Former Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer is leaving Jacksonville amid reports of a toxic environment — and it’s not the first time for the football coach.
This headline, or some variation of it, has been circulating the Internet as Urban Meyer is fired as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, making history as one of the shortest-tenured coaches in NFL history.
But the above headline is not from Dec. 2021 — it’s the headline from a Bleacher Report article written in Dec. 2018.
The article offers an ominous premonition of what to come: despite years of scandal, the winning college football coach has somehow maintained his personal reputation enough to be hired as the head coach of an NFL team. While Meyer’s wins over a decades-long career speak volumes, so does his long history of scandal.
Why was Urban Meyer fired by Jaguars?
Urban Meyer was likely fired for reportedly kicking and demeaning former Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo, which Lambo recently shared with media after seeing continued reports of Meyer abusing staff all season.
As troubling as Lambo’s account is, it isn’t the only reason Meyer was let go. Meyer has weathered several scandals in his short time in Jacksonville.
- Meyer benched a talented James Robinson for weeks in favor of Carlos Hyde, his former Ohio State running back.
- Meyer reportedly called his assistant coaches “losers“.
- Meyer, a married grandfather, stayed behind after a loss in Cleveland to dance on a young woman in an Ohio bar, which was captured in a now-viral video.
- Meyer ironically kicked his kicker, threatened him, then released him from the team shortly thereafter.
- The Jaguars are 2-11.
While coordinators frequently get the boot mid-season, head coaches rarely do: it takes time to implement a new system, instill a coaching culture, and see results. With Meyer, the negative results of his off-field behavior prompted Jacksonville to pull the plug earlier. If the team did its due diligence in examining his background, perhaps the red flags planted in Meyer’s past would have signaled this outcome.
Why did Urban Meyer leave Ohio State?
When Meyer retired from coaching Ohio State in Dec. 2018, he cited the decision as a “result of cumulative events,” with his health being “number one.”
Meyer was diagnosed with an arachnoid cyst in his brain, which caused painful headaches, and has spoken in the past about how coaching took a toll on his mental health. Still, the health reasoning is identical to why he said he was leaving Florida in 2010 — and that certainly wasn’t the only reason.
In 2018, Ohio State conducted an investigation into whether or not Meyer mishandled domestic abuse allegations against his former receivers coach, Zach Smith. The university concluded that Meyer did mishandle these allegations, but it wasn’t enough to warrant his termination. Meyer was suspended for three games at the beginning of the 2018 season.
A deeper look into the Zach Smith case reveals that Meyer repeatedly denied knowing about Smith’s domestic abuse, which dated back to 2009. In 2009, Smith was arrested for aggravated battery of his wife at the time, Courtney Smith.
Meyer only fired Smith once a judge filed a protection order to keep Zach away from Courtney.
The investigation concluded that Meyer “didn’t follow proper reporting protocols” after becoming aware of abuse allegations in 2015, instead permitting other egregious actions that would have warranted Zach’s termination years earlier had the university known.
Why did Urban Meyer leave the University of Florida?
The legacy of Zach Smith followed Meyer to Ohio State, but the reported culture Meyer allowed to flourish at Florida was much more widespread — and much more dangerous — than what has transpired during his short NFL stint.
During Meyer’s time with the Gators, he oversaw at least 31 arrests involving 25 players. Meyer reportedly created what was called a “Circle of Trust”: a clique of elite players whose misbehavior was tolerated to win college championships.
- Percy Harvin physically assaulted a wide receivers coach in 2008 but was never suspended.
- Meyer reportedly covered up failed drug test by saying players had injuries. Players were seen wearing “walking boots” to feign injuries and avoid drug tests.
- Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who died in prison for the murder of Odin Lloyd, was reportedly able to cover up violent behavior and drug abuse with the help of Meyer.
When Meyer left Ohio State, Martin Fennelly of the Tampa Bay Times wrote: “Don’t gloat, Florida fans. Back then, you were too busy waving orange and blue to raise red flags.”
In 2021, no red flags were raised as Meyer was hired to lead an NFL franchise. Once again, it seems that Meyer has failed to put the past behind him, offering preferential treatment to some and rampantly mistreating others as a Jaguar. But for anyone who did their research, Meyer’s fall from grace was a long time coming.