Meyer has problems with printing truth
It's strange to watch Urban Meyer threatening a reporter for quoting one of his players correctly. Especially since you can't believe some of the things that come out of Meyer's mouth.
He's the same guy, after all, who retired as Florida's football coach just last December to look after his health, then unretired some 24 hours later and announced he was taking a leave of absence that has yet to begin. Then Meyer upbraided everyone for making a big deal of his bizarre gone-tomorrow, here-today rationale. Small wonder he has a problem with people telling the truth.
In a video making the rounds on YouTube, you can watch the coach breathing fire at Orlando Sentinel reporter Jeremy Fowler, threatening to ban him and everyone else at the newspaper from showing up at practice "ever again."
"If that was my son," Meyer snarled at one point, "we'd be going at it right now."
The "son" Meyer was referring to in this case was junior receiver Deonte Thompson. And the reason the coach was ready to rumble is because Fowler quoted Thompson -- accurately -- saying he expected to see more passes thrown his way when John Brantley becomes the Gators' quarterback next season than he did last season, when Tim Tebow was in charge.
"You never know with Tim," Thompson said. "You can bolt, you think he's running but he'll come up and pass it to you. You just have to be ready at all times. With Brantley, everything's with rhythm, time. You know what I mean, a real quarterback."
The part of the quote that apparently set off Meyer were the last few words: "a real quarterback." He thinks Thompson, who's embarrassed by how much attention his remarks got, was being used by Fowler and any number of others to take a belated shot at Tebow, a player Meyer has said on occasion he wishes actually was his son.
So maybe the coach is just taking things a little too personally. Or maybe -- as others pointed out -- Meyer is still seething over how many NFL coaches, scouts and player personnel staffers have questioned nearly every aspect of Tebow's readiness to become a pro.
They've panned his mechanics and footwork -- Tebow is working on those -- and doubted his ability to read complex defenses. Tebow might be the most accomplished QB in college football history, but few of the "experts" think he's worth risking even a second-round pick on. So you can see where the guy who was in charge of grooming him for life after college might be a little offended.
But guess what? Just as sticking up for players like Thompson is part of Meyer's job, so is biting his lip on occasion.
Being overly protective is no help to the Gators, a lesson Meyer doesn't seem to have learned.
It's worth remembering that one of the weaker calls any coach made last season was Meyer's original decision to sit Brandon Spikes down for only half a game after his star linebacker got caught trying to gouge the eyes of Georgia running back Washaun Ealey. Spikes was the one who got his coach off the hook and quieted down the fanfare at the time, by asking to serve a full-game suspension instead a few days later.
Meyer did himself few favors with this latest public tantrum. If the point was to protest how Thompson's quote was blown out of proportion, blowing up at a reporter in full view of a camera might be the worst way to make it.
A few quiet words on the side would have accomplished that. Besides, Meyer's doctors, family and friends have been lecturing him for some time now to reduce his stress, not amp it up.
We noted in the middle of Meyer's change of heart last December that usually it's losing that turns coaches inside out. Meyer spared himself much of that pain by winning everywhere he's been, including two of the last four national championships, at Florida. Yet no matter how smooth the road looks ahead, he remains one of the those guys who focuses obsessively on cracks the rest of us barely notice.
The only thing that's changed for Meyer is he seems more determined than ever to fix each and every problem himself.
Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org