New reports have emerged about Urban Meyer’s short time as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and they paint a fuller picture — and it’s all bad.
When Meyer was fired in December, no one was surprised. Between the team’s awful record, the controversy swirling around Meyer since he was caught at a bar dancing with a woman who was not his wife, unflattering reports of his coaching style, most people wondered why it didn’t happen earlier.
But these new reports from The Athletic make it clear that it definitely should have happened earlier than it did — maybe even on the first day. Jayson Jenks and Mike Sando reported that Meyer was unfamiliar with some of the best players in the NFL despite having said he’d studied up.
Meyer said he conducted a six-month deep dive on the NFL that included interviews with his former Florida and Ohio State players as well as a study of the salary cap. But multiple sources said Meyer was unfamiliar with star players around the league, including 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel, Seahawks safety Jamal Adams and Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, a three-time NFL defensive player of the year.
“Who’s this 99 guy on the Rams?” Meyer asked one staffer during the season, according to a source. “I’m hearing he might be a problem for us.”
Asking “who’s this 99 guy on the Rams” wasn’t exactly a great way to kick off his new job, and it only got worse from there.
Meyer tried to rule through threats, intimidation
Players did arrive at training camp excited to start a new chapter in Jacksonville, but former Jags receiver D.J. Chark told The Athletic “the way he was running the ship, it was impossible to succeed.”
One example of that came during the preseason. The day after a player on the Jags missed an assignment during a preseason game, Meyer stormed into a room where players had gathered and threatened to cut everyone if it happened again. That didn’t go over well.
“And do you know what would happen if I cut you guys?” Meyer said, according to four people in the room. “You couldn’t get a job paying more than $15 an hour.”
The implication that his players were capable of little more than playing football left some angry, others offended. “I lost all respect for him after that,” a veteran player in the room said.
Meyer was reportedly so harsh with his players that he reduced one of them to tears.
Another time, during a meeting that also included members of the coaching and personnel staffs, Meyer berated a player so harshly that the player cried. According to two sources, Meyer slammed the door after departing the meeting, leaving others to console the player. The next day, one of the other staff members present confronted Meyer about the incident in what one source described as a tense exchange.
In November, after wide receiver John Brown signed with the team, he and quarterback Trevor Lawrence were on the field after practice so Brown could correct a wrong route he’d run earlier. Meyer reportedly used that as an opportunity to insult Brown’s intelligence based on where he’s from.
Considering that Meyer reportedly didn’t know who Aaron Donald was when he came to the team, it’s not hard to believe that he completely missed that Lawrence, like Brown, is also from the south.
According to The Athletic, Meyer also berated, belittled, and threatened coaches in front of players and behind closed doors.
“He feels like threats are what motivates,” Chark said to The Athletic. “I know he would come up to us and tell us if the receivers weren’t doing good, he wasn’t going to fire us, he was going to fire our coach. He would usually say that when the coach was around.”
“The most toxic environment I’ve ever been a part of,” a veteran member of the football operations staff told The Athletic. “By far. Not even close.”
Meyer blamed everyone but himself
Meyer had a habit of pushing blame for on-field issues on everyone but himself. In November, receiver Marvin Jones was enraged to the point of leaving the Jags facility when Meyer told reporters that the receivers had been running the wrong route. Jones confronted Meyer about it, which reportedly led Meyer to meet with players about the comment — and Meyer’s attitude in those meetings only made things worse. Via The Athletic:
Once again, Meyer met with players and denied he made the comment about the receivers, even though, according to a source, a player in the room had video of Meyer’s press conference pulled up on his phone.
There was reportedly another incident in December that involved Meyer blaming a member of his staff for a decision that he made. After running back James Robinson fumbled on the opening possession for the second straight game, Meyer reportedly demanded that he be taken out of the game, which he was until the final few plays. That move puzzled Lawrence, who said that the team needed its best players on the field as often as possible.
You can guess what happened when the media asked Meyer about Robinson missing so much of the game.
Behind the scenes, the Robinson situation was even more divisive. After the game, Meyer told reporters he wasn’t aware of Robinson’s extended absence and put the benching on Robinson’s position coach, Bernie Parmalee.
“You’d have to ask Bernie,” Meyer said. “I don’t get too involved. I don’t micromanage that.”
In a staff meeting the next morning, according to multiple sources, Meyer denied ever telling his coaches to bench Robinson. He said his assistants had misinterpreted him.
Players were reportedly relieved when Meyer was fired on Dec. 15, and it’s easy to see why. With Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Pederson taking the reins of the Jags in 2022, maybe this time it will really, truly be the start of a new chapter in Jacksonville.