Owner Shad Khan is not mulling moving on from head coach Urban Meyer at this time, league sources said, though many with the Jaguars organization believe the damage done from Meyer’s actions last weekend will end up dooming his tenure there and leaving ownership with no choice but to move on by 2022. Khan weighed all options with the embattled first-time NFL coach before settling on a sternly worded public statement about Meyer. Clearly any further missteps would carry significant consequences.
Meyer’s issues interacting with coaches and players, plus the low morale from a rocky preseason, were already significant problems even before the season began, sources said. The Jaguars’ 0-4 start, struggles with in-game adjustments and Meyer’s difficulty adapting to the NFL coaching lifestyle were causes for consternation for those who work with and for him and left him fighting for respect following a Thursday night loss in Cincinnati.
And the situation grew drastically bleaker when Meyer opted not to fly back to Jacksonville following that defeat, only to be captured partying Saturday night in Columbus and in a compromising situation with a woman who was not his wife. Furthermore, Meyer’s decision not to address the situation head-on, with the entire team, early in the week, only added to the collective distrust, cutting into the workweek and obscuring focus from trying to end a 19-game losing streak. Players and coaches were exasperated by the entire situation, unable to comprehend how Meyer spent his weekend under these circumstances and believing he’d abdicated any ability to continue leading this team, whether Khan kept him in his employ or not.
“He’s not coming back from this,” said one league source who is very close to several players on the Jaguars team. “There wasn’t much confidence in him in that locker room before this went down. Now? It’s over. Guys are laughing at him. He’s lost any respect he may have had. They think he quit on them.”
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One source close to several Jags’ staff members said that an already fractured group was further splintered by Meyer’s bizarre behavior at a time when the season was already in crisis. They felt betrayed by his decision not to return with the team to Jacksonville and were further blindsided by Meyer’s initial reaction to the images appearing on the internet, imploring the coaches to speak to the players about the situation, cancelling their Monday meeting and waiting until Wednesday to speak to the entire roster.
“It was pretty gutless,” as one staff member put it to a confidant. “He put (the assistant coaches) in a terrible situation.”
When Meyer did address the full team, some players and coaches were put off by his initial remarks about his marriage and his personal situation, rather than focusing on the damage he did by not flying back with the team, with his inability to connect with them in the aftermath of the scandal only furthering the divide. His explanation for his actions Saturday night felt hollow to many of the core players on the roster.
“You can’t make morality a central theme of your leadership message, and then do this,” said the agent for one Jaguars starter. “It undermines everything. You can’t be holier than thou and do as I say and then do this. You don’t get up from something like this. These players see right through him. I can’t believe they didn’t fire him.”
The agent for another key Jaguars player said: “He is a laughingstock in that locker room right now. (My client) said he’s a con man. They think he’s a fraud. How do you not fly home with your team?”
Overcoming this sentiment will not be easy, especially with the early returns from offseason and training camp not very favorable for Meyer as he attempts what is a tricky jump from college to the NFL even under the best of circumstances. Khan’s statement last week termed Meyer’s conduct “inexcusable” and spoke of the coach needing to “regain our trust and respect,” and clearly ownership will be watching everything he says and does closely moving forward. His ability to steward this team on a weekly basis, and win games, is already very much in question.