JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After 11 months of missteps, mistakes, embarrassing moments, anonymous reports of strife within the coaching staff and between head coach Urban Meyer and players, the Jacksonville Jaguars just want a little peace and quiet for the rest of the year.
That’s why quarterback Trevor Lawrence and cornerback Shaq Griffin are happy that the team named offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell as the interim head coach after firing Meyer early Thursday morning. Bevell is the perfect antidote to the chaos that has gripped the franchise almost since the moment Meyer was hired in January.
“He’s very even keel,” Lawrence said of Bevell, who also served as the Detroit Lions‘ interim head coach for the final five games of the 2020 season. “Always the same person never gets too high or too low. That’s something that I respect and that I can level with.
“So I’d say that’s the biggest thing that we need right now. Someone that’s consistent and just to move forward and push past it.”
There’s certainly a lot to push past: The hiring of strength coach Chris Doyle, who was accused of making racist remarks and bullying Black players at Iowa.
Videos of Meyer behaving inappropriately with a woman that was not his wife in a Columbus, Ohio, restaurant/bar.
The failed Tim Tebow tight end experiment.
The NFL fining the Jaguars $200,000 and Meyer $100,000 for excessive contact during a June 1 organized team activity.
Reports of Meyer calling his assistant coaches losers, receiver Marvin Jones leaving the facility for a bit because he was upset with Meyer, former kicker Josh Lambo alleging that Meyer kicked him during warmups — all of which happened within the last week.
And so much more.
Lawrence and owner Shad Khan both characterized it as drama and it undoubtedly had an impact on the morale inside the building and the performance on the field. The Jaguars are 2-11 and are coming off a 20-0 loss at Tennessee, the fourth shutout loss in franchise history.
“I wouldn’t believe you if you told me this is how this year was going to go,” Lawrence said. ” … I think it [the coaching change] brings a little bit of clarity to the guys in the locker room. I wouldn’t say relief, but I would say just bring some clarity and some direction moving forward.
“You know, we really want to go and finish the season strong and to be honest, it’s been hard to last the last week with everything going on. And there’s a lot of things being stirred up I think by the outside, too. That didn’t help [and] made things a lot worse, but also everything that’s going on.
“It’s hard to be focused and have all your attention and efforts going towards winning the game when there’s so many things going on.”
Both Lawrence and Griffin said “relief” wasn’t the right word to describe the atmosphere inside the locker room — but it sure sounds like that’s what it is.
“I think ‘focused’ is the right one,” Griffin said. “I feel like there has been a lot going on and to see how everybody is focused on what’s going on around in the locker room and trying to figure out what has been going on the field and trying to make changes. I feel like that’s the right word to use. Then practice and seeing the way the offense attacked the day, it was amazing to see. I feel like we need to see that. We needed that, they needed that and it’s a boost of confidence and I love seeing that.
” … I feel like definitely the right word is ‘focus.’ The focus in the locker room is definitely there and that’s where it needs to be. Just keeping the main focus on this organization and the guys that are playing. It’s been looking good in the locker room for sure.”
The mood was definitely lighter around the facility on Thursday, evidenced by defensive lineman Jihad Ward doing several handstands at practice.
Bevell has already made a couple minor changes: He’s done away with the announcer at practice and said he’s going to coach from the sideline the rest of the season. He said he’s coached there every other year as a coordinator in his career except this one, when Meyer moved him to the box.
“It’s kind of been foreign to be up in the box these last 13 weeks or whatever it’s been. So, I’m excited to get back down there,” said Bevell, who added that he’s going to call plays this week but will re-evaluate that next week. “There’s just great energy when you’re on the field. It’s like playing a video game when you are up there. It’s so stale, it’s so quiet. So, it’s good to be around the guys, the interaction is better, communication can be better with the players. I have great communication with the coaches on the headset but being able to see their eyes and talk to them, it’s a different experience being on the field.”
Bevell also confirmed that Meyer left the Jaguars facility around 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday and the staff worked on the game-plan for Sunday’s home game against the Texans without him. Bevell also said he hadn’t spoken with Meyer as of 4 p.m. ET Thursday and didn’t want to address reports of tension between Meyer and the assistant coaches.
“Coach Meyer brought me in here and I have a lot of respect for him and what he did for me and my family,” Bevell said. “Other than that, I just really want to — as I said to the team, we’re not looking back, today is a new day. We’re moving forward and I just want to move ahead and all eyes and everything that we’re doing, I want it to be on Houston.”