The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Urban Meyer to the Redskins is a combustible idea. It also could be just what the team needs.

Injured Redskins quarterback Alex Smith talks with his former college coach, Urban Meyer, in the owner’s box Sunday.
Injured Redskins quarterback Alex Smith talks with his former college coach, Urban Meyer, in the owner’s box Sunday. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
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You think Daniel Snyder wouldn’t impulse-hire Urban Meyer in a second? You know his check-writing hand has got to be twitching. You know he’s got to be thinking: “Do it, do it, do it. Can I get him? I should get him.” The Washington Redskins owner doesn’t want a real coaching search, with a lot of slow, thorough interviews of sedately qualified candidates. He is not capable of that. He wants a splash, a shock, a rush.

Sure, it’s a risk — but Snyder needs a big-name gamble if he wants to see fans in loyal burgundy filling up the lower bowl of FedEx Field next season, as opposed to the rival greens and blues who have invaded his deserted bleachers. Some veteran NFL retread is not going to sell season tickets or salve the ego of the owner, who is more bored and disenchanted than any fan. Reasonable hires have never been Snyder’s taste. This is a guy who craves candy and fizz. He eats people like Pop Rocks.

If you don’t think Snyder is tantalized by the biggest college name out there — and by the idea of beating Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones with his quick-draw checkbook — if you think Meyer was just in the owner’s box as a “guest” of Terry McLaurin’s on Sunday to see his former Ohio State players, then you haven’t been watching Snyder’s repetitive cycles these past twenty years.

Here’s how it goes:

Fire a coach in midstream (Norv Turner) and appoint a bland interim (Terry Robiskie). Make a big, splashy hire of a proven winner with all kinds of promises of complete control (Marty Schottenheimer). Immediately get fidgety and undermine his authority with meddling arguments over players, especially quarterbacks. Fire him. Mollify the alienated fan base with a sensational collegiate hire (Steve Spurrier). When the experiment doesn’t work, fire him. Hire a malleable young coordinator (Jim Zorn) you can push around and control. Repeat.

When the franchise hits bottom, hire a proven winner with all kinds of promises of control (Mike Shanahan). Immediately get fidgety and undermine his authority with meddling arguments over players, especially quarterbacks. Fire him. Hire a malleable young coordinator (Jay Gruden) you can push around and control. Fire him in midstream. Appoint a bland interim (Bill Callahan). Repeat.

As you can see, Snyder is right on schedule to go back to college.

Boswell: Finally, a victory chant at the Redskins’ FedEx Field! It went E-A-G-L-E-S.

Hiring the legendarily controlling, intense Meyer would be an experiment on the level of one of those disarm-the-bomb movies, where you’ve got two different pieces of colored wires and if you cut the wrong one, the whole building goes up. But that’s the position the Redskins are in. The truth is that they’d be lucky if he’d even realistically consider this wretched job. What proven NFL professional with any kind of track record would work for Snyder at this point? Greg Roman is not leaving the Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson for this mess.

There could be as many as nine head-coaching jobs open by the new year, and Mike McCarthy surely views the Redskins as the very worst of them, as do all other candidates. If Jones goes ahead and fires Jason Garrett, the Cowboys would be the most coveted landing spot — a legit Super Bowl contender just waiting for some reliable leadership. The Redskins, by contrast, are the dregs, their offense dead last in the league, their defense 28th against the run and their relentlessly incompetent front office a well-established coach-killer.

Under the circumstances, the Redskins should offer the house for Meyer, and be grateful if he’ll take it. You know what they really ought to give him? Total control over the entire building — and make it ironclad. If they take a flier on Meyer, then they should do it headlong, and play to his strength: control. See if his strong hand can remake the joint.

Meyer’s skeptics say his personality and his style aren’t suited for the NFL, but I’m not so sure. The man is 187-32 with three national championships, and his teams have played with an unmistakable discipline and power at every single stop in his career, from Bowling Green to the Buckeyes. The man doesn’t know what it is to lose — he had 11 finishes in the top 10 in his 17 college seasons. And he has the finest eye for young football talent of any human alive.

Think about the sheer number of players Meyer has sent to the NFL, from Alex Smith to McLaurin: 84 in 17 collegiate seasons. That’s an average of five players every year. Run down their names. Percy Harvin and Zeke Elliott. Michael Thomas and Eli Apple. At Florida, 30 in six years. At Ohio State, 56 in seven years. A total of 23 NFL first-rounders.

Meyer said, “I think I’m done coaching” last spring, and he apparently was in Washington for the Army-Navy game and White House party, not a job interview. So the chances of the Redskins getting him might be slim. But he is only 55, and a season away from the sideline may have restored his health and interest in the right job with the right circumstances for the right dollars.

Maybe Meyer would be a miserable failure as an NFL coach. Maybe he burns too hot and his pure allergic hatred of losing would undo his health again. Maybe he couldn’t overcome the Redskins’ dysfunction, any more than anyone else has. On the other hand, maybe Meyer’s ego is the one that can finally handle Snyder, and maybe it would be freeing for him not to have to worry about ethics scandals, or spout a lot of empty moral rhetoric for the moms and dads of high schoolers.

Some NFL team is going to hire Urban Meyer. Someone is going to find out whether he translates to the pros, whether he can draft and coach against the technocrats. Maybe Meyer’s presence in Snyder’s box was just a tease — maybe he was just asking the prom queen’s best friend to dance, to get Jerry Jones’s attention. But if the Redskins can grab him, they should, and fast. Frankly, it wouldn’t be the worst experiment they ever tried.

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