There was a common narrative in the wake of Urban Meyer’s firing in Jacksonville that the final decision to move on from him was linked to public claims Wednesday by former kicker Josh Lambo that the coach kicked him in the preseason. However, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, owner Shad Khan already knew by the start of the week that he would be letting Meyer go just months into his tenure.
Khan, who departed for league meetings last week, was prepared to let Meyer go when he returned to Jacksonville, following another tumultuous Week 14 in which Meyer was found to be untruthful, again, about coaching decisions and in which starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence felt the need to go public to implore Meyer to keep top running back James Robinson on the field with him.
Meyer’s handling of Robinson’s benching — which the coach opted to do when Robinson fumbled early in a game — and the aftermath of that latest controversy, coupled with Khan’s discussions with people throughout the organization relating to Meyer’s character and leadership, led him to conclude he could not keep the coach in charge through Week 15. While the team’s woeful product on the field was a tough watch, sources said Khan was prepared to endure another long season as part of rebuild and has shown a willingness to give struggling regimes more than ample time to show what they can do. But it was Meyer’s individual failings and the toxic culture he himself created that led the owner to fire him when he did.
“It was almost like there became a moral obligation to fire him after the way he handled Robinson’s benching and with the way he treated people,” said one source with knowledge of the situation. “It was the right thing to do. Nothing was changing. He wasn’t getting any better. It kept getting worse.”
It had become clear throughout the organization that Lawrence, as mild-mannered and humble a rookie as you will find, had lost faith in Meyer’s ability to build this program and connect with players or coaches, which heavily resonated with ownership, the sources said. To see Lawrence, the top pick in the 2021 draft, have to in essence beg to get Robinson on the field, and to be as crestfallen as he was becoming about the state of the team, while Meyer misled the media about the nature of that decision, was essentially the last straw.
“As I stated in October, regaining our trust and respect was essential,” Khan said in a statement upon Meyer’s firing. “Regrettably, it did not happen.”
The Jaguars contend Meyer should not be owed the remainder of his salary, but league sources said they expect lawyers for Meyer and the team to eventually work out a settlement as part of the firing, with the expectation that it will end up being for less — and potentially significantly less — than what Meyer is owed. His repeated leadership failures are widely known, and several ownership sources contacted at the time Meyer failed to fly back home with the team in Week 4 believed that alone was cause for termination “for cause,” and therefore without pay.