Urban Meyer agreed to become head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, leaving the broadcast booth and returning to the sidelines after a two-year absence that followed another health scare.
The 56-year-old Meyer was team owner Shad Khan’s top target, and Khan waited nearly a week to get it done. They met last Friday on Khan’s yacht in Miami, again Wednesday, and one final time at the facility Thursday. Hiring the longtime college coach with three national championships signifies a new direction for a franchise that has lost 105 of 144 games since Khan took over in 2012.
“This is a great day for Jacksonville and Jaguars fans everywhere,” Khan said in a statement. “Urban Meyer is who we want and need, a leader, winner, and champion who demands excellence and produces results.
“While Urban already enjoys a legacy in the game of football that few will ever match, his passion for the opportunity in front of him here in Jacksonville is powerful and unmistakable.”
Meyer went 187-32 — a staggering winning percentage of 85.3 — in stops at Bowling Green (2001-02), Utah (2003-04), Florida (2005-10), and Ohio State (2012-18). He ranks seventh all time in collegiate winning percentage, trailing only Notre Dame legends Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy among coaches at major programs.
But some doubts remain about Meyer’s ability to make a smooth transition to the NFL, where motivational tactics tend to be moot and losing multiple games every year is a given. Meyer never lost more than five times in any season as a college head coach; he went 83-9 at Ohio State.
Still, Meyer has been eyeing an NFL move for months. He researched the league with help from former players and friends, started assembling a potential staff and learned how the front office works. Meyer and Khan have been friends for years.
Jacksonville was the most attractive opening. The Jaguars have 11 picks in the 2021 draft, including five in the top 65, and are nearly $100 million under the projected salary cap. Adding to the appeal: Khan, a billionaire businessman, has shown a penchant for patience and a willingness to spend big.
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a lock to land in Jacksonville with the top pick and will be the centerpiece of the team’s latest rebuild.
Meyer replaces Doug Marrone, who was fired after losing the final 15 games in 2020. Marrone went 25-44 in four-plus seasons with the Jaguars, including 2-1 in the 2017 postseason. Marrone failed repeatedly to fill the team’s long-standing hole at quarterback, and Khan kept him and general manager Dave Caldwell around a year longer than many expected to make them clean up a fractured locker room and a stressed salary cap.
Khan also interviewed Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Atlanta defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, and Tennessee offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.
Jones, Alabama teammates declare for draft
Four stars from Alabama’s national championship team, including Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Mac Jones, are leaving early to enter the NFL Draft.
Jones, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, cornerback Patrick Surtain, and defensive lineman Christian Barmore announced their intentions to leave on Thursday — all are considered potential first-round picks.
Jones arrived as a skinny recruit along with much more heralded prospect Tua Tagovailoa, the No. 5 overall pick by the Dolphins last season. Both initially played behind Jalen Hurts, now with the Eagles.
“It’s just been a great journey,” said Jones, who finished third in the Heisman voting.
There also are several Alabama seniors considered first-round picks, including Heisman Trophy-winning wide receiver DeVonta Smith, All-America tailback Najee Harris, and Outland Trophy winner left tackle Alex Leatherwood.
Jones put together the most prolific season of any Tide quarterback in his only full season as starter. He was college football’s most efficient passer and also led the nation with 4,500 passing yards and a 77.4 percent completion rate.
He said he is ready for the next step.
“Coach [Nick] Saban’s been educating all of us since we stepped on campus so we’re very aware of how the draft works and things like that,” Jones said. “And we all want to play in the NFL.”
Kevin Stefanski returned to the Browns’ facility, 10 days after the first-year coach tested positive for COVID-19 and he was forced to miss Cleveland’s playoff win over the Steelers on Sunday. Stefanski will make his playoff debut on the sideline this week when the Browns play the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs on Sunday. “It’s great. He deserves to be back,” said special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who filled in as acting coach against the Steelers. “Any time your leader comes back to the building and he’s going to lead us into battle this weekend, it’s a great thing for our football team.” … Quarterback Jared Goff will start the Rams’ playoff game at Green Bay on Saturday, and John Wolford will be inactive. Wolford started the last two games, but the second-year pro was injured early in Los Angeles’s 30-20 win at Seattle last Saturday. Wolford left the stadium in an ambulance with a neck stinger after a hit from the Seahawks’ Jamal Adams, and he hasn’t practiced this week. Goff has been the Rams’ starter for the past 4½ years, but he sat out their regular-season finale after breaking his right thumb, missing a game due to injury for the first time in his career … The Steelers’ playoff flameout cost offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and two assistants their jobs. The team announced it would not renew the contracts of Fichtner, offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett, and secondary coach Tom Bradley following a 48-37 loss to Cleveland. The Steelers also said tight ends coach James Daniels is retiring after 17 seasons in that position … Brad Holmes and the Lions agreed to terms on a deal that makes him their GM. He led the Rams’ college scouting department for eight years and started his 18-year career with them as a public relations intern in 2003 … The Panthers hired Seahawks vice president of football operations Scott Fitterer to become their new GM.