Trevor Lawrence’s lackluster debut raises questions about coaching

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Consensus around the NFL has always been simple: the cream rises to the top. Woke sports reporters like to lament subtle disruptions in the meritocracy for clicks, but football is too simple for much subversion. We may not all be able to navigate the pitfalls of a corporate boardroom, but we can all see plain as day a good football player versus a poor one.

And to its credit, the sport almost always fumigates the weaknesses in favor of strength. What’s funny, though, is that the woke reporters are correct about one thing (just not what they themselves believe): something intangible does drive the sport behind the scenes, but it’s not racism.

It’s coaching. Face it, without football, many of the millionaire coaches in the college and professional ranks would be P.E. teachers or personal trainers. Only the sickly dedicated and beyond obsessed survive in the coaching circuit, a career which demands a personality singularly focused on winning at all costs. It’s an attitude which plays well within the confines of a game, but great leaders of men will tell you that personality management and governance skills mean the most to their success in business and in life. Lots of guys can draw up the plays and talk to the media, but few can consistently put their people in positions to succeed over and over again.

How many CEOs are in charge of managing a room full of millionaire assets, each with a personality of their own? It’s an extremely bizarre career when you stop to think about it, and just goes to show how much luck goes into a player’s career. Those who are talented enough to get drafted into the NFL are talented enough to have a nice career; and yet, so many talented players fizzle out or are outright bust, leaving us all wondering what went wrong.

Screaming racism assigns some ridiculous subconscious baggage to men who are so immersed in drama and management that they likely haven’t a moment to even consider skin color. It’s foolish and immature to make such accusations. But personality and coaching style do certainly matter to a player’s career. A player not being put in the best position to win has to shoulder that burden more so than the coach. Get stuck in a poorly-run franchise for a few years and eventually the stink of losing won’t wash off. There’s just no arguing: leadership in the NFL is the most crucial aspect of success.

The player/coaching relationship that should interest you most this season is in Jacksonville, where a rookie NFL coach is tasked with molding and shaping a rookie mega-asset. Trevor Lawrence’s entire career trajectory likely hangs in the balance of the next few years. He’ll get a reputation as this or that, and fans will be left with a taste in their mouths regardless of outcome. And although he’ll be the one throwing the ball and making the decisions, the coaching staff and the culture that they create in the locker room will be incredibly vital to his success or failure. He has the talent to be elite, but if he doesn’t pass our ‘eye’ test, he’ll end up just another dash of cream that didn’t rise.

If the team’s first preseason game is any indication, the coaching staff still has a lot of work to do to figure out what works best for their offense. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer didn’t give Lawrence any designed opening in the intermediate passing game, instead opting for quick completions and little yardage. Lawrence also took two sacks (including his first drop back), looked slow in the pocket, and failed to put up any points. Granted, so much about the Jaguars offense needed offseason improvement, and I’m certainly not drawing any big-picture conclusions based on a little August football. But other rookie quarterbacks like Trey Lance and Mac Jones came out firing in their debuts, which makes you wonder if Lawrence’s sputter was just an adjustment to NFL speed or early signs of poor planning by the coaching staff.

Whatever the case may be, Lawrence is arguably the most-hyped NFL prospect in a decade or more, so the expectations are sky-high. How he meshes with Urban Meyer and the rest of the staff will go a long way in determining how successful his first act as an NFL quarterback will be.

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