The Jacksonville Jaguars became the first team to name their new head coach on Thursday afternoon when they announced the hiring of Urban Meyer for their vacant position.
What we now have here is a marriage between one of the most successful coaches in NCAA football history and one of the least successful franchises in NFL history. 25 years in and the Jaguars remain one of the four teams to have never reached the Super Bowl, meanwhile Meyer led two different schools to three National Championships in six fewer years as a head coach.
“This is a great day for Jacksonville and Jaguars fans everywhere,” Khan said in the 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 will be just the seventh coach in Jaguars history, though he’ll be the fourth in the nine years since Khan took over the team in 2011, a stretch during which the team has amassed an abysmal 41-106 record including playoffs. Jacksonville has not enjoyed much success over the past dozen or so years, putting together just one winning season since 2007 and losing 10+ games in nine of the past ten years.
That outlier would be the 2017 season, during which they were crowned AFC South champs, hosted their first first playoff game of this millennium, and made a most improbable run to the AFC Championship Game. Including the playoffs, those 2017 Jags won a dozen games, but it was an anomaly instead of a harbinger of things to come: Jacksonville has won a total of just 12 games combined since that run.
Enter Meyer. The 56-year-old is one of the most decorated head coaches in college football history, someone who has been able to get results at nearly every place he’s stopped, which is what attracted a results-driven guy like Khan to him.
After toiling in the college assistant coach ranks for 15 years, Meyer finally got his first shot as a head coach in 2001 with Bowling Green. There, he took a 2-9 team in 2000 and transformed them into an 8-3 unit in 2001. After another successful 9-3 year in 2002, Meyer moved on to Utah.
In his rookie season in Salt Lake City, the Utes went 10-2 and won their first outright conference championship since 1957. The next year in 2004, Meyer led Utah to a perfect 12-0 record and a win in the Fiesta Bowl.
In fact, it was during this time that some guy you may know named Alex Smith attended Utah, playing so well in Meyers’ system that he became the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. More recently, Smith’s Washington Football Team was just eliminated last week by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are +140 odds (Betway) underdogs to win against the New Orleans Saints in their Divisional Round matchup on Sunday.
After Utah Meyer moved on to Florida, and it was in the Swamp coaching the Gators that Meyer truly became a household name, leading the program to National Championships at the culmination of the 2006 and 2008 seasons.
Meyer was gone just a couple of years later in 2010, however, the result of severe health issues paired with some explosive claims about the culture he created with the team.
After taking the 2011 season off, Meyer returned to coach the Ohio State Buckeyes, securing another National Championship in 2014 to add to his ever-growing list of honors and credentials. After retiring in 2018, Meyer worked as a college football pundit for two years before finally succumbing to his love of coaching and accepting the Jaguars top job.
Though the Jags have the No. 1 pick in the draft (which they are almost certain to use on Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence) this season and $76 million in cap space—more than any other team—changing the culture in Jacksonville and turning the current roster into one that can seriously compete in the NFL is going to be a task akin to Hercules’ Twelve Labours.
The Jaguars were mostly anemic on the offensive end apart from surprise 1,000-yard rusher James Robinson and a few flashes from the pass-catchers, finishing 28th or lower in yards per game, rushing yards per game, and points per game—but they were actually exponentially worse on defense.
The 2020 Jaguars gave up more points (492) than any other incarnation in franchise history, and became just the fifth team since 1978 to allow 20+ in all 16 games, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
As we said, turning this ship around is going to take a truly Herculean effort, and even that might not be enough.