Urban Meyer calls his assistants ‘losers,’ alienates players and coaches

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The list of reasons it was a massive mistake for the Jacksonville Jaguars to hire head coach Urban Meyer seems to grow by the day. A highly successful coach at the college level, Meyer turned his first NFL preseason into a clown show with the proposed addition of tight end Tim Tebow. He was widely criticized for the hire of former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle in February, despite Doyle’s long and well-documented history of racist behavior. The hire was quickly reversed.

Meyer had been cavalier about COVID vaccination comments in ways that had the organization moving hastily to clarify things. In July, the Jaguars were fined $200,000 and Meyer fined $100,000 for violating OTA rules, and in September, the NFLPA began an investigation into the team after Meyer admitted that he took a player’s vaccination status into consideration when making roster decisions. And in late September, he was caught on video in an Ohio bar interacting suggestively with a woman who was not his wife. This happened after Meyer decided to stay in the state as the rest of the team flew home after a loss to the Bengals.

That, and the Jaguars’ 2-10 record, might be enough for team owner Shad Khan to admit that he had hired Meyer in error. Per a report from Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, there’s a lot more meat on the bone when it comes to Meyer’s disastrous tenure.

Sources in the organization told Pelissero that Meyer’s constant shifting of blame to players and coaches have created an adverse culture across the board.

Running back James Robinson, who’s probably the team’s most effective player, was benched last Sunday during a 37-7 loss to the Rams after fumbling the ball. Carlos Hyde, who played for Meyer at Ohio State, replaced Robinson, and Meyer told running backs coach Bernie Parmalee that Robinson was not to re-enter the game. Only after quarterback Trevor Lawrence queried Meyer about the move was Robinson allowed to re-enter the game.

This was the entire postgame exchange between Meyer and reporters.

James’ (RB James Robinson) fumble again, and I think he was out for 20 plays. Did you bench him after the second fumble?

URBAN MEYER: He’s still not 100 percent. He’s not practicing during the week. James is as good a guy, a tough a guy, team player as you’ve got, that I’ve ever been around. Your heart bleeds for the guy just because he’s not able to do what he does well. He hasn’t been that way since Seattle. He’s not able to practice, but he wants to play, and he’s still a very good player. You’ve just got to take care of the ball.

Do you think you’re better off sitting him?

MEYER: We had that conversation as a staff, and everybody felt that he was the best option right now, even not 100 percent.

So he wasn’t hurt after the fumble, he’d still be back in?

MEYER: Oh, sure.

He came right back in afterwards? It was three possessions before he got back on the field.

MEYER: Yeah, we were just giving Carlos (RB Carlos Hyde) an opportunity, and then obviously we failed there, as well, or the ball went on the ground.

Carlos also had the fumble late in the game, too, back on the field the next drive. I’m just wondering if there was — if it wasn’t a benching, it was just all health with Robinson?

MEYER: You’d have to ask (Running Backs Coach Bernie Parmalee) Coach Parmalee. I don’t get too involved. I don’t micromanage that. I know he’s been dinged up, so I don’t know if he’s back with the tent or what’s going on, but I know there’s injury involved.

Is that (Running Backs Coach Bernie Parmalee) Parmalee’s call or (Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell) Bev’s call, putting him back in based on injury?

MEYER: Well, James is unique because he is fighting injury. If someone is not producing and you sit him down, that’s a whole different conversation, but this is really injury based.

According to Pelissero’s report, it was absolutely Meyer’s decision, and it was not injury-related.

This week, Lawrence came out and said that he wanted Robinson on the field more, full stop.

“In my eyes, obviously I’m the one that’s out there, see all the pieces moving, I see the whole picture, bottom line is James [Robinson] is one of our best players and he has to be on the field,” the quarterback said Wednesday. “We addressed it and I feel like we’re in a good spot. The whole team, we’re good. Whatever may have happened, I honestly don’t know everything that went into it. I’m playing the game and stuff happens on the sideline with coaching decisions. I don’t really get into that.

“But I know, and I’ve voiced my opinion, James is one of our best players and he has to be in the game. I think we’re all on the same page, so there’s no confusion there. We’re going to move forward but I know James is a hell of a player, so I want him out there.”

As many egregious things as Meyer has done, this piece of the action from Pelissero’s report might be the most obnoxious:

During a staff meeting, Meyer delivered a biting message that he’s a winner and his assistant coaches are losers, according to several people informed of the contents of the meeting, challenging each coach individually to explain when they’ve ever won and forcing them to defend their résumés.

More than one Meyer assistant has left in-season. In the preseason, Meyer told his assistants that he was tired of being embarrassed, and if things didn’t turn around quickly, some of them wouldn’t be on staff for another year.

In the preseason.

The only question at this point is how long it will take for Khan, who desperately wanted Meyer as his head coach for a very long time, to understand how this has gone, and make the right call.

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