JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jaguars have hired Urban Meyer as their new head coach, turning to one of the most successful college coaches in NCAA history to help spur a turnaround of one of the NFL’s worst franchises.
“This is a great day for Jacksonville and Jaguars fans everywhere,” team owner Shad 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’s hiring comes after regular communication between him and the Jaguars. Sources previously told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Meyer had been assembling a coaching staff, including some assistants from the college ranks, ahead of taking the Jaguars job.
“I’m ready to coach the Jacksonville Jaguars,” Meyer said in a statment. “Jacksonville has an enthusiastic fan base, and the fans deserve a winning team. With upcoming opportunities in the NFL Draft, and strong support from ownership, the Jaguars are well-positioned to become competitive. I’ve analyzed this decision from every angle — the time is right in Jacksonville, and the time is right for me to return to coaching. I’m excited about the future of this organization and our long term prospect for success.”
Meyer won three national championships and compiled a 187-32 college coaching record during stints at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State. He won two of those titles (2006, 2008) with the Gators, whom he led to a 65-15 record in six seasons. He also led the Buckeyes to the 2014 national title and compiled an 83-9 record in seven seasons in Columbus.
He will be the sixth head coach in Jaguars history, replacing Doug Marrone, whom owner Shad Khan fired Jan. 4 after the Jaguars finished their worst season in franchise history (1-15). Marrone had a 25-44 record (including playoffs) in four seasons with the Jaguars.
The Jaguars gave up a franchise-record 492 points last season, becoming the fifth team since the NFL expanded to a 16-game schedule in 1978 to allow at least 20 points in every game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Offensively, the Jaguars ranked 28th or worse in yards per game, rushing and scoring. They ranked 21st in passing, which is largely a product of falling behind big in games and having to abandon the run.
But Jacksonville has assets to launch a rebuild. The Jaguars own the No. 1 overall pick, the team’s first ever, for the 2021 NFL draft, which they are expected to use on Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. They are also projected to have $76.2 million in salary-cap space this offseason, the most in the NFL.
Meyer began his head-coaching career in 2001 at Bowling Green, where he led the Falcons to a 17-6 record in two seasons before moving on to Utah, where he went 22-2 in two seasons. Led by quarterback Alex Smith, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft, the Utes went 12-0 in 2004 and played in the Fiesta Bowl.
He was then hired by Florida to replace Ron Zook in December 2004. The Gators went 8-5 in their first season under Meyer as they struggled with the transition to his spread offense. But his biggest win came off the field, when he secured a commitment from quarterback Tim Tebow, who was also considering Alabama.
The Gators took off in 2006, with Meyer using Tebow as a change-of-pace quarterback to Chris Leak. The Gators beat Arkansas in the SEC title game and routed Ohio State to win the program’s second national title. Two years later, the Gators won their third national title with a rout of Oklahoma.
A loss to Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship Game derailed the Gators’ hopes for a first perfect season and signaled the beginning of the end of Meyer’s tenure at Florida.
The night after that loss, Meyer was rushed to a Gainesville hospital after his wife was unable to wake him up. Meyer had been experiencing chest pains and suffered from dehydration, and the incident scared him. Meyer later announced that he was resigning after Florida’s bowl game for health reasons but changed his mind the following day and instead said he would take a leave of absence.
Meyer was diagnosed in January 2010 with esophageal spasms, which caused the severe chest pains he had been experiencing. He began taking medication, made significant lifestyle changes and eventually resumed coaching at the start of spring practice in March 2010.
One day after the Gators’ final regular-season game in 2010 — a 31-7 loss at Florida State — Meyer announced he was resigning for good and that his final game would be the Outback Bowl.
Meyer worked as a college football analyst for ESPN into November 2011 before accepted the head-coaching job at Ohio State. He led the Buckeyes to a 12-0 record in 2012, but the school was ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA sanctions relating to former players receiving impressible benefits from a booster during former coach Jim Tressel’s tenure.
Two years later, Meyer led Ohio State to the national title, upsetting No. 1 Alabama 42-35 in a College Football Playoff semifinal and routing Oregon 42-20 in the championship game.
However, Meyer had another health scare in 2018 when he dropped to his knees on the sideline during a game against Indiana with severe pain in his head. Meyer later revealed that he was dealing with an ongoing issue related to a congenital arachnoid cyst in his brain, which included severe headaches that had gotten worse over two years.
Meyer also was embroiled in a controversy during his final season in Columbus after he was placed on paid administrative leave Aug. 1, 2018, after reports surfaced that Meyer knew about spousal abuse allegations against assistant coach Zach Smith. Ohio State had fired Smith the previous week.
After an investigation, Meyer was suspended for the opening three games of the 2018 season. The Buckeyes went 12-1 but missed out on the College Football Playoff, and Meyer announced that he was retiring from coaching after the Rose Bowl for health reasons.
Meyer has spent the past two college football seasons as an analyst for Fox Sports.
The Jaguars are hoping his success will translate to the pro game. Jacksonville has had just one winning season since 2007 and has lost 10 or more games in nine of the past 10 seasons. The outlier was 2017, when the Jaguars went 10-6, won the AFC South, hosted their first playoff game since the 1999 season and made a surprising run to the AFC Championship Game. The Jaguars won 12 games that season but have won just 12 since.
Meyer will be the fourth coach in Khan’s nine seasons as owner, during which the team is 41-106, including playoffs. In addition to Marrone, Khan has also fired Mike Mularkey (2012) and Gus Bradley (2016).