Urban Meyer was fired after Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles threw for a franchise-record 517 yards and two touchdowns in the team’s 30-27 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. After starting his tenure 8-3, he secured just one victory from his final 12 games with an abysmal 3-10 mark
The “jacksonville jaguars coach” is a story about Urban Meyer’s disastrous tenure as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The article goes into detail about his struggles since taking over in 2011, and how he was fired after a 4-3 start this season.
17 December 2021
- ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine staff writer
- After graduating from Penn State University, he joined ESPN The Magazine.
- Covers college football and basketball in the United States.
Michael DiRocco is a well-known actor.
- For ESPN.com and the Florida Times-Union, I covered the University of Florida for 13 seasons.
- Jacksonville University graduate
- Winner of many APSE awards
Urban Meyer appears behind a little black podium deep in the bowels of TIAA Bank Field two weeks before he is sacked by the Jacksonville Jaguars, less than a year into his tumultuous, scandal-plagued career. He’s here to provide the latest update on his first season as an NFL head coach, an experiment that is swiftly spinning out of control.
Meyer muses on the difficulties of making the move from college football to the NFL, a journey that has taken the lives of a slew of coaches before him. He explains, “It’s about what I thought.” His squad has a record of 2-9.
He is awestruck by the Los Angeles Rams, who are the Jaguars’ next opponent (and will beat them 37-7) and refers to them as a “all-star squad” with respect verging on worship. And this is maybe the most candid, though unintended, look at Meyer’s first year in the league. He encountered Denver coach Vic Fangio on the field postgame two months earlier, when the season was still young and hadn’t yet curdled into one more double-digit-loss affair (the franchise’s 10th in the last 11 years), and told him, “Every week it’s like playing Alabama.” Meyer was playing in a league that was out of his league for the first time in his career.
He seemed frightened today at the stadium, as he has been many times this season — on the sidelines during games, on the dais afterward, outlining what went wrong. His voice is thin and frequently fades into a near-whisper. He casts a glance to his left, as if the solutions are scribbled on the wood floor.
“OWN IT,” Meyer’s self-proclaimed credo for the season, is emblazoned on the walls around the practice field, on the signposts in front of conference rooms, and on the halls of the stadium.
He deflects rather than embracing it. Why is it that the offensive still lacks a distinct identity this late in the season? “That’s an excellent question.”
He evades. Was the team’s most dependable offensive threat, running back James Robinson, benched? “You’d have to ask Coach Parmalee, the running backs coach.”
He sows a perpetual feeling of disarray. In the course of two weeks, he’ll say “there’s no anything behind Door No. 2” twice, once in response to a question about his chief of staff, Fernando Lovo, leaving Jacksonville for a job at the University of Texas, and once in response to a question about Robinson being sidelined once again.
But what has become evident in 2021 is that there has always been something behind Door No. 2 for this whole season — for this entire Urban Meyer exercise. The offseason appointment of strength coach Chris Doyle, who had recently departed the University of Iowa after two decades due to allegations of maltreatment of Black athletes, was a questionable choice. Meyer’s conduct was questionable, as shown by a leaked video showing him grabbing a young woman’s behind. Assistant coaches were displeased with Meyer’s treatment of them, as well as having to stay late to game-plan for preseason games and Meyer’s aforementioned dismissal of Parmalee. Sources say Marvin Jones Jr. had to be persuaded to return to the team facility after becoming frustrated with Meyer’s criticism of the wide receiver group, and Josh Lambo publicly accused Meyer of kicking him in warmups before practice, an allegation that, once made public, would prove to be Meyer’s final embarrassment.
After his team’s defeat to Tennessee on Sunday, Urban Meyer walks off the field. His time with the Jaguars would come to an end only a few days later. Getty Images/Andy Lyons
Over the last two months, I spoke with almost two dozen coaches, former front office staff members, agents, and current and former Jaguars, and one recurrent message emerged: Meyer’s organizational culture was flawed from the start. Meanwhile, Meyer was heading another season of failure in Jacksonville, this time with Trevor Lawrence as quarterback, a generational prospect. Meyer, probably the coach who had been most clearly and pathologically crushed by defeat, was losing like he’d never lost before. Furthermore, the squad was not only losing, but it was also regressing.
When he’s done speaking at the press conference, he walks down the hallway just outside the interview room to answer one more question in peace.
What has he learnt this year, when victories, his lifeblood, have been scarce?
“It’s as powerful as it’s ever been,” he adds of his dislike of losing.
It’s one of those rare occasions when there seems to be nothing else beyond Door No. 2. He ran into one of his players in the hallway earlier in the season, when the defeats began to pile up. Meyer’s expression was solemn. He informed the player, “I’m not accustomed to this s—-.”
So, how does that dislike manifest itself now?
“I’m having difficulties eating and sleeping,” Meyer admits.
“It’s difficult to operate as a human being.”
Meyer celebrates a defensive stop against the Buffalo Bills in the first quarter of the Jaguars’ win in early November. Getty Images/Sam Greenwood
THE EXTENT TO WHICH Meyer is having problems functioning as a human being in the wake of his defeats was revealed on Wednesday evening.
That’s when Lambo — the Jaguars’ most accurate kicker in team history, who was released on Oct. 19 — disclosed in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times that Meyer kicked him in the leg during a preseason warm-up earlier in 2021, irritated with a rare episode of unreliability from Lambo.
Meyer was also accused of a plethora of additional wrongdoings, according to Lambo. Meyer, the self-proclaimed special teams enthusiast, would refer to his players by position (“kicker, punter, long snapper”) or nasty insult rather than by name (“s—-bag, dips—-“). Meyer was irritated by Lambo’s reaction to getting kicked in the leg, and expressed his displeasure in front of the rest of the squad during practice.
Meyer allegedly said Lambo, “I’m the head football coach, I’ll kick you anytime the f—- I want.” Meyer refutes Lambo’s account of the encounter.
That discovery, or at least its public airing — Lambo claims he alerted his agent about the event, who then contacted Jaguars legal counsel — was yet another drain on club owner Shad Khan’s once-abundant tolerance. (On Meyer, Khan said only eight months ago, “This time, I got it right,” a sentiment he stuck to even as he stood by Meyer in the aftermath of his viral night out in Ohio.) Khan dismissed Meyer as Wednesday night turned into Thursday morning, only about seven hours after Lambo’s charges surfaced. For 336 days, he was the Jaguars’ head coach.
During those 11 months, there had been brief glimpses of optimism, or at the very least, no disaster. After persuading Khan to spend $1.5 million on the installation of a “rejuvenation room” at the stadium — a one-stop shop where players could recover with massages, red-light therapy, acupuncture, cupping, a cryotherapy chamber, a flotation tank, and an infrared sauna — he engendered the goodwill of his players.
Lawrence stood on the sideline with his arm around Meyer and Meyer’s arm around him in the dying minutes of one humiliating defeat, this one in late November versus the 49ers “at home” (the stadium was as much red as teal that day).
Lawrence remarked after the 30-10 setback, “I simply told him I’m going to keep battling.” “I’m always going to be myself, regardless of the scenario. You don’t need to be concerned about me.”
It seemed to be a show of unity, a real and symbolic joining of arms, as Meyer, Lawrence, and the team waded through the quagmire together.
Until a few days before Meyer was fired, a source close to the squad said that although some players disliked Meyer, the majority of the team was happy with him. According to the source, he hadn’t lost the locker room until the final weekend before his expulsion.
Is that a glowing recommendation? Possibly not. But a potential disaster? It wasn’t that, either, he said.
There were were lighter moments on days other than autumn Sundays. The squad formed a circle with Meyer in the middle during a Thursday practice in early December. He retracted his arm and spiked the football, sending it flying toward the ground. He summoned Charlie Strong, an assistant head coach who spiked the ball. He summoned offensive lineman Andrew Norwell, who chose to kick the ball rather than spike it. He summoned James Robinson, who also spiked it. A song blared from the practice speakers in the background:
“Isn’t it true that I’m as fortunate as I can be? Isn’t it funny how you haters are trying to take a shot at me?”
Two days later, reports of tremendous internal struggle erupted, involving everyone from the coaches to the players.
According to an NFL.com article from Dec. 11, Meyer had a spat with veteran wide receiver Jones, which resulted in Jones leaving the facility, needing to be convinced to return, and then a confrontation with Meyer. Meyer disputed the incident, returning to the podium in the stadium’s basement to tell collected media that he wanted to give Jones his telephone number so Jones could confirm Meyer’s version of events.
Jones’ telephone number was kept confidential, but he did speak to reporters two days later, when he declared, in a quick two-minute press appearance, “This is all I have to say about it. Something was brought to my notice that I didn’t really like. I addressed him about it, and we spoke about it and dealt with it as if we were mature men. That’s all I have to say about the subject.”
Other crimes were recorded, as was the case so regularly this year. Meyer officially refuted a supposed coaches meeting in which he referred to himself as a winner and his assistant coaches — the ones he hired — as losers, which a source close to the team also informed ESPN never occurred. Meyer was the primary driver in keeping Robinson off the field against the Rams following his opening-drive fumble, despite earlier claiming a lack of information of Robinson’s limited playing time.
Taken together, these episodes are a microcosm of the greater issues that have dogged Meyer’s stay in Jacksonville from the outset.
Unlike in a healthy workplace, honesty and openness were not rewarded inside the walls of TIAA Bank Field, according to a person acquainted with the squad. That culture, in turn, produced distrust and a vacuum where a system of checks and balances, even for the most powerful persons, should exist.
“Did there seem to be enough room for individual thought?” According to the source. “Had there been enough of, ‘Let’s press the brakes on this one and think it over?’”
To make matters worse, few people in the company seemed to have the authority or willingness to mentor Meyer as he shifted from supervising 18- to 22-year-old college freshmen to mature professionals.
“He can’t simply smile and say, ‘Hey, I’m Urban Meyer, this is Columbus, and we’re all okay,” according to one agent who represents a former Jaguar. “This is the National Football League. It’s simply a little different.”
According to many sources, Meyer’s transition from college football czar to NFL head coach was riddled with potholes. Some Jaguars grumbled at Meyer’s aggressive approach at first, according to running back Carlos Hyde, who played under Meyer at Ohio State in 2012 and 2013.
Coach Meyer, in particular, wants to keep you on your toes, as Hyde says. “He will never allow you to feel at ease in this place. Some of the men were attempting to find out who he was. ‘He gave me the impression that I may be here today and gone tomorrow.’ ‘But that’s Coach Meyer,’ I said.”
Another ex-Jaguar agrees with Hyde’s view. As the squad filtered out to practice, Meyer would stand in one area, evaluating each player. What were their demeanors like? What was their demeanor like? Were they looking up or down?
“I think a lot of folks were just just taken away by the intensity,” the player adds. “There were simply moments when some of the players didn’t appreciate how he practiced and stuff like that.”
Meyer ruled with an iron hand, up close and personal — but also strangely, and ahistorically, from a distance.
Meyer was a “micromanaging nutjob” during his illustrious career as a college head coach, to use his own words. He had a 187-32 record as a result of his micromanaging. With two different teams, he has won three college football titles. To health issues that are devastating. He didn’t specify whether it was the latter that pushed him to modify his methods in his last weeks as head coach of the Jaguars, but he did. At that same lectern, he admitted it.
“As my career progressed, I basically assessed myself and realized I wasn’t as effective in the areas where I needed to be active,” he said. “I’m concerned about which foot the three-technique is using.”
At least in Jacksonville, the change in attitude was accompanied by a lack of understanding, whether fake or not. About why Robinson, the team’s leading offensive playmaker, sat on the bench for seemingly endless periods of time during a game. The number of repetitions a young defensive rookie received in a game. And an overall feeling of being checked out, as if my mind was elsewhere, anything other than the game.
Meyer walked — or rather, hobbled — to midfield last Sunday as time expired on the Jaguars’ latest defeat, 20-0 to the Titans, where he met Tennessee coach and former Meyer protégé Mike Vrabel. Meyer greeted his former Ohio State assistant with a harsh handshake and a glum expression. He continued hobbling back into the tunnel after the confrontation lasted less than two seconds. Meyer’s last game as a Jaguar would be his last defeat as well.
“You can’t constantly be in the news,” says the author “During his team’s tumultuous week, Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence noted. “”It’s time for you to go play football.” Mark Zaleski/Associated Press
THE LAST SUNDAY IN NOVEMBER, AS Meyer walked the sideline during the Jaguars’ game against the Falcons with his hands on his hips and his head dipped downward, the broadcast presented a graphic depicting a bleak scenario for home viewers: The Jaguars have the dubious distinction of trailing their opponent for 40 straight games, the seventh-longest such skid since 1930. The game had been going on for perhaps a quarter of an hour.
(Since then, the run has increased to 42 games, putting the Jaguars in sixth place.)
It revealed an unpleasant but necessary truth: Urban Meyer did not create Jacksonville’s loss.
Take a look at this example of football ineptitude: No club in the NFL had a worse record (41-116) than Shad Khan’s Jaguars since he took over as owner in 2012. They’ve hit that milestone by going on five-game losing streaks eight times in the last ten years, including twice this season. Prior to edging out a victory against Miami in Week 6 with a 53-yard, time-expiring field goal, the Jaguars had lost 20 consecutive games in the 2020 and 2021 seasons. It was the NFL’s second-longest losing run ever.
It was never a question of whether Meyer brought ineptness to the city. It was a question of whether he would be the one to eventually mend it. He wasn’t, at least not during his 13-game stint.
The Jaguars of 2021 were never going to be anything special. It wasn’t even labeled as being mediocre. But, after so many dreadful seasons, the Jaguars were dreadful enough to earn the top selection in the NFL draft for the first time last year — just in time to snag the finest quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. There should’ve been some indications of optimism. Snippets of progress. At the very least, it’s imbued with Trevor Lawrence’s hope.
The components for a successful offensive were in place: An offensive-minded head coach to complement that exceptional quarterback talent; an offensive coordinator (Darrell Bevell, now the interim coach) who worked with Russell Wilson for his first six seasons and helped him reach two Super Bowls, one of which he won; a 10-year veteran (Jones) joining a talented group of young receivers; a 1,000-yard rusher
Jaguars**, Urban Meyer, 2021
Bobby Petrino, Falcons**, 2007
Pete McCulley, 49ers, 1978
Lou Holtz, Jets, 1976** *Since 1970; **College head coach
Elias Sports Bureau is the source for this information.
Instead, with Meyer in command and Bevell calling the plays, the club is on track to score the poorest points-per-game average (13.9) in the franchise’s 27-year history, which, if it holds, would break the previous mark (15.2 in 2011). Meanwhile, since the bye, the Jaguars have not scored more than 23 points in any game this season, averaging 9.1 points per game. The receivers have dropped 24 passes, which is tied for second most in the NFL; they also gave the opposition Titans a great chuckle on Sunday with a botched route that culminated in a collision.
There have been moments when Lawrence has resembled the character he was cast as. “You’ll see some actual, wow, NFL-type passes,” one scout adds. “You’ll see him putting it in the honey hole on the sideline, where you’ve got to throw over a linebacker, or over a corner, but you can’t float it too high because the safety’s going to come in.”
He’s also sounded the part practically every time. Lawrence was the one who came forth during the confusion of Robinson’s was-he-or-wasn’t-he-benched drama to declare Robinson is one of the team’s greatest players and, as such, he deserves to remain on the field.
Lawrence, on the other hand, lacks the necessary supporting cast (especially given the injuries to DJ Chark Jr. and Travis Etienne Jr.) and support structure to thrive right now. In the month of November, he only threw one touchdown pass, and it was his lone touchdown throw in the previous six games. In terms of predicted points added on throws, he ranks 28th out of 32 qualifying quarterbacks. Through his first 13 games, his QBR is 32.0. (Compare that to the top three draft selections in the last three years: Baker Mayfield had a 50.9 QBR after 13 games in 2018, Kyler Murray had a 57.4 QBR, and Joe Burrow had a 48.5 QBR before being ill.)
However, there is another, less obnoxious, but equally important fact. The gift of time will be offered to Lawrence. He’d always be able to make it through Jacksonville without Urban Meyer. Urban Meyer, on the other hand, would not be able to make it through Jacksonville without Trevor Lawrence.
After the 30-10 defeat against San Francisco, Meyer stated, “There’s going to come a day when we don’t get our asses kicked here.” “It’s on its way. I’m sure that man [Lawrence] is going to be involved. I have a lot of sympathy for him.”
He might be correct in that regard. Lawrence still has a lot of room to succeed in Jacksonville. Meyer, on the other hand, will not be there to guide it.
Shad Khan, the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, was inclined to give Meyer more time on Monday. He said, “I want to do the right thing for the team.” “I want to do what’s best for the city. That, in my opinion, is much more essential than responding irrationally based on emotion.” Getty Images/Jayne Kamin-Oncea
Shad Khan convened a handful of local journalists aboard the Kismet, his 308-foot yacht docked in the St. Johns River near downtown Jacksonville, the football stadium in the distance, two days before he dismissed Urban Meyer, and preached patience when it came to his troubled head coach.
“For the sake of the team, I want to do the right thing. I want to do what’s best for the city. That, to me, is much more essential than responding irrationally based on emotion “he declares “Gus Bradley was a four-year resident. Doug Marrone worked here for four years. I’m going to think about everything and do what’s best for the club and the city.”
Khan had assembled the media to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of his Jaguars acquisition, and he did so in style. Guests were requested to remove their shoes before boarding, were given a glass of champagne, and were given a tour of the $200 million boat, which can be rented for $1.2 million per week.
Textured leather walls, a handblown glass chandelier, a retractable basketball court, a retractable fireplace, an elevator leading to a below-sea-level vista, a spa, a sauna (with heated flooring), a beauty salon, and an onyx tub were among the vessel’s highlights.
It was a magnificent display of wealth and excess, in sharp contrast to another of Khan’s extravagant acquisitions, the rotting boat that is the present Jacksonville Jaguars.
On Monday, Khan delivered his paean to patience. Lawrence told a separate room full of journalists on Wednesday that the level of turmoil surrounding this squad has to alter. “That’s definitely something we need to focus on,” he remarked. “It’s impossible to be in the news all of the time. You need to go out there and play football.” The Jaguars were once again engulfed in controversy by Wednesday night. Meyer’s responsibilities were taken away from him.
It wasn’t the rising losses that ultimately brought this Meyer project to a halt. He came into the world with a mess on his hands. But he left a broader trail in his wake, one littered with not just on-field defeats, but also self-inflicted wounds and the never-ending drip-drip-drip of controversy.
Bevell will take over as interim head coach in his place, which isn’t always a bad thing. Meyer’s termination was announced via text to a couple of his current Jaguars, who reacted with a “peace out” emoji.
On Thursday afternoon, cornerback Shaquill Griffin adopted a more nuanced stance, calling for a change in attitude in light of the new leadership.
“This locker room, in my opinion, requires a head coach that believes in what his players are saying and trusts that we can all make this work. This isn’t a solo performance. Sometimes I get the impression that head coaches come in and say, ‘This is my method.’ ‘Let’s do it,’ they say, and then they forget about us “he said “Trust your teammates whether you are a head coach who has opted to embark on this position or whatever the situation may be. We’ll be able to do this if we work together.”
Meyer is no longer with us, but Lawrence was always the cornerstone of our re-building project. That portion, at the very least, is predictable.
The two departed the stadium minutes apart only three weeks before the big unraveling, an hour after the 49ers game concluded — the same game when Meyer declared his trust in Lawrence. Meyer fled with a small police escort, but he did it gently and silently to his vehicle. Lawrence was being yelled for by a small throng of remaining Jaguars supporters.
Lawrence appeared in a black sweatshirt and sunglasses, ran his fingers through his thick hair, and introduced himself to Marissa, his wife. They made their way to the cheering audience, where he gave them a handful of autographs and possibly a glimpse of a better future. All along, he was the one.
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The “Inside Urban Meyer’s disastrous tenure as Jacksonville Jaguars coach” is a great article that talks about how the team has been performing since he took over. It also talks about his lack of success and why he was let go. Reference: jaguars coaching staff.
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