Done deal: Jaguars land Urban Meyer as new head coach

Owner Shad Khan says ‘This is a great day for Jacksonville’

Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer celebrates winning the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2019 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) (Kevork Djansezian, 2019 Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars have their man — Urban Meyer.

Jacksonville moved quickly on its coaching search, announcing the blockbuster hire of Meyer on Thursday to help rebuild the franchise coming off the worst season of its 26-year history.

It is, without question, the biggest coaching hire in franchise history, and one that no doubt comes with its fair share of questions, too.

“This is a great day for Jacksonville and Jaguars fans everywhere,” said Jaguars owner Shad Khan.

“Urban Meyer is who we want and need, a leader, winner and champion who demands excellence and produces results. While Urban already enjoys a legacy in the game of football that few will ever match, his passion for the opportunity in front of him here in Jacksonville is powerful and unmistakable. I am proud to name Urban Meyer the new head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.”

It comes at a time when Jacksonville is in the midst of a full-on rebuild after going an NFL-worst 1-15 in 2020 and firing coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell. Khan said that the football operations needed fresh leadership.

They landed one piece of that in luring Meyer from the television studio.

“I’m ready to coach the Jacksonville Jaguars,” said Meyer. “Jacksonville has an enthusiastic fan base, and the fans deserve a winning team. With upcoming opportunities in the NFL Draft, and strong support from ownership, the Jaguars are well-positioned to become competitive. I’ve analyzed this decision from every angle — the time is right in Jacksonville, and the time is right for me to return to coaching. I’m excited about the future of this organization and our long term prospect for success.”

Urban Meyer’s first comments as Jaguars coach

In Meyer, the Jaguars get one of the most successful coaches in college football history, albeit, one who has never coached in the NFL and has been off the sidelines for two years.

Meyer, 56, last coached in 2018 when he went 13-1 with Ohio State. He worked as a TV analyst for FOX last year but has been a highly sought-after coach during his career.

Meyer was Khan’s top target, with reports that they’d been in contact behind the scenes for months. The Jaguars went through the interview cycle, talking with Eric Bieniemy, Robert Saleh, Raheem Morris and Arthur Smith since the season ended.

But it was Meyer that Khan zeroed in on from the beginning and convinced to make the leap into the NFL.

Meyer is a combined 187-32 in his college coaching career in stops at Florida, Ohio State, Bowling Green and Utah. Meyer has won three national championships, two at Florida and one at Ohio State.

Jacksonville moved quickly on its coaching search, announcing the blockbuster hire of Meyer on Thursday to help rebuild the franchise coming off the worst season of its 26-year history.

News4Jax sports analyst Mark Brunell said that the hiring of Meyer is a franchise-altering moment and one that can elevate the Jaguars to a new level.

“If you’re going to be excited about Jaguar football, now is the time, because you’ve got the quarterback in place, you’ve got a head coach that has won everywhere he has been,” Brunell said. “Of course, you know people are going to talk about the red flags and concerns, of course. But you’re talking about Urban Meyer, who is an elite coach that, in my opinion, can take our franchise, and get to where we need to be.”

Brunell shared more of his thoughts about Meyer’s leap to the NFL on The Morning Show (Press play below to watch):

Urban Meyer and the Jags are taking a giant leap into the unknown. Meyer's hire in Jacksonville has the ultimate boom-bust potential. News4JAX Jags analyst Mark Brunnel joins me here on TMS.

One of the knocks on Meyer is that he has never coached in the NFL. His coaching staff is expected to address the lack of NFL experience, although Meyer will likely tab some familiar names from the college ranks.

There’s no denying Meyer’s talent. He’s won at every stop that he’s been, including major turnarounds at both Bowling Green and Utah. Bowling Green went from 2-9 in the season before he arrived, to 8-3 with a bowl victory in his first year there. Meyer went 10-2 and 12-0 at Utah in two seasons there and then landed his first major job at Florida.

Of course, baggage comes with Meyer.

Is he in this for the long haul? How is his health? Will college success translate into the NFL?

Jaguars coaching history

CoachYearsRecord/WPPlayoff record
Tom Coughlin1995-200268-60 (.531)4-4
Jack Del Rio2003-201168-71 (.489)1-2
Mel Tucker (interim)20112-3 (.400)0-0
Mike Mularkey20122-14 (.125)0-0
Gus Bradley2013-1614-48 (.226)0-0
Doug Marrone2016-202023-43 (.348)2-1

Meyer’s time in Gainesville was highlighted by massive success and blockbuster recruiting classes, but the Gators had serious off-the-field issues during his time there, too, and Meyer was cited as not holding Florida players accountable.

He retired abruptly, citing health issues, after a loss in the SEC championship game in 2009, but was talked back into returning. The Gators went 7-5 in 2010 and Meyer stepped down again in early December of that year.

Meyer returned to coaching in 2012, this time at Ohio State. He led the Buckeyes to a 12-0 finish in his first season and won a national championship in his third. He ran into trouble there, too, getting a three-game suspension in 2018 after being found to have not upheld the school’s values of integrity for his lack of oversight in a case involving domestic abuse allegations against an assistant coach, Zach Smith.

Meyer announced his retirement that December and said then that “I believe I will not coach again.”

With the Jaguars, Meyer inherits what was the youngest roster in the NFL in 2020. Jacksonville was lean on talent to start the season and struggled even more as COVID-19 or health-related opt-outs picked up.

Urban Meyer coaching stops

CollegeYearsRecord/WPBowl record (national titles)
Bowling Green2001-0217-6 (.739)None
Utah2003-0422-2 (.917)2-0
Florida2005-1065-15 (.813)5-1 (2 titles, 2006, 2008)
Ohio State2012-1883-9 (.902)5-2 (1 title, 2014)

Quarterback has been an issue for what seems like an eternity, but help is on the way at that position in the draft. The Jaguars hold the top pick, a selection that they’re expected to use on Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. It has been a long, long time since Jacksonville has had stability at that position, and it will be on Meyer and his staff to solidify that spot for years to come.

Mark Brunell and David Garrard were two of the team’s best players at the position, but Brunell’s final full season was in 2002 and Garrard last took a snap in 2010.

Since then, it’s been a steady assortment of players like Blaine Gabbert, Blake Bortles and Chad Henne.

Gardner Minshew won six games as a starter in 2019, but he regressed badly in 2020 and was benched in his second season after suffering a thumb injury and not being forthcoming about it.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.