- The Jacksonville Jaguars have fired head coach Urban Meyer after just thirteen games during which the team went 2-11.
- Meyer’s tenure was characterized by his bumbling performance as a coach and a series of boneheaded controversies off the field.
- Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will serve as interim head coach for the rest of the season.
There have been a number of highly decorated college coaches to fail miserably after moving to the NFL. That notwithstanding, it’s difficult to think of any that failed as quickly, as miserably and as publicly as Urban Meyer with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville’s 2-11 record is bad enough but were it simply a case of Meyer being over his head at the helm of a bad team he would have at least lasted until the end of the season and might have been given a second year. Instead, he’s been fired by the Jacksonville after just 13 games. Meyer was fired because he was a huge jackass and continued this behavior with no apparent remorse. The Jaguars could have improved as a team, but Meyer’s repellent personality wasn’t going to change.
Meyer was a very successful college coach which as much as anything serves as an indictment of how college sports operate. At least during much of Myer’s tenure at Utah, Florida and Ohio State a college football coach can get away with thinking he’s George Patton as long as he wins. Meyer tried to bring that same coaching philosophy to the NFL with inevitable results. Unlike underclassmen–particularly during Meyer’s heyday at college–NFL athletes have representation, recourse and options.
There’s a lot to unpack with Meyer’s implosion at the NFL level. Most of his public foibles were lead story fodder in the sports media but it seems that the ‘last straw’ was a claim by former Jaguars’ kicker Josh Lambo that Meyer once kicked *him* during pregame warmups for a preseason game. Here’s how Lambo recounted it and CBS Sports reported it:
“I’m in a lunge position. Left leg forward, right leg back,” Lambo told Stroud. “… Urban Meyer, while I’m in that stretch position, comes up to me and says, ‘Hey Dips–t, make your f–king kicks!’ And kicks me in the leg.”
The root of Meyer’s kick was due to Lambo — and All-Pro kicker in 2019 — missing a field goal attempt in each of the Jaguars’ first two exhibitions. Naturally, the blow sparked a reaction from Lambo, who also noted that Meyer did not mention specialists by name, rather their position or “S–tbag, Dips–t or whatever the hell it was.”
“It certainly wasn’t as hard as he could’ve done it, but it certainly wasn’t a love tap,” Lambo said. “Truthfully, I’d register it as a five (out of 10). Which in the workplace, I don’t care if it’s football or not, the boss can’t strike an employee. And for a second, I couldn’t believe it actually happened. Pardon my vulgarity, I said, ‘Don’t you ever f–king kick me again!’ And his response was, ‘I’m the head ball coach, I’ll kick you whenever the f–k I want.'”
That story is a perfect microcosm of Urban Meyer’s brief NFL coaching career. He kept thinking that he would ‘kick someone whenever the f–k he wanted’ and that attitude doesn’t work at the pro level. Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan has a reputation for patience with regards to head coaches as evidenced by the fact that Gus Bradley and Doug Marrone were both afforded two years and change before getting pink slipped. This time, Khan swung like a hammer issuing this statement that hit most sport media news desks right around midnight Eastern Time:
Darrell Bevell will serve as interim head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars for the balance of the 2021 season. Darrell succeeds Urban Meyer. After deliberation over many weeks and a thorough analysis of the entirety of Urban’s tenure with our team, I am bitterly disappointed to arrive at the conclusion that an immediate change is imperative for everyone. I informed Urban of the change this evening. As I stated in October, regaining our trust and respect was essential. Regrettably, it did not happen.
Trent Baalke continues as our general manager and will work with Darrell to ensure that our team will be inspired and competitive while representing Jacksonville proudly over our final four games of the season. In the spirit of closure and recharging our players, staff and fan base, I will not comment further until some point following the conclusion of the NFL season.
As Khan notes in his impressively tight and emphatic statement, Meyer had already been given one reprieve. Meyer’s social media blowup in which he’s seen partying–and I use that term loosely–with a younger woman not his wife resulted in Khan giving this scathing public admonishment:
“I have addressed this matter with Urban. Specifics of our conversation will be held in confidence. What I will say is his conduct last weekend was inexcusable. I appreciate Urban’s remorse, which I believe is sincere. Now, he must regain our trust and respect. That will require a personal commitment from Urban to everyone who supports, represents or plays for our team. I am confident he will deliver.”
Khan’s only misstep in this statement looks to be his belief that Meyer’s remorse was sincere. Former Jags’ kicker Lambo gives a pretty accurate explanation of Meyer’s personality issues:
“That’s the reason I wanted to talk about this. There’s been a lot of turnovers, but those are still my people. Some of those dudes are my dudes, and the staff members I have grown into amazing relationships with over the last five seasons. He threatened all of them for speaking the truth. And that’s a bully, and people need to speak up against bullies.”
Meyer was given every opportunity to succeed in Jacksonville. Had he just shown up and done his job–even poorly–he was all but a lock to be brought back for another season. In the initial ‘First NFL head coach to be fired’ odds released before the season, Meyer is way down the list at +5000. At the time, the only betting interests at longer odds were the highest echellon of NFL coaches–Kevin Stefanski, Sean McDermott (both at +10000), Bill Belichick, Bruce Arians (both at +25000) and Andy Reid (+50000). Keep in mind that this isn’t indicative of the betting market believing that Meyer would do a good job but rather that he’d have a hard time getting fired anytime soon.
Somehow, Meyer managed to do just that, becoming the second first year NFL head coach in twenty years to leave his job before the end of his first season. Since the previous head coach to do this–in 2007, Bobby Petrino resigned as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons to take the head coaching job at the University of Arkansas–Meyer has the dubious distinction of becoming the only first year head coach in the past 20 years to be fired before the end of his debut season. Interestingly, since 2000 there have been only 12 NFL head coaches fired after one year or less on the job.
Here’s what I wrote on October 10 about his tenuous status after Jacksonville’s losing streak hit 22 games and that video of whatever he was doing with the woman not his wife came onto the public’s radar screen:
At this point, it’s hard to see Meyer making it until the end of the season. He’d have to dramatically turn things around and I’m not sure he has it in him–let alone the dubious state of his offensive and defensive lines. It’s insane how quickly Meyer ran this thing into the ground. When BetOnline.ag released their ‘First NFL Coach to Be Fired’ odds in late June, Meyer was +5000. There were only five coaches given longer odds to be pink-slipped: Kevin Stefanski (+100000), Sean McDermott (+10000), Bill Belichick (+25000), Bruce Arians (+25000) and Andy Reid (+50000). Today, the thought of mentioning Meyer among this elite group of coaches is unfathomable. On September 14, his price had dropped to +450 making him the second favorite ‘first to be fired’ coach behind Matt Nagy (+400). Depending on how individual sportsbooks worded this prop Meyer might have been ‘let off the hook’ by Jon Gruden’s resignation as head coach of the Raiders.
We’ll have more analysis of Urban Meyer’s disastrous run in Jacksonville in the coming days. It’s unclear what he’ll do next. Although it feels like he’s been around forever he’s just 57 years old but has done an astounding job during the past year of making himself unemployable. It’s almost unfathomable that he’ll be given another chance as head coach with an NFL team. In theory, there’s always a college team willing to hire a coach that has proven that he can win games but it’s doubtful that Meyer would want to ‘start at the bottom’ again. Maybe he could get a higher level college coaching job but it’s hard to see an elite program willing to roll the dice on Meyer after the Jacksonville debacle and a number of earlier controversies. The other question, of course, is his interest in coaching again. He doesn’t need the money and might just accept that he’s managed to burn all of his bridges. Some type of media gig is more realistic but there’s a problem with this as well–during the past year, Meyer has managed to transform his public image from ‘controversial’ to ‘downright unlikable’.