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Meyer fired 13 games into turbulent Jags stint

12:43 AM ET

  • Michael DiRoccoESPN Staff Writer

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    • Covered University of Florida for 13 seasons for ESPN.com and Florida Times-Union
    • Graduate of Jacksonville University
    • Multiple APSE award winner

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars have fired head coach Urban Meyer, ending a tumultuous tenure with the franchise after only 13 games.

“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,” owner Shad Khan said in a statement released early Thursday. “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.

“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.”

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season and GM Trent Baalke will remain in place, Khan said.

In Meyer’s only season with the Jaguars, the team went 2-11, its 10th season with double-digit losses in the past 11 years, but issues off the field are what doomed him. From hiring a strength and conditioning coordinator who had been accused of making racist remarks and bullying Black players, to a video of Meyer with a woman who was not his wife at a bar, to tensions between Meyer and his staff and players, there was dysfunction almost from the moment Meyer was hired.

The latest embarrassment was a report Wednesday in the Tampa Bay Times in which former kicker Josh Lambo alleged that Meyer kicked him in the leg while he was stretching in warm-ups before a practice during the week of the final preseason game.

League sources also confirmed to ESPN on Saturday an NFL Network report that Jaguars receiver Marvin Jones Jr. had to be persuaded to return to the team facility after leaving in response to Meyer’s published criticism of the wide receivers. Sources also said that Meyer and Jones had a heated exchange at practice after he returned.

However, following Sunday’s 20-0 loss to Tennessee (the fourth shutout loss in franchise history), Meyer, 57, denied that he and Jones had an argument and also denied an NFL Network report that he called his assistant coaches “losers” and questioned their résumés during a staff meeting. Meyer said Jones did come to him to question what Meyer said about receivers but said the conversation was not heated.

The incident with Jones was just one of many examples of dysfunction within the facility and left Khan to fire Meyer a little less than a year after he sat next to him in a news conference and proclaimed, “this time I got it right” in choosing the three-time national champion coach to replace Doug Marrone.

Meyer’s missteps began almost immediately after his hiring on Jan. 14.

In February, Meyer hired former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle, who was accused of making racist remarks and belittling and bullying players while with the Hawkeyes. Doyle resigned a day later after the Jaguars were criticized for the hire by the Fritz Pollard Alliance.

In May, Meyer and the Jaguars signed Tim Tebow to play tight end, a position the former Heisman Trophy winner had never played. Tebow participated in OTAs, minicamp and training camp but struggled as a blocker and was released during the first cuts.

The NFL fined the Jaguars $200,000 and Meyer $100,000 for excessive contact during a June 1 organized team activity. The team also must forfeit two OTAs during the first week of the 2022 offseason, meaning they will have only eight.

In late August the NFLPA said it would initiate an investigation after Meyer said he and Baalke considered a player’s vaccination status for final roster cuts, because COVID-19 protocols imposed on unvaccinated players who test positive or are identified as a high-risk close contact are more stringent than the protocols for vaccinated players.

Meyer also had rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick, alternate days with the first-team offense with Gardner Minshew throughout training camp to earn the starting quarterback job. Meyer eventually announced Lawrence as the starter on Aug. 25, and the team traded Minshew to Philadelphia three days later.

The Jaguars appeared unprepared in their season-opening loss to a Houston Texans team that many regarded as the worst in the NFL. The team had several illegal formation penalties and gave its best offensive player — running back James Robinson — just five carries.

The Jaguars lost their next three games, including a 24-21 defeat at Cincinnati on Thursday Night Football on Sept. 30. Meyer did not travel back after the loss to the Bengals and instead went to Columbus, Ohio, to visit with his grandchildren.

A video began circulating on social media on Oct. 1 that showed a woman who was not Meyer’s wife dancing close to his lap at his Columbus restaurant. Meyer apologized in positional group meetings early in the week, then at a news conference and again in a team meeting later in the week. Khan also issued a public rebuke.

“Just stupid, and so I explained everything that happened and owned it,” Meyer said. “Just stupid. Should not have myself in that kind of position.”

Roughly an hour after Meyer’s apology in the news conference, another video emerged that appeared to show Meyer groping a woman’s buttocks while he was sitting at the bar. The woman appeared to be wearing the same clothes — jeans and a white top — as the woman in the first viral video.

Meyer said his family was understandably upset. His daughter Gigi posted a message of support on her Instagram story, and his wife, Shelley, posted a message on Twitter and announced she was no longer going to be active on the social media platform.

The Jaguars won their first game of the season two weeks later by beating Miami 23-20 in London, ending a franchise-record 20-game losing streak dating to the 2020 season opener.

The Jaguars won one more game, and the offense has been among the worst in the NFL since then, too. Lawrence has struggled, and Robinson suffered a heel and knee injury in the first game after the bye.

Robinson’s usage was another issue under Meyer. He was benched for 16 plays after fumbling against Atlanta on Nov. 28 and for 20 plays after fumbling against the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 5. Meyer said he wasn’t aware of how long Robinson was held out of the games and that he doesn’t micromanage his assistant coaches. He said the decision on when to play Robinson belonged to running backs coach Bernie Parmalee.

Lawrence publicly threw his support behind Robinson after the loss to the Rams, saying he told the coaching staff Robinson is the team’s best offensive player and needs to be on the field as much as possible.

In addition, Meyer clashed with his assistant coaches. According to multiple sources, assistants were upset at having to plan into the night for the preseason games and for the way Meyer treated them. Meyer earned a reputation for being hard on his coaches during his college career, and sources said Meyer came down hard on the Jaguars’ assistants when the team wasn’t having success. Instead of calling out players for playing poorly, Meyer would place blame on the assistant coaches. The Robinson-Parmalee situation was just one example.

Meyer had already lost multiple staffers before mid-December. Special-teams coordinator Brian Schneider left the team in May for personal reasons; chief of staff Fernando Lovo left to return to Texas for a job in athletic administration and defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi and tight ends coach Tyler Bowen are expected to leave after the season for Florida and Virginia Tech, respectively.

Meyer’s relationship with some players also grew strained. In addition to his issues with Lawrence, Robinson and Jones, multiple sources said players openly made fun of Meyer in the locker room in the days after the viral videos of him with a woman emerged.

Meyer won three national championships and compiled a 187-32 college coaching record during stints at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State. He won two of those titles (2006, 2008) with the Gators, whom he led to a 65-15 record in six seasons. He also led the Buckeyes to the 2014 national title and compiled an 83-9 record in seven seasons in Columbus, Ohio.

His tenures at Florida and Ohio State were far from uneventful.

The night after a Gators loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, Meyer was rushed to a Gainesville hospital after his wife was unable to wake him up. Meyer had been experiencing chest pains and suffered from dehydration. Meyer later announced that he was resigning after Florida’s bowl game for health reasons but changed his mind the following day and instead said he would take a leave of absence.

Meyer was diagnosed in January 2010 with esophageal spasms, which caused the severe chest pains he had been experiencing. He began taking medication, made significant lifestyle changes and eventually resumed coaching at the start of spring practice in March 2010.

One day after the Gators’ final regular-season game in 2010 — a 31-7 loss at Florida State — Meyer announced he was resigning for good and that his final game would be the Outback Bowl.

Florida players also had trouble with the law during Meyer’s tenure. Thirty-one players were arrested while Meyer was the head coach from 2005-10.

Meyer had another health scare in 2018 when he dropped to his knees on the sideline during Ohio State’s game against Indiana because of severe pain in his head. Meyer later revealed that he was dealing with an ongoing issue related to a congenital arachnoid cyst in his brain, which included severe headaches that had gotten worse over two years.

Meyer also was placed on paid administrative leave on Aug. 1, 2018, in his final season at Ohio State after reports surfaced that he knew about spousal abuse allegations against assistant coach Zach Smith. Ohio State had fired Smith the previous week.

After an investigation, Meyer was suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season. The Buckeyes went 12-1 but missed out on the College Football Playoff, and Meyer announced after the Rose Bowl that he was retiring from coaching for health reasons.

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