan.

In addition to Meyer, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, Baylor’s Matt Rhule and Stanford’s David Shaw are among the college coaches who are expected to be linked to NFL coaching vacancies this offseason. In another interview with 105.3 The Fan on Friday, Jones outlined the risks of hiring a coach from the college ranks, despite the fact that Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer both led the Cowboys to Super Bowl titles.

“College coaches … have the lowest percentage rate of success as opposed to coming from coordinator, as opposed to coming from the NFL, or as opposed to coming from a head coaching job in the NFL,” Jones said.

Snyder is familiar with the dangers of hiring a college coach without any NFL coaching experience. His second coaching hire as owner of the Redskins was former Florida coach Steve Spurrier, who went 12-20 and resigned after his second season with Washington.

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