Urban Meyer’s bank account may be too big to fail.
Meyer’s Jaguars future beyond 2021 seems murky at best, thanks to a pretty awful 2-11 NFL debut season with Jacksonville mired in controversy, cold shoulders and tension within the coaches’ offices.
The drama with Jags head coach started in October, when a sordid video leaked of the coach in an Ohio restaurant following a “Thursday Night Football” loss to the Bengals. Since then, reports of dysfunction with the coaching staff and arguments with players have surfaced.
For however toxic the situation in Jacksonville is, though, Meyer may last this season, and potentially the next and maybe even the next one after that. For that, Meyer may have to send his agent a really good Christmas present.
Why the Jaguars won’t fire Urban Meyer
There are a few reasons why Jacksonville seemingly won’t move on from Meyer despite an experimental year gone terribly wrong: Owner Shad Khan’s loyalty, and Khan’s signature on Meyer’s checks.
On Dec. 13, Khan weighed in on Meyer’s job security and his patience with his first-year head coach:
I want to do the right thing for the team. I want to do the right thing for the city. That, to me, is way more important than just acting helter-skelter on emotion. I think we have a history of really looking at the facts and then really doing the right thing.
Gus Bradley was here four years. Doug Marrone was here four years. It was wins and losses and this is a little bit different but, you know, I’m going to reflect on all of that and do what’s the right thing for the team and the right thing for the city.
Khan has a point: He is a pretty patient owner, as evidenced during his time with Jacksonville. After taking over the team in 2011, he fired long-time front office man Gene Smith, and Dave Caldwell, the team’s new GM, fired coach Mike Mularkey.
In turn, Caldwell hired Gus Bradley, who lasted four years as coach before he was fired following 2016. Doug Marrone following Bradley, and he lasted four full seasons (and made an AFC Championship Game) after being let go. Caldwell was fired during the 2020 season, lasting nearly eight years as GM.
In all, 2-out-of-3 head coaches during the Shad Khan era lasted at least four years each, with the lone aberration coming after the team changed ownership.
Even after the video debacle involving Meyer, Khan threw some support behind his head coach in a statement:
Specifics of our conversation will be held in confidence. What I will say is his conduct last weekend was inexcusable. I appreciate Urban’s remorse, which I believe is sincere. Now, he must regain our trust and respect. That will require a personal commitment from Urban to everyone who supports, represents or plays for our team. I am confident he will deliver.
The second, and arguably predominant, reason that the Jaguars won’t fire Meyer: His salary. While Meyer’s contract situation was never made public, reports indicated that he’s making between $10 and $12 million per season for six years. Should the Jags fire Meyer following the 2021 season, that would leave as much as $60 million on the books through 2026.
That money may not factor in to the Jags’ salary cap, but it certainly is a number in the ledger and on the bottom line for the franchise. Paying multiple coaches and coaching staffs at the same time is something that tends to be a burden for NFL owners.
While money is no real object for Khan — one of the NFL’s richest owners, valued at roughly $9 billion — owing that much money to a coach and bailing on the experiment after one down year likely isn’t something that Khan, or anyone in the organization, wants to do.