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Why the Jacksonville Jaguars must end the failed Urban Meyer experiment in 2021

Urban Meyer, Jacksonville Jaguars
Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

Even before the Jacksonville Jaguars fired Doug Marrone on Jan. 4, 2021, Urban Meyer was building his first NFL coaching staff in anticipation of being hired by Jacksonville. Ten days later, Meyer officially accepted his first NFL job and officially became Jacksonville’s head coach.

Before Meyer was hired, the Jaguars’ coaching vacancy was arguably the most coveted in the NFL. With the No.1 pick, any head coach would be automatically landing quarterback Trevor Lawrence and inheriting a young roster with a wealth of cap space and draft picks to work with.

But team owner Shad Khan was convinced Meyer was worth a lucrative contract and deserved to inherit significant control over the Jaguars’ football operations and future. Meyer wanted a new facility for the team and plans are now underway with approval from the Jacksonville City Council.

One of the most successful coaches in college football history was handed the keys to an NFL kingdom, an opportunity that many with years of experience at the professional level never received. Despite Khan’s confidence in Meyer finding success in the NFL, signs of Meyer’s ignorance of how the NFL works became immediately apparent.

Things have only become more apparent as the 2021 NFL season unfolds. With that in mind, let’s examine why the Jaguars need to move on from their first-year coach in 2022.

Early signs of trouble for Urban Meyer

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Jacksonville Jaguars
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Less than a month after being hired, Urban brought on Chris Doyle as the team’s director of sports performance. Doyle and Meyer have a strong relationship, dating back 20 years. But the decision to add Doyle to the coaching staff came eight months after he was dismissed from Iowa after multiple players spoke out about Doyle using racist language against them and treating them differently based on their race.

An investigation found that Black plays were punished more harshly than their white teammates at Iowa and three unidentified coaches were viewed by the law firm as having verbally abused and bullied players. After Doyle was dismissed from the program, head coach Kirk Ferentz said more changes weren’t needed.

Doyle didn’t find another job in football until Meyer, a friend, offered him an opportunity. Meyer’s decision to hire Doyle received immediate criticism from NFL analysts and the Fritz Pollard Alliance, but Meyer defended the hiring and his vetting of Doyle.

“I vet everyone on our staff and, like I said, the relationship goes back close to 20 years and a lot of hard questions asked, a lot of vetting involved with all our staff. We did a very good job vetting that one… I met with our staff and I’m going to be very transparent with all the players like I am with everything. I’ll listen closely and learn and also there’s going to have to be some trust in their head coach that we’re going to give them the very best of the best, and time will tell. … The allegations that took place, I will say [to the players] I vetted him. I know the person for close to 20 years and I can assure them there will be nothing of any sort in the Jaguar facility

Jacksonville Jaguars HC Urban Meyer on the hiring of Chris Doyle, vetting process of staff, via ESPN

One day later, Doyle resigned from his position. In July, Meyer and Jaguars’ general manager Trent Baalke were subpoenaed as part of a lawsuit filed by lawyers representing former Iowa players who accused Doyle of discrimination.

  • Urban Meyer college record: 187-32, 12-3 in bowl games

This is the same head coach who in 2018 denied any knowledge of domestic violence allegations against Ohio State assistant Zach Smith. But Meyer reportedly knew of allegations against Smith in 2015 and an Ohio State investigation led to a release of emails and texts that seemed to show Meyer suggesting a strategic leak about Alabama looking into hiring Smith.

Meyer is also the same coach who included morality clauses in his coaches’ manual about avoiding strip clubs or “venues that would embarrass Ohio State University.” Reporter Jordan Strack also tweeted in 2018 that Meyer encouraged Smith to interview for other jobs in 2018. All of this from a man who taught a ‘character and leadership’ class. at Ohio State.

A head coach who saw 31 player arrests during his tenure with the Florida Gators and who allegedly helped cover up a racially-charged altercation between Smith and a player immediately showed bad judgment weeks into his NFL gig. But the Jaguars remained confident he could turn things around.

Urban Meyer’s lack of composure, inability to act like an NFL head coach

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

In an interview following Doyle’s resignation in February, Meyer said he wanted nothing that would be a distraction for the Jaguars. Months later, Tim Tebow worked out for the Jaguars after lasting playing an NFL snap in 2015 and making his last regular-season appearance in 2012.

While Meyer didn’t watch Tebow’s workouts, he said his coaches provided glowing feedback on the 33-year-old’s athleticism. A few weeks later, Jacksonville signed Tebow to a one-year contract.

“‘He looks like he’s 18 year’s old, not 20—whatever he is, 33. And I said, ‘Guys, you don’t understand. Now, this guy is the most competitive maniac you’re ever going to talk to,’ and let’s give it a shot.”

Urban Meyer on conversation with coaches after Tim Tebow workouts

The close friends became neighbors and Meyer even seemed open to his team being on “Hard Knocks”, a show many coaches view as a distraction, even with Lawrence learning to adjust to the NFL

Jacksonville cut Tebow after his first preseason game, with the 33-year-old unable to block defenders and struggling to make plays.

But Tebow’s presence at Jaguars’ practice wasn’t the biggest problem. He didn’t follow the league’s practices protocols months into the job. The NFL fined him $100,000 and the Jaguars $200,000 for holding contact practices during 11-on-11 drills at the team’s OTAs. The Jaguars received a $200,000 fine and must forfeit two OTA practices in 2022.

Hall of Famer Jimmy Johnson shared in July that Meyer was already frustrated. A month later, NFL insider Pete Prisco reported that Jaguars’ players were already having issues with Meyer treating NFL players and practices like it was college.

“He’s got to change a few things. He brought a bunch of college-like things to the program which I don’t necessarily agree with. I’ve heard some of the players aren’t thrilled with them either. One of his assistants on the field during practice with a boom mic telling everybody to hydrate, hustle and get to the next series. Obviously, he’s a work in progress. He’s been a good football coach everywhere he’s been. It’s a lot different when you recruit guys to your school and you’ve got a bunch of players, the five stars, then it is when you’re trying to build something.” 

NFL insider Pete Prisco on Jacksonville Jaguars HC Urban Meyer, via The DA Show

Weeks later, there were more red flags in Jacksonville. Reports surfaced about Meyer already becoming unhinged and losing control over his emotions after the team struggled in the preseason (1-2 record). He reportedly belittled coaches and wanted to take over drills himself, falling back on the same behaviors that he had in college.

The Urban Meyer video, in-season issues

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts
Nov 14, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer during warmups against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Meyer coached his first Thursday Night Football game in Week 4, a 24-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Instead of flying home with the team and beginning preparation for the next game, Meyer stayed in Ohio and told players he was going to spend time with his family.

  • Urban Meyer coaching record: 2-10

The rest is history. The Urban Meyer video became a storyline of the NFL season, with the Jaguars’ head coach seemingly receiving a lap dance from a young woman at Urban Meyer’s Pint House.

A video captured the moment and it went viral the next day. Just 48 hours later, Meyer apologized to the team and offered remorse in his press conference. But reporters from inside the locker room painted a very different picture.

According to NFL insider Michael Silver, players shared that Meyer met with position groups individually instead of addressing the entire team. He allegedly portrayed the woman as a stranger who was just dancing, excusing his involvement in it. Upon leaving the room, players immediately laughed at Meyer’s explanation and he instantly cost him credibility in the locker room.

But the Urban Meyer bar video isn’t his biggest problem from the regular season. After a blowout 37-19 loss to the Tennessee Titans, Meyer said the team didn’t run a quarterback sneak on fourth down at Tennessee’s one-yard line because Lawrence wasn’t “quite comfortable with that yet,” saying the rookie never did it before. The rookie immediately refuted that, saying he is comfortable doing a QB sneak.

A more recent example of Meyer’s baffling NFL coaching came in Week 13. Starting running back James Robinson was battling heel and knee injuries entering a matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. He only played 26 snaps, with three of his eight carries coming in the final two minutes of a 37-7 deficit.

When asked why Robinson was allowed to play in those close minutes, putting him at risk for further injury, he admitted it was a legitimate criticism and agreed the decision wasn’t smart.

Months into his NFL coaching career, Meyer seems unaware of his responsibilities as a head coach and ignorant of his team’s rotation at running back. Along the way, he is throwing a position coach under the bus. Keep in mind, this is the second time Meyer has seemingly not had an answer about the team’s rotation at running back.

Now, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Meyer is having frequent issues with players and assistant coaches. With tensions rising in Jacksonville, it once again raises serious doubt about Meyer’s ability to handle coaching at the NFL level.

During a staff meeting, Meyer delivered a biting message that he’s a winner and his assistant coaches are losers, according to several people informed of the contents of the meeting, challenging each coach individually to explain when they’ve ever won and forcing them to defend their résumés.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero on Urban Meyer’s alleged clashes with his staff

Jacksonville hired Meyer for his offensive mind, leadership and his track record of building successful teams. Entering Week 14, the Jaguars’ offense averaged the second-fewest points per game (15.0) and ranks 27th in third-down conversion rate (35.1%).

At this point, Urban Meyer is doing nothing positive for this team. He lost players’ respect months ago, Lawrence and Robinson are questioning Meyer’s decisions, the Jaguars are on pace for a 3-14 record and a year was wasted.

If Khan wants to make the move that is in this team’s best interests, Meyer needs to be fired. Otherwise, young talent will waste away and Meyer will keep proving why he shouldn’t be coaching.