Shad Khan, whose Jacksonville Jaguars have taken on water for pretty much the entire 10 years he has owned the team, invited the local media on Monday to his yacht, the Kismet, to commemorate the anniversary of his purchase of the forlorn NFL franchise.
Of course, the conversation swung to his embattled first-year coach, Urban Meyer, whose team have won only two of their first 13 games this season. And the record is not the worst part. According to NFL.com, Meyer’s players and staff are furious with him, almost mutinous.
Meyer, 57, whose teams won three national championships during his time in college football, still had his job despite his lousy record, his brusque style and other missteps, most notably when he was caught on video in October at his Ohio bar appearing to get cosy with a young woman who was not his wife.
Khan reprimanded Meyer for his “inexcusable” behavior, for which Meyer apologized, and the Jaguars later won two of three. But they have lost five in a row, including a 20-0 drubbing Sunday by the Tennessee Titans. Meyer also had to address the NFL.com report.
And it came up again Monday at his day-after news conference. Meyer said, again, that the report was “incorrect,” and when told NFL.com was not recanting its reporting, Meyer said, “Didn’t happen. We’ve got to move on.”
Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, Meyer lightly suggested that Amy Palcic, the Jaguars’ top public-relations executive, hand out the number of wide receiver Marvin Jones, one of the players mentioned in the NFL.com report, so he could deny everything.
It was reported that Jones stormed out of practice after an argument with Meyer, and that Meyer had belittled his assistant coaches in a let’s-compare-resumes match. Running back James Robinson was prohibited from re-entering a game after he was benched.
In any case, it was the kind of report that springs up from anonymous leaks when a coach has worn out his welcome. Meyer does not appear to be going anywhere for another month, anyway, though the idea of him being a one-and-done NFL coach still is in play. So is the concept that great college coaches don’t automatically make great NFL coaches.
Meyer has hardly enhanced his reputation with capers like his night at the bar in Columbus, Ohio, which came after the Jaguars fell to 0-4 with a loss at Cincinnati – and, almost as bad, after he decided not to travel back to Jacksonville with his team.
“He either did it because he’s so unable to handle losing that an 0-4 start in the NFL relieved him of his senses,” Doug Lesmerises wrote on Cleveland.com, “or he believes he’s so untouchable he publicly created a situation that no boss of an NFL team should tolerate.”
It all came to a head early Thursday when Meyer was relieved of his duties.
Khan hired Meyer in January 2021 even though his tenure at Ohio State had ended poorly. Meyer was suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season after administrators said he knew about domestic abuse allegations against an assistant coach before that coach was fired. Meyer retired after the season, citing health reasons.
Two years later, he was back on the sidelines – in the NFL, of all places. Khan had said as recently as Saturday, in an ESPN report that cited anonymous sources, that he was sticking with Meyer. During the news conference on his yacht Monday, Khan said he was “not impulsive” and would not be “acting helter-skelter on emotion.”
“In the past it was like you were, quote, it’s like the lowly Jaguars, and everyone left you alone,” said Khan, a car-parts magnate. “Now the scrutiny we have is really something different. How much of that is that we’re bringing it upon ourselves, or how much of that is deserved? Urban, he won wherever he was. This is something he’s never dealt with.”
In fact, Meyer even wrote (with the help of Wayne Coffey) one of those books offering advice that transcends football itself. “Above the Line: Lessons in Leadership and Life from a Championship Program”, according to the blurb, “delivers wisdom and inspiration for taking control and turning setbacks into victories for a team, a family, or a Fortune 500 company.”
A Jaguars franchise floundering under a new coach is not exactly news, since Jacksonville have lost more games than they have won in every season but one since Khan bought the team. (The 2017 team inexplicably made it to the AFC Championship game.)
The name of the coach, not to mention his $12m annual salary, pushed the Jacksonville story into orbit. Meyer’s college teams won 85% of their games, but he was also a guru to two notable quarterbacks: Alex Smith at Utah and Tim Tebow at Florida.
The Jaguars won one game last year to sneak past the New York Jets and grab the No 1 overall pick in the draft, which they not-so-surprisingly used to take Trevor Lawrence, the quarterback from Clemson who was seen as a generational talent. Teams that get a No 1 draft choice usually need much more than just a quarterback though. Lawrence has struggled at times in his first year, with nine touchdown passes versus 14 interceptions, but that may be because the rest of the offense is scuffling even more.
“Once we become more productive in one area, we’ll win,” Meyer said Monday.
That was only the football side. Meyer was been regarded as driven, arrogant and slippery – he fit the occupational profile there – and one of the problems with his situation is that the fans and media in Jacksonville didn’t quite know what to believe.
After this most recent run of losses, the Jaguars stand only a half-game behind the Detroit Lions, who have the NFL’s worst record at 1-11-1, and perhaps, another No 1 overall draft pick. Jacksonville end the season against New England and Indianapolis.
But first come games against the Texans, who are also 2-11, and the crumpled Jets, who are 3-10, with only a victory over the Texans in the last six weeks. The Jaguars are three-point favorites against the Texans, which should tell you how bad Houston is.
No matter who the next coach will be, the endless rebuild at Jacksonville will drag on, literally.
Although the team had been earmarked for the UK in the past, Khan is determined to see the Jaguars’ stadium refurbished and the surrounding area developed so that Jacksonville can continue to play host to the annual Georgia-Florida college game and a college football playoff game.
In Meyer, the city of Jacksonville had a guy with plenty of college experience. Unfortunately, he has not worked out very well outside that realm.