Urban Meyer: Building a Dysfunctional Culture of Distrust

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    The Urban Meyer era in Jacksonville has been nothing short of a train wreck. And that very well could be an understatement. When Jaguars’ owner Shahid Khan hired the highly accredited college coach in January of 2021, the expectation was that, along with new general manager Trent Baalke, they would work together to rebuild a struggling Jacksonville franchise and create a winning culture which would change the Jaguars’ reputation around the league. Meyer has created nothing close to a healthy, winning culture, and is now at risk of losing his first professional football job within a year. 

    Urban Meyer was fired by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday morning just 13 games in his career as an NFL head coach. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

    Since arriving in Jacksonville, Urban Meyer has been nothing but a distraction and a source of drama. His first mistake was bringing in former Heisman-winning quarterback Tim Tebow, who had not played a snap of football in years, to play… tight end. Was Meyer seriously thinking his former quarterback, at 34 years old and five years removed from the game, would be able to compete for a roster spot? Or was this just an attention grab for the Jaguar’s fanbase and millions of football fans all over America? Tebow was eventually cut in preseason, which confirmed the general consensus that his football days are well behind him. 

    The Tebow experiment was the first tarnish on Meyer’s reputation since taking the Jaguars head coaching gig. What seemed to be a foolish idea ended up being just that, and Meyer was off to a rough start to his professional coaching career. But, what was unknown was just how much more he would ruin his own notoriety. 

    A few weeks into the season, a video surfaced on social media showing Meyer receiving a lap dance from a much younger woman. Meyer, who is 57 and has been married for quite some time, rightly received criticism from the public. In a statement addressing the viral video, Meyer expressed his remorse and owned up to his mistake. “I apologized to the team and staff for being a distraction,” Meyer said. “[It’s] just stupid. Should not have myself in that kind of position.” Owner Shahid Khan had the following to say about Meyer’s actions: “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.” Loss of trust is a clear red flag when looking at why teams may be struggling, and if the owner can’t trust his right-hand man, why should the players? The players deserve to play in a healthy, supportive, and successful environment, and Meyer has not delivered on any of those fronts. While he did apologize for his actions, this incident started to stir the pot for Meyer, as things would only head downhill from there. 

    Things were going fine in Jacksonville, (well, as fine as they can go for a two-win team) before Meyer let the next domino fall. Per NFL reporter Tom Pelissero, Meyer had benched running back James Robinson in the Jaguars’ 37-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams for seemingly no reason. Meyer had claimed that it had to do with the fact that Robinson was still working his way back from an injury and deflected the question to running backs coach Bernie Parmalee, and after dancing around the question, Meyer concluded that the decision was Parmalee’s and was ultimately injury based. Pelissero’s report said otherwise; it was Urban Meyer’s decision the whole way. And was not injury-based. Even Jaguars’ rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who will hopefully become a franchise cornerstone in Duval county, voiced his frustration with the benching of Robinson. “In my eyes, obviously I’m the one that’s out there, see all the pieces moving, I see the whole picture, the bottom line is James [Robinson] is one of our best players and he has to be on the field,” Lawrence said in regards to the issue. “But I know, and I’ve voiced my opinion, James is one of our best players and he has to be in the game. I think we’re all on the same page, so there’s no confusion there. We’re going to move forward but I know James is a hell of a player, so I want him out there.”

    If Meyer doesn’t appreciate the insight of his own players, let alone the one who he selected with the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, why should they put any faith in him as their coach? Lawrence isn’t the only Jaguar who seems frustrated with the state of the franchise. Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. reportedly got into a heated exchange with his head coach. Tempers flared, tensions rose, and Jones Jr. ended up storming out of the building and not returning until other coaches convinced him to come back. Clearly, Meyer has done some egregiously bad things early in his tenure. But nothing was more obnoxious than what he said to his own coaching staff.

    During a staff meeting with the coaching staff, Meyer delivered an aggressive message that he is a winner and his assistants are losers, forcing the coaches to defend themselves and back it up with their resumés. Calling your colleagues and co-workers losers is bad enough, but the fact that Meyer felt the need to deny the report altogether speaks volumes about his character. For someone who came into Duval attempting to rebuild an organization, Meyer has evidently caused more harm than good. While Meyer has always been harsh and unapologetic in his coaching methods, there is still a fine line between discipline and straight-up arrogance. Meyer is clearly unaware of where that line is.

    If you thought things couldn’t possibly get worse in Jacksonville, former kicker Josh Lambo, the Jaguar’s kicker for the past four years, came forward with another accusation towards Meyer. Lambo alleged that Meyer had kicked him during pre-game warmups this past preseason. Lambo said Meyer would often refer to specialists as “kicker” or “punter” instead of their names, along with other insults. After Lambo had struggled initially to begin preseason, Meyer went up to him and said, “Hey dips–t, make your f—ing kicks!” before landing a kick on Lambo’s leg. Lambo described the kick as “[it] wasn’t as hard as Meyer could’ve done it, but it certainly wasn’t a love tap.” When Lambo approached Meyer later on to address the issue, Meyer said to him, “I’m the head ball coach, I’ll kick you whenever the f–k I want.” Lambo was ultimately released before Week 1 of the regular season in favor of current Jaguars’ kicker Matthew Wright.

    As has been a theme throughout Meyer’s tenure, he called Lambo’s description of the incident “completely inaccurate.” Surprised? Don’t be. Meyer has done nothing but prove he is unfit for the NFL and can not handle a situation without lying to make himself look better.

    The culmination of all these horribly handled events lead to Urban Meyer’s firing on the morning of December 16th. Meyer leaves Jacksonville with a record of 2-11, which is two more losses than he had in his seven seasons at Ohio State. If he wants to return to coaching, Meyer has a steep uphill climb to make before any football team at any level will consider bringing him in. Meanwhile, despite the lost season, Jaguars fans now have something to cheer for. Their abomination of a head coach leaves behind a very young and talented roster led by Trevor Lawrence, the first overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, Meyer’s first and last draft as head coach. Lawrence, along with a young core of Travis Etienne, K’Lavon Chaisson, Josh Allen, Tyson Campbell, and DJ Chark among many others, will look to turn the Jaguars back around in 2022, this time with a new head coach at the helm. With one short coaching era coming to an end, whoever takes over in Jacksonville will look to write a new chapter in Jaguars’ history.

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