JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Urban Meyer’s NFL venture always had the chance to be a complete debacle.
A longtime college coach making the jump to a league he knew little, if anything, about? A renowned motivator using inspirational tactics on professional players driven mostly by money? A guy who built programs and his reputation on stockpiling more talent than his opponents taking over a league laughingstock devoid of playmakers?
It was a long shot, at best, that the Jacksonville Jaguars would be Meyer’s latest and greatest success story. A failed experiment would be the more likely outcome. Meyer’s not there yet, but he’s headed in that direction. And no one could have seen it happening this fast or being this extreme.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan publicly reprimanded Meyer on Tuesday for the coach’s “inexcusable” behavior at an Ohio bar over the weekend. Meyer’s actions were the latest embarrassment for a franchise that’s been mostly a bottom feeder since Khan took over in 2012.
Khan released a statement condemning Meyer’s actions, which were captured on video and released on social media. One shows a young woman dancing close to Meyer’s lap as he sits on a bar stool, a clip that quickly went viral. A second, more damning video appears to show Meyer touching the woman’s behind.
“I have addressed this matter with Urban. Specifics of our conversation will be held in confidence. What I will say is his conduct last weekend was inexcusable,” Khan said. “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.”
Meyer apologized Monday to his family, team and Khan. He spoke to his players and vowed to “own it,” the motto he uses daily and has plastered all around the Jaguars facility.
“Just stupid,” Meyer said. “Should not have put myself in that kind of position.”
Meyer addressed Khan’s reprimand on his weekly radio show Tuesday, saying “the conversations have been horrible.”
“The locker room has been my entire life. That’s all I’ve ever looked at. When I was a young coach … I would always say that there’s only one thing that matters in this whole facility or organization and that’s the locker room,” Meyer said. “You know, how we build it, how we treat it, how we earn their trust. …
“The fact that I became a distraction, I’ve got to earn their trust back from that.”
Jacksonville (0-4), which has lost a franchise-record 19 consecutive games, hosts Tennessee (2-2) on Sunday. Meyer raised eyebrows by saying his team captains would play a pivotal role in getting the Jaguars back on track and ready to play following several days of distrust.
“I don’t believe that’s in my court,” he said. “The leaders on the team are going to make that decision. It depends on how much trust you have built up with them, how we structure everything this week and focus on winning that game. I’m going to be extremely clear as I can: Our staff is working their tails off. But you know as well as I do that the ownership of this team is with the players.”
Meyer didn’t fly back with his winless team following Jacksonville’s 24-21 loss at Cincinnati on Thursday night, a highly unusual move for any coach.
Instead, he remained in his home state of Ohio to see family members and went to dinner Friday at his restaurant/bar in Columbus, Urban Meyer’s Pint House.
The first video shows a young blond woman dancing between the 57-year-old Meyer’s legs as he was sitting on a bar stool. The second, taken from a different angle, shows Meyer’s right hand on or near her bottom.
Meyer said he’s concerned the videos could have long-term ramifications with players he has asked to buy into his makeover.
“Every locker room is different. Every team is different,” he said. “I’ve told people a team’s a living organism that’s driven obviously by a culture and driven by leaders. I believe we have a very strong culture. I know we have incredible leaders. But this one’s on me to go out and coach my very best, give them everything possible that I could do to help them have success.”
Meyer also vowed to repair fractured relationships, including regaining Khan’s trust.
“I made a comment when I got here about the logo, about an owner who wants to win in the worst way,” Meyer said. “That’s one of the reasons I came here. I just admire that guy so much. His drive is in the purest form and it is for Jacksonville. And so, that’s what makes me so angry at myself that I lived that, I believe that, and I failed. And I’ve got to get it back, and I will.”
Mark Long, Associated Press