From the Press Box: Recent ‘fall from grace’ stories in the NFL reflect the importance of quality men in coaching


Two examples of NFL coaches falling from grace, Jaguars’ Urban Meyer and Raiders’ Jon Gruden, have really exposed the importance of integrity and character among leaders of men.

Last week, Meyer’s job security in the NFL took a serious hit when a video of him surfaced with a young woman grinding on him at his restaurant/bar in Columbus, Ohio. It got worse as another video surfaced of him groping the same woman.

The events in the video came a day after the Jacksonville Jaguars lost to the Bengals in Cincinnati. While pundits have mixed opinions of him not flying home with the team (CBS’ Brady Quinn has said it wasn’t uncommon for coaches and players to stay behind if they live near the road opponent), the actions of Meyer is certainly a bad look.

The week after the video surfaced, Meyer had multiple meetings with team owner Shad Khan and his locker room.

Meyer is getting a reprieve from the court of public opinion, however, as e-mails from the now former Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden surfaced from 10 years ago, during his time at ESPN.

The e-mails were uncovered during an investigation by the NFL into sexual harassment in the workplace for the Washington Football Team.

The e-mails, which are line of communications between Gruden and former Washington General Manager Bruce Allen, are loaded with flagrant and profane words describing everything from women in officiating, openly gay players in the NFL and his disdain for NFLPA President DeMaurice Smith and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. There are also pictures of topless women, one who happens to be a former cheerleader for the Washington Football Team.

One e-mail using a racist trope was uncovered late last week, but the true hail storm came Monday when the New York Times did a story on the others. Within hours, Gruden had resigned.

Another example, while he didn’t “fall from grace,” but Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio called out the Baltimore Ravens for running one more play to set a record rather than taking the traditional knee to close out a game well in hand. Fangio in the press conference after noted that the Ravens “put player safety second.”

In the case of Urban Meyer, I have no idea what is going on in his personal life or what he was doing in that bar on that day. But the optics of it are not good. Someone in a leadership position should have talked to Meyer and helped hold him accountable.

Yes, Jon Gruden’s e-mail debacle was over a six or seven-year period starting in 2011. But the NFL is going to “protect the shield” and if it’s not a good look, it will act.

Many defenders of Gruden are looking at the DeShaun Watson (24 active sexual assault cases being investigated) situation in Houston. But it’s important to note, in that case, that the FBI is even investigating that and the expectation is there will not be a resolution to that this season. Watson has also not played a game this season.

My hope is that Gruden in the last 10 years has done some maturing and feels differently about some of these “progressive” topics.

For Fangio, he is not a first-year head coach and has been in the NFL for a long time. At some point there is an understanding of how to “coach speak.”

Was he right to call out Baltimore like that? Maybe. But in the moment he looked like a head coach who was a little salty his team was embarrassed by the Ravens. Broncos defensive back Kareem Jackson said on the matter, “Honestly, I don’t give a s--- about that last play, more so care about the plays through the game. Being it’s our job to stop them, they ran it to get their 100 yards or whatever they were trying to do.”

For a player to show a little more dignity than the coach on the issue, regardless of his personal feelings, that says something about the coach.

I’m not a football coach, regardless of how much Madden NFL I play. I also don’t intend to judge any of these men harshly for their actions. Matthew 7: 1-2 says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

I don’t know any of these men personally, but there is a level of expectation in how you act in the public, professionally and with the media when you are a leader of men.

These men don’t lead children, teenagers or college students. These men lead other grown men, who can see through the facade and the sales pitch. While winning can cure woes from the media, it’s the behind-the-scenes things the coaches will need to do to win back over their locker rooms.

I look at legendary high character coaches like Tony Dungy, Andy Reid and Gary Kubiak and am reminded how some men are better suited to lead than others.

NFL owners and general managers need to be more thorough in their coaching searches. Put character over ratings and ticket sales. Good character coaches, leading men to be better fathers/sons/brothers/friends will take care of the wins-losses columns.

Coaches around the NFL need to learn from these downfalls and, if they weren’t already doing so, work on their character. The only person who can work on your character is yourself, and sometimes that’s easier said than done.

John Lee is the editor of The Pampa News and can be reached at or find him on Twitter: @jcl1987.


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