- Urban Meyer has spoken to the media for the first time since he was fired by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
- In an interview with the NFL Network, Meyer apologized to the city of Jacksonville and said he’s ‘heartbroken’ that he will no longer be involved with the Jaguars.
- Despite the apology, Meyer still doesn’t seem to get that his firing was ‘self inflicted’.
Urban Meyer has broken his silence for the first time since he was fired as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. In an interview with the NFL Network, Meyer struck a conciliatory tone in his comments about the city of Jacksonville and the Jaguars franchise. After Meyer’s daughter went full lunatic on Instagram going so far as to declare ‘war’ against something or someone for her dad’s firing there was at least some question about how he would respond. Meyer is too savvy to go to ‘war’ with whatever or whomever his daughter thinks is a deserving target. He’s trying to position himself for his next gig and the first step in that is to clean up his reputation as much as possible or–at the very least–make himself more palatable to the American public.
The good news: Meyer apologized to the city of Jacksonville and generally said the right things though many of his comments sounded like typical ‘coachspeak’ blather. The bad news: There’s a complete lack of self awareness about the reasons he was fired. It doesn’t even sound like Meyer is ‘owning’ the fact that his firing was largely ‘self inflicted’. The ‘money shot’ of the interview was Meyer’s apology and fawning paean to Jacksonville, the Jaguars and everyone associated:
“I just apologize to Jacksonville. I love Jacksonville. It’s one of the reasons I took the job. I still think Shad [Khan is] a great owner. It’s heartbreaking. I just had a dream of it becoming a destination place with a new facility he agreed to build and some day to walk into that stadium where it’s standing room only. Because I know how bad the people of Jacksonville want it.”
“So, I’m just heartbroken that we weren’t able to do that. I still believe it’s going to be done. It’s too good of a place.”
Meyer continued his verbal lovefest later in the interview, singling out Khan again:
“I love our owner Shad, Shad’s a great man. Two reasons I took the job: One for him, the second reason was I loved Jacksonville and wanted to help turn around an organization that had been struggling.”
It remains to be seen if Meyer’s opinion of Khan will change following reports that the Jaguars fired him ‘for cause’ and don’t plan on paying him the remaining four years on his contract. Meyer may fight this though the cards are stacked against him as this kind of dispute in the NFL is typically resolved by the commissioner. I’m sure you can figure out how Goodell would rule. The always excellent Michael David Smith at Pro Football Talk brought up the good point that Meyer might eat the financial loss to mitigate the risk that even more ‘dirt’ about his tenure as the Jags’ head coach would be released:
It’s possible that Meyer will conclude that he has little chance of winning a fight with Khan, and that any fight would result in more information coming out that reflects even worse on Meyer’s brief tenure as head coach of the Jaguars, and that he won’t challenge the finding. But with millions of dollars on the table, it’s also possible that Meyer plans to go after Khan, and go after the money he thinks Khan owes him. And so this ugly period in Jaguars franchise history may not be over.
Meyer did address some of the more egregious reports of his behavior as Jags’ head coach–albeit briefly. Actually, he didn’t address them specifically but gave this vague catch-all answer:
“It was like, ‘Wait a minute, where is this coming from? I’ve certainly made a few mistakes but those weren’t right.”
He also continued to deflect blame for the benching of running back James Robinson completely refusing to accept responsibility for the decision. Meyer tried to dismiss this situation as being the result of what Led Zeppelin called a ‘Communications Breakdown‘:
“We discussed it as a staff When you see someone lose the ball or even see them be loose with the ball, get them out of the game, get their mind right and then get them back in.’ When he fumbled, I said, ‘Take him out.’ We took him out and then we had lack of communication about when to put him back in.”
Tough to buy this version of events. Were this the case, you think that Meyer or one of his supplicants would have explained things to rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence before he went public to advocate for Robinson. Several times in the interview, Meyer talked about poor performance in certain aspects of the game like he was some sort of ‘innocent bystander’. He may have toned down the message since allegedly calling his assistants ‘losers’ in a post game tirade but the meaning is the same–everything was the fault of his staff.
He also had glowing words for Lawrence–again not taking any personal responsibility for his slow development.
“He’s going to be great. He’s 22 years old, thrust into a place that lost 15 straight games. He had some devastating injuries to his offensive skill guys – (DJ) Chark went down and (Travis) Etienne, then (Jamal) Agnew and then our TE Dan Arnold. Those are our fast guys. And we had enough (talent), I’m not blaming that, but we had to be more creative. I just think we could’ve done better. But there is zero doubt Trevor is going to be a great NFL quarterback.”
The height of disingenuousness by Meyer has to be this quote explaining his coaching style:
“You push people really hard to find their greatness, but you treat them like gold. I thought that’s what we’re gonna do and we’re gonna win. It was really going good for a while.”
Wow. More of the same–he explains that his style of coaching *could* work in the NFL but it won’t now because society has changed. He gets in another diatribe about his assistant coaches being ‘fragile’ and chalks it up to them making decent money:
“I think college has changed quite a bit, too. Just society has changed. You think how hard you pushed. … I believe there is greatness in everybody and it’s the coach’s job to find that greatness however you do that. Positive encouragement. Pushing them to be greater, making them work harder, identifying flaws and trying to fix [them]. I think everything is so fragile right now. And that includes coaching staffs. When I got into coaching, coaches weren’t making this kind of money and they didn’t have agents. Everything is so fragile where it used to be team, team, team. I remember talking about it in a staff meeting three days ago. I got into this profession because I had the greatest high school coach and it was all about team. All about the huddle.
I get that he’s not going to give a ‘shoot interview’ that cops to any of the allegations against him, particularly with a potential battle over his firing being ‘for cause’. I also get that anyone in this position would try to spin it as favorably as possible. Meyer, however, is completely oblivious. His comments suggest that he was a victim of external circumstances–injuries, his assistant coaches, media rumors, society and who knows what else. At no time does he indicate that he was part of the situation and had complete control over the football product. Another highlight was this quote I’ll title ‘Losing Eats at Your Soul’:
“I tell people, losing eats away at your soul. Once you start losing, it’s hard on everybody. I thought at one point, when we won two out of three, there was some momentum, great energy, the defense was really playing well. We were running the ball and then when that dried up on us, then we started turning the ball over. We had that bye week and then James Robinson gets hurt.”
Meyer wants to establish a narrative that he was there in Jacksonville, doing his best job and ‘pushing people really hard but treating them like gold.’ Unfortunately, a maelstrom of external factors over which he had no control started to build around him and ultimately cost him his job. Mind blowing that he won’t take even a modicum of responsibility–not just for his firing but for the team’s struggles. Meyer’s tone may have softened a bit to curry favor with the media but the act is completely the same.