Urban Meyer was fired by the Jaguars after less than one season as head coach. His tenure will go down as one of the worst in the history of the NFL. Not only did Meyer struggle on the field, but his actions off it was burning the team to the ground.
In the end the team decided enough was enough, pulling the plug before the mounting damage could any more harm. So how did we reach this point, and what was every step along the way that led to the collapse of Meyer in Jacksonville?
January 14, 2021: Jaguars hire Urban Meyer
The decision by Jacksonville to hire Urban Meyer came quickly, and before the Jaguars had finalized the hiring of Trent Baalke as general manager — who was still operating in an interim status.
Concerns over Meyer extended far beyond his football acumen, and into his departure from Ohio State. Prior to the start of the 2018 season Meyer was placed on administrative leave following reports that the coach was aware of spousal abuse allegations against assistant coach Zach Smith, and chose to ignore them until it became clear the allegations would become public, at which point Smith was fired. Meyer was suspended for the first three games of the season after the Ohio State board of trustees found that he didn’t “uphold the values of the university.”
Following the 2018 season Meyer said he was retiring from coaching due to health concerns. This was similar to how the coach left Florida in 2010, which came shortly before allegations were made that Meyer created a “toxic culture” while at the university, and “broke” Florida football.
Despite these concerns, the Jaguars pressed forward, touting his success in college and branding Meyer as the right man to lead their young team.
April 29, 2021: The NFL Draft
Using the first pick in the NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select quarterback Trevor Lawrence from Clemson. Lawrence is widely regarded as the most polished pro prospect since Andrew Luck, and a can’t-miss talent at the position.
May 20, 2021: Tim Tebow
After a week of speculation the Jaguars sign Tim Tebow to a one year, $920,000 contract.
Billed as a tight end, the decision is almost universally panned. At this point Tebow had not played in the NFL in six years, and had no experience playing tight end. The move came despite many capable tight ends being on the market, many of whom were younger and more skilled that the highest ceiling for Tebow at the position.
It was speculated that the only reason Tebow was signed was his prior relationship with Urban Meyer at Florida. In addition, the presence of Tebow was transformative for the Jaguars for the wrong reasons. At a time they needed to be concentrating on installing their new system and having the team gel, instead there were questions about Tebow’s presence. In addition, having a former quarterback on the roster who was a lightning rod for publicity took away from Lawrence’s takeover as team leader.
July 1, 2021: Jaguars break NFL rules
The Jaguars are one of three teams to be fined $200,000 by the NFL, and Meyer is fined $100,000 personally for breaching practice rules in violation with the NFL CBA.
August 17, 2021: Tim Tebow is released
Tebow is cut after a disastrous preseason outing in which it became clear he had no business playing tight end in the NFL.
September 12, 2021: Week 1 is a mess
A report from Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports releases hours before the Jaguars’ first game. The piece details concerns inside the organization that Meyer is rubbing players the wrong way, and already not making friends at every level. There are already signs he handles losing poorly, his temperament is annoying players, and unfamiliarity with the NFL schedule is rubbing more experienced veterans the wrong way.
Jacksonville goes on to lose 37-21 to the Texans, previously believed to be the most dysfunctional team in the NFL.
September 16, 2021: Rumors of Meyer leaving begin
Urban Meyer is forced to answer questions about his future not even one week into the NFL season. Meyer’s name is mentioned in relation to the USC job becoming open, with some speculating that Meyer’s penchant for bailing on bad situations and changing jobs could cause him to return to college.
September 19, 2021: Jags lose again, and become a meme
Jacksonville loses 23-13 to the Broncos in Week 2. A disappointing loss that could have been largely ignored, if not for Meyer and the Jaguars making a ludicrously overwrought statement on Twitter.
September 22, 2021: Meyer seems overwhelmed
In his post-game press conference, Broncos coach Vic Fangio notes that Meyer spoke to him before their game and said that the NFL is like playing Alabama every week.
“I don’t know Urban Meyer at all really, I met him the other day, shook his hand before the game and after the game and his comment to me was, ‘Every week it’s like playing Alabama in the NFL,’” Fangio told reporters Wednesday.
The statement, while seemingly innocuous enough, saps the confidence of fans.
September 26, 2021: Jaguars lose again
This time it’s a 31-29 beat down against the Cardinals. Trevor Lawrence has the worst game of his young pro career.
September 30, 2021: Another loss
On a short week on Thursday Night Football, the Jaguars lose to the Bengals 24-21. The narrow loss is a sign of progress, but still underscores how Cincinnati drastically turned around under new leadership, but the Jaguars were struggling.
October 2, 2021: The video ...
Urban Meyer begins trending after video emerges of him partying with a young woman in an Ohio bar.
October 4, 2021: An apology
Urban Meyer issues a public apology for becoming a distraction and showing “bad judgement” by leaving a dinner with his grandchildren to go to a bar.
Urban Meyer apologizes for "being a distraction" to the Jaguars following a viral video of him at a bar that circulated over the weekend pic.twitter.com/13ZrcsbQ2R— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) October 4, 2021
October 5, 2021: Reports, rumors and more fallout
Despite Meyer’s claim that the locker room understood his explanation, NFL reporter Michael Silver challenges that in a Twitter thread that indicated Meyer had lost the locker room, and players have no respect for him.
In additional there are reports of numerous “closed door meetings” happening, the results of which are a statement from Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan.
That afternoon Meyer kept his regularly scheduled radio show, adding more information to the situation. The coach said he had to “regain the trust” of his players, indicating that preparations for the team’s game against Tennessee would be based more on whether the players allow him to coach the team, rather than him taking control.
Meyer on getting the team ready to play the Titans: “I don’t believe that’s in my court. … The leaders on the team are going to make that decision. It depends on how much trust you have built up with them, how we structure everything this week and focus on winning that game. ...— Mark Long (@APMarkLong) October 5, 2021
December 11, 2021: Urban Meyer is a “winner”
A report from Tom Pelissero of NFL.com outlines tensions that have been building inside the Jaguars during their most recent losing streak. Among the report are stories of Meyer infuriating wide receiver Marvin Jones to the point of him leaving the team, and the now infamous “I’m a winner,” remarks.
Meyer reportedly said, in front of his players, that he was a “winner” and all his assistants were “losers.” Not only is this obviously extremely disrespectful, but was the most salient example of Meyer passing the buck and refusing to accept any blame for the product on the field.
December 13, 2021: Urban doesn’t even know what’s happening anymore
#Jaguars HC Urban Meyer was asked about Andre Cisco playing more (again). He said “Cisco is playing a little bit more, I believe, I don’t have his numbers in front of me”— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) December 13, 2021
Cisco played 0 defensive snaps yesterday.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan comes out saying the team wouldn’t make a hasty decision on the coach.
“I want to do the right thing for the team. I want to do the right thing for the city,” Khan said. “That, to me, is way more important than just acting helter-skelter on emotion. I think we have a history of really looking at the facts and then really doing the right thing.
“Gus Bradley was here four years. Doug Marrone was here four years. It was wins and losses and this is a little bit different but, you know, I’m going to reflect on all of that and do what’s the right thing for the team and the right thing for the city.”
December 15, 2021: Kicking the kicker
Former Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo, who was released on October 19, spoke to the Tampa Bay Times, detailing his experiences with Meyer. Among details of his attitude and disrespect for players, there was one incident that jumped out.
“I’m in a lunge position. Left leg forward, right leg back,” Lambo said. “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. It certainly wasn’t as hard as he could’ve done it (kicked), but it certainly wasn’t a love tap. 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.’ “
Meyer also reportedly told his coaching staff that they were inept, and he had better staff when he was in college.
Former Jaguars coach Urban Meyer told Jaguars coaching staff, per league source: 'I had a better coaching staff at Bowling Green. You guys are f---ng terrible.'— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) December 16, 2021
December 16, 2021: Jaguars fire Meyer in the middle of the night
Shortly before 1 a.m. ET the Jaguars announced they fired Meyer, saying there was a need for “immediate change.” Shad Khan broke down the decision in his announcement.
“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.”
So ends one of the worst coaching tenures in NFL history. The Jaguars will now try to rebuild with a winner at the helm.