Urban Meyer taking big chance hiring Chris Doyle under the circumstances
Barely eight months have passed since Doyle was dismissed at Iowa
By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Regardless how you might feel about Chris Doyle being hired by the Jacksonville Jaguars, it’s a risky decision that ultimately could backfire on Urban Meyer.
The 52-year old Doyle is without question qualified in many ways to be the Jacksonville’s Director of Sports Performance after having spent 21 years as the Iowa football team’s strength and conditioning coach.
Doyle was considered Kirk Ferentz’s right hand man at Iowa and was the highest paid strength and conditioning coach in college football.
Doyle had a knack for turning unheralded high school recruits into heralded college players, and in many cases, future NFL players. His innovative training methods helped to produce positive results over an extended period of time.
And that apparently is what convinced Meyer to hire Doyle as his Director of Sports Performance.
Meyer was recently hired as the Jacksonville head coach, and though, he never has coached in the NFL, Meyer was hugely successful as a college head coach, winning two national titles at Florida and one with Ohio State.
Meyer, 56, achieved that success largely by surrounding himself with good coaches and support staff, and with great players.
Doyle is obviously good at what he does from a training standpoint.
But he also has a flipside that cost him his job at Iowa this past June.
Doyle reached a $1.3 million separation with Iowa after he was accused of racial disparities and bullying by multiple former Iowa black players.
There are two sides to every story, and Doyle denied the accusations.
But Iowa also wasted no time in cutting ties with Doyle as part of doing damage control, and as part of changing the culture.
It would be unfair and naïve to dismiss the accusations because there were just too many credible sources who spoke out.
Meyer addressed the media on Thursday and defended the decision to hire Doyle.
“I’ve known Chris for close to 20 years,” Meyer said. “He was doing sports performance before sports performance became a high priority in college sports. I’ve known him, I’ve studied him… I vetted him thoroughly. I feel great about the hire”
Meyer also said he doesn’t think Doyle’s presence will be an issue with signing free agents.
Maybe not, but only time will tell.
Doyle will almost certainly have some explaining to do as he joins a team in which black players make up more than 50 percent of the roster.
Will he be able to command their respect after what happened at Iowa?
That remains to be seen.
Just because Meyer respects Doyle doesn’t mean the Jacksonville players will feel the same way.
And imagine how the former Iowa players who accused Doyle of racial disparities now feel after seeing Doyle get hired by an NFL team barely eight months after the accusations were made public.
It could be perceived as a slap in the face, and some of the former players who made the accusations probably are shocked.
But on the other hand, Doyle could use this opportunity as a chance for redemption. He has been given a second chance on a big stage to reconstruct his once-soaring career.
Maybe what happened at Iowa has convinced Doyle that he had to change his approach with some things, and Meyer believes that Doyle has changed.
There are few things better in sports than a good comeback story.
Doyle also has the support of many former Iowa players who credit him for much of their success.
It’s sort of like rolling the dice with Doyle, as was pointed out to me by somebody on Twitter. Jacksonville will get Doyle’s expertise, but he won’t be able to get away with doing what was alleged at Iowa.
Or it could prove to be a horrible hire if Doyle is incapable of changing how he coaches, and how he interacts with players.
The problem with Doyle’s comeback is that some would argue that he doesn’t deserve this opportunity, especially so soon after being dismissed at Iowa.
Critics will say that it sends the wrong message and sort of dismisses or minimizes what happened at Iowa.
And while that is open for debate, one thing is certain: Urban Meyer is taking a big chance by hiring Doyle under the circumstances.
Meyer is also bringing attention to the kind of hire in the NFL that rarely draws headlines. Strength coaches come and go in the NFL on a regular basis, and it hardly ever gets noticed.
Doyle’s situation is different, however, because of what happened at Iowa.
Some in the national media, including Dan Wolken from USA Today wrote a column criticizing the decision to hire Doyle.
Meyer had to realize his decision to hire Doyle would stir emotions and be met with some disapproval and resentment.
If not, then shame on Meyer.