December 27, 2009 10:00 PM ET
Douglas Jones/US Presswire
Who in Gainesville knew that this was Meyer's goodbye as well?
Urban Meyer has opted out of retirement and will step away from Florida on indefinite leave instead. With this move, Meyer will join the ranks of successful coaches and athletes who have been forced to step away from the games they love for a bit. How long Urban’s respite lasts is anybody’s guess, but if history is any indicator, there’s strong evidence to support the idea that Meyer will be stalking the sidelines again at some point in the near future.
Michael Jordan retired from the NBA after 3 championships to pursue a career on the diamond only to return 2 years later and win another 3 championships. Jordan then walked away from the game again before coming out of retirement for a second time. His third run in the NBA was a mostly forgettable one on the Washington Wizards, but his experience demonstrated how powerful the lure of the game can be.
Phil Jackson left the Bulls after coaching Jordan’s teams to 6 championships and vowed to never coach again. Yet, after only a year, Jackson agreed to return to the bench for the Los Angeles Lakers. He has since won four more championships and sports world title rings on all 10 fingers.
Joe Gibbs led the Redskins to three Super Bowl titles before stepping away from the sidelines to run a highly successful NASCAR racing team. He returned to the Redskins after 11 years of retirement and led the team to the playoffs in two of four seasons before stepping away from the game for a final time. In his return, Gibbs demonstrated that a great coach never loses his winning touch.
Dick Vermeil, aka The Emotional One, stepped away from the Philadelphia Eagles following the 1982 season citing “emotional burnout.” Under Vermeil, the Eagles made the playoffs 4 straight seasons (1978-81), won the NFC East title (1980) and reached the Super Bowl for the 1st time in franchise history (1980). Vermeil returned to the NFL in 1997 to coach the St. Louis Rams and led them to a Super Bowl victory in 1999. In a familiar turn of events, Vermeil then retired again before returning for a less successful run with the Kansas City Chiefs and a third retirement ceremony.
George Foreman left the world of boxing in 1977 to become an ordained minister before returning to the ring 10 years later at the tender age of 38. At the age of 45, Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer to regain the title he had lost to Muhammad Ali two decades earlier. Foreman later retired for good and taught all of us a thing or two about indoor grilling.
The good news in the end, particularly for Meyer, is that walking away now doesn’t mean that he can’t return later on down the road. Jordan, Jackson, Gibbs, Vermeil, and Big George all did it. Sometimes taking a break is just what the doctor ordered. And if not, we will always have the memories of a competitor who championed the spread offense that dominated the game for close to a decade.
Best of luck, coach Meyer. Your fire and passion for the game will be missed.