JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Shad Khan really did get it right.
It was just eight months later than he thought.
The Jacksonville Jaguars‘ owner had to fire coach Urban Meyer less than a year after hiring him. Not because of too many losses — though that was definitely a problem — but rather a long list of embarrassing missteps with players, coaches, and, in one instance, a woman in a bar. They kept piling up and left Khan with no choice.
It had to be embarrassing for Khan because he was enamored with Meyer for years after watching his Ohio State teams rumble through the Big Ten.
He believed whole-heartedly Meyer was the coach that was going to lead — with help from the 2021 No. 1 overall pick, quarterback Trevor Lawrence — a franchise resurgence. That was evident at a news conference introducing Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne Jr. — who was also a first-round pick before suffering a season-ending injury to his left foot — when Khan proudly, and a little bit arrogantly, proclaimed: “This time I got it right.”
Except he didn’t.
The Jaguars have been the laughingstock of the league since making the playoffs in 2007. They have had just one winning season since and have lost 10 or more games in 10 of the last 11 seasons — including nine double-digit losing seasons in Khan’s 10 years as owner. Their lone winning season since ’07 came in 2017, when the Jaguars rode an elite defense to an AFC South title and made a surprising run to the AFC Championship game.
This year has been even worse because of Meyer.
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He bungled things from the start, beginning with the hiring/resignation of director of sports performance Chris Doyle, who was accused of making racist remarks and bullying Black players while at Iowa.
The league fined Meyer and the Jaguars for having improper contact practices in OTAs … he signed Tim Tebow to play tight end … he had Lawrence and Gardner Minshew alternate first-team reps during training camp, only to trade Minshew … the viral videos of him in a bar with a woman that wasn’t his wife … the talking in circles about the benching of running back James Robinson … not knowing which players are on the field … the reports of tension with his assistant coaches … another report of receiver Marvin Jones Jr. walking out of the facility and yelling at Meyer because he was unhappy with something Meyer said about the receivers.
One embarrassment after another, compounded by the fact that the Jaguars were just 2-11. So Khan really had no choice but to fire Meyer.
Now he’s faced with making the most important hire in franchise history. The Jaguars finally have the quarterback, the most important piece in any rebuild. Khan has to find a coach that will build around him, hire the right coordinator to bring in the offensive system that fits him best and create the culture in the building that Meyer promised but spectacularly failed to deliver.
And, most importantly, do it without any drama.
The problem is that Khan hasn’t gotten any of his football hires right. He retained general manager Gene Smith, who hired head coach Mike Mularkey. They lasted a year and Khan hired GM Dave Caldwell, who hired Gus Bradley. Bradley won 14 games in four years before being fired.
Khan brought in Tom Coughlin as an executive, and he picked Doug Marrone to be the coach in 2017. That resulted in the lone successful season in Khan’s tenure, but Khan had to fire Coughlin in 2019 after the NFLPA warned players not to sign with the Jaguars because of the abundance of grievances filed by players that Coughlin fined.
Caldwell was fired in November 2020 and Marrone was fired after the 1-15 season ended, which led to Meyer.
Khan’s biggest flaw as an owner has been his inability to find the right people to lead his franchise. Hiring Meyer was a spectacular and costly failure, and he can’t afford to make another mistake with his replacement.
If he does he risks wasting a generational talent at quarterback and setting up the franchise for another lost decade.
This time, he has to get it right.