wjxt logo

Commentary: Urban Meyer becomes the ‘distraction’ that he warned people about

FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, file photo, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer works the sideline during the first half of a preseason NFL football game  against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. In many regards, Meyer runs the Jaguars like a college program Its what he knows even though he spent a year studying the NFL before he ended a brief coaching retirement. Its also worked at every previous stop, so no one is questioning his methods. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, File)
FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, file photo, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer works the sideline during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. In many regards, Meyer runs the Jaguars like a college program Its what he knows even though he spent a year studying the NFL before he ended a brief coaching retirement. Its also worked at every previous stop, so no one is questioning his methods. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

“We don’t need a distraction and moving forward is in the best interest of all.”

Urban Meyer said those words on March 9 about the terrible decision to hire an assistant who was being sued for, among other things, racial mistreatment of Black players.

Good point, Urban. Pot or kettle, friend?

Meyer has become the distraction that he spoke of nearly seven months ago after last weekend’s viral bar videos painted him and the franchise in an unfavorable light … again. Numerous former NFL players have posted on social media that a coach not flying back with the team was not a good look in and of itself. Then add the bar videos to the equation.

Distractions. Not what an 0-4 team that’s mired in a historic 19-game losing streak needs entering a divisional showdown on Sunday against the Titans.

Owner Shad Khan said in a statement on Tuesday that Meyer “must regain our trust and respect.”

Meyer has lost the franchise’s trust and respect? After four games? There are 13 left.

What are the chances that Meyer is still Jacksonville’s coach at the end of the season? Has he already lost the locker room? For a franchise starved of good news under Khan’s watch, the Jaguars don’t need further embarrassment. Khan needs to check the pulse of the franchise and how this has the potential to affect rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence. That should be the focal point for Khan.

Meyer’s checkered history was well known before he was hired. His reputation for off-the-field issues at both Florida and Ohio State certainly wasn’t sterling, but his reputation on the field for winning was remarkable. In Jacksonville, there’s been a collision of no success on the field and a growing list of indiscretions off of it, a blend that has brought a harsh light on Meyer’s ability to cut it here.

More than the losses — the Jaguars had to be totally rebuilt — have been Meyer’s continued missteps since being hired in January, culminating in last weekend’s viral videos of Meyer in a bar he owns in Ohio getting a bit too cozy with a woman there. All we saw were two video clips that were less than 20 seconds combined and they reflected poorly on Meyer as a married man to be in that situation.

Every person who watches or has seen the videos will be the judge of whether Meyer crossed a moral line or not. That’s an uncomfortable conversation for Meyer and his wife, Shelley, to have. He publicly apologized to his family Monday.

Whether you agree or disagree that what Meyer does on his own time is his business — and many people do think Meyer should be afforded that grace — the NFL business is very, very image-conscious. And it was a bad enough look for Khan to issue a statement and use words like “inexcusable” on a coach who has preached accountability, being all in and owning it.

For Meyer, it continues a strand of questionable moves, beginning with the hire of Chris Doyle as his strength coach. The same Chris Doyle who was essentially forced out at Iowa after allegations of mistreatment and racial mistreatment of players. The same Chris Doyle who was being sued by Black players for discrimination. The Fritz Pollard Alliance raked Meyer publicly. Doyle resigned, saying he didn’t want to distract from what Jacksonville was building. Remember Meyer’s own words after the fallout? They’re at the top of this story.

And they’re prophetic, which is why Meyer stressed on Monday that he apologized for being a distraction.

A grown man out enjoying a weekend at a restaurant he owns is one thing. No complaints. But the optics of Meyer not flying back with the team after a loss to the Bengals and then the video of him with a woman who was not his wife is a double dose of bad news. I would argue that Meyer already had a shady reputation before this and there’s no doubt this amplifies that further.

Would it be different if the Jaguars weren’t 0-4 and lugging a 19-game losing streak into Sunday’s game against the Titans? Of course. Winning in the NFL solves problems.

But Meyer isn’t winning. The Jaguars are losing, albeit, losing better each week than they have the one before it. Meyer has looked overwhelmed at times. And being publicly chastised by his boss not even a quarter of the way through his first year on the job feels like an ominous sign of things to come.


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.