Urban Meyer was fired by the Jaguars in the wee hours Thursday. He signed a five-year contract with them last January, but his tumultuous tenure lasted just 13 games. It was marred by multiple scandals and a 2-11 record.
The final scandal was former Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo alleging that Meyer kicked him during practice in the preseason.
Meyer on Friday denied Lambo’s accusations, which were published Wednesday by the Tampa Bay Times, as well as a report last week by NFL Media that Meyer and wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. got into a shouting match and Jones walked out of the team’s facility.
“It was like, ‘Wait a minute, where is this coming from?'” Meyer told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport in an interview. “I’ve certainly made a few mistakes but those weren’t right.”
Even if those stories weren’t accurate, Meyer was already skating on thin ice. In October, a video of him dancing at a bar/restaurant with a woman who is not his wife went viral. Hours after Lambo told his story, Jaguars owner Shad Khan announced he had moved on from Meyer, although the team told The Associated Press on Friday that Khan had made his decision after Sunday’s shutout loss to the Titans.
URBAN MEYER FIRED: Timeline of Jaguars’ dysfunction during his tenure
Meyer isn’t happy with the way his brief time in Jacksonville turned out. How exactly did everything go wrong? As Meyer told it, losing was one of the biggest factors.
“I tell people, losing eats away at your soul,” Meyer said. “Once you start losing, it’s hard on everybody.”
Losing proved especially hard for Meyer. He logged 11 defeats in Jacksonville after losing just nine games total in seven years at Ohio State. He didn’t take it well, and that appeared to damage his relationship with his players, which reports indicate was frayed from the start.
But Meyer still believed that the team would turn it around.
“I thought at one point, when we won two out of three, there was some momentum, great energy, the defense was really playing well,” Meyer said, referencing wins over the Dolphins and Bills in Weeks 6 and 9. “We were running the ball and then when that dried up on us, then we started turning the ball over. We had that bye week and then James Robinson gets hurt.”
Robinson’s usage was one of the biggest storylines in the week leading up to Meyer’s dismissal. The running back said that he was confused by Meyer’s decision to put him in the game on the Jaguars’ final drive against the Rams in Week 13 when Jacksonville was down 30 points. Robinson had been nursing an injury and was benched earlier in the game for a fumble.
“I’m not sure what the point of that was,” Robinson said after the game.
Meyer again benched Robinson in Week 14 after a fumble. Robinson didn’t get back into the game until quarterback Trevor Lawrence lobbied for him to return.
Meyer defended his decision to Rapoport but also acknowledged that holding Robinson out as long as he did may have been a mistake.
“We discussed it as a staff,” Meyer said. “When you see someone lose the ball or even see them be loose with the ball, get them out of the game, get their mind right and then get them back in. When he fumbled, I said, ‘Take him out.’ We took him out and then we had lack of communication about when to put him back in.”
Benching Robinson wasn’t the only move for which Meyer was scrutinized after Week 14. Meyer looked less than enthused during his postgame handshake with Titans coach Mike Vrabel. That led many people to question his relationship with his former Ohio State assistant after it was reported that Meyer called his Jaguars assistants “losers” during a staff meeting (Meyer denied that report in his interview with Rapoport).
Meyer denied that there was any tension between he and Vrabel and said that they were “really close” thanks to their time together at Ohio State.
“That had nothing to do with him,” Meyer said of the handshake. “That’s probably one of my issues why I’ve thought some of the things I said: I can’t take losing. I try to accept it, it just eats away at my soul. And I believe our players deserve better.”
Meyer also believed that the city of Jacksonville — and Jaguars fans — deserved better. He issued an apology in his interview with Rapoport and said he was “heartbroken” he couldn’t accomplish his goals.
“I just apologize to Jacksonville,” Meyer said. “I love Jacksonville. It’s one of the reasons I took the job. I still think Shad’s a great owner. It’s heartbreaking. I just had a dream of it becoming a destination place with a new facility he agreed to build and some day to walk into that stadium where it’s standing room only. Because I know how bad the people of Jacksonville want it. So, I’m just heartbroken that we weren’t able to do that.”
Meyer said that he remains optimistic about the Jaguars’ future even though he is no longer a part of it.
“I still believe it’s going to be done,” he said. “It’s too good of a place.”
As for his future, Meyer is still deciding what he wants to do next.
“To be determined,” he said.