Bernard Flynn says Meath are playing catch-up because they neglected their underage set-up for an eight to ten-year period in the 21st century.
And he criticised the timing of ex-goalkeeper Paddy O'Rourke's comments to the AIB GAA blog, on why he had decided to quit the inter-county set-up.
Meath shipped a five-point defeat to neighbours Cavan in Breffni Park on Sunday, damaging their chances of clambering back into Division 1 for the first time since the league was re-organised into its current structure in the late noughties.
The day before the match, O'Rourke outlined his reasons for stepping away from the panel on the AIB GAA blog, saying that Meath were not realistic candidates for silverware at either provincial or All-Ireland level and that inter-county football wasn't worth the effort in that context. He insisted that his life had already changed for the better since quitting the inter-county scene.
Speaking on RTÉ 2fm's Game On, Flynn said that O'Rourke had been a good servant for Meath but questioned the timing of the article, and said that if everyone adopted the same attitude, Meath wouldn't have a team.
"He was very honest and Paddy's entitled to do with his time what he sees fit. He was quite frank that he didn't enjoy the five or six nights a week training.
"The timing of it didn't help the squad at the weekend. I went to Breffni Park thinking we had turned a corner for yet another time and I was very disappointed.
"Cavan beat us from the first second to the last. That shouldn't happen to that extent...
"The squad is limited. There's no hiding from that fact. We have got to pluck guys from the good underage teams. We need to get guys who want to change Meath football and drive it on.
"Someone has to grab the torch. Some bunch of men in Meath have to say, 'we're going to lead this thing back and compete on a consistent basis...'
If everyone takes Paddy's stance, we won't have any team. So, that can't be the case. We can't say that it's okay for everyone to think that way. It's not okay.
"Paddy was very good and a good servant and I've no issue (with him). But at the end of the day, I see his uncle (Colm) and I know what he did for 10 or 12 years when he was winning nothing!"
Flynn acknowledged that the Meath underage set-up had improved in recent years, which was borne out by recent victories at minor and U17 level against Dublin.
But he argues that Meath's current struggles at senior level are a consequence of neglect at underage level in years past.
"We don't have the players. There's no nice way to say that. We don't have the quality.
"(The underage system) is very good now but I'd say there was an eight to ten year period there when there was neglect.
"And everyone puts their hand up. All of us. And we're playing catch-up, we're five or six years behind.
"In 2016, we beat Dublin in the minor. In the U17 final last year in Drogheda, we hammered Dublin. It's two years ago that that minor team beat Dublin but there's not one of them near the senior team. There's something wrong there.
"To get back up and win a Leinster or an All-Ireland, we're a long, long way off because we don't have the quality at the moment. And that's tough on players listening to this tonight."