Urban Meyer eager to get started rebuilding Jaguars into a winning franchise

John Reid
Florida Times-Union
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Despite winning three national championships and never having a losing season in 17 years as a college coach, Urban Meyer still yearns for more to achieve. 

At 56, the desire was strong enough for Meyer to come out of a comfortable two-year retirement to make the jump to the NFL for the first time to assume the challenge of turning the Jaguars' franchise into a winner after nine losing seasons in 10 years. 

The Jaguars ushered in a new era on Friday when they formally introduced Meyer as head coach during a virtual news conference.

And while Meyer appeared eager to get started, he didn't shy away from admitting the Jaguars landing the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming April 29 draft was huge in his decision to take the job.

The Jaguars are expected to use the top overall pick to select former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who went 34-2 in three seasons as a starter.

''I think Shad (Khan) and the organization are positioned and it's not by accident,'' Meyer said Friday during a virtual call. ''It's primed to put together a good team. People who know me (know) I'm not going to jump into a situation where I don't believe we can win, I won't do that. First of all, I have to get a great staff, not a good staff -- a great staff.''

Next week Meyer said will be a critical time because he will be looking to make hires on his staff, and begin the process of evaluating the roster and assess potential needs.   

Meyer was hired Thursday to replace Doug Marrone, who was fired on Jan. 4 after a franchise-worst 1-15 season.

Meyer said he has always been intrigued with the NFL and there have been a  few opportunities he could have accepted but declined because he didn't think it was the right situation until Khan and the Jaguars came calling.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer directs his players in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Navy in Baltimore, Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014. Ohio State won 34-17. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Meyer has studied NFL salary cap, roster management

To prepare, Meyer said he has spent significant time over the past 13 months studying the NFL's salary cap structure and understanding roster management.

''I just want to be very well educated, and it’s something that’s obviously going to be critical to our success,” Meyer said. 

The Jaguars have 11 draft picks in the upcoming draft, including two picks in the first and second rounds. They also have more than $90 million in available cap space for free agency. Another potential strength for Meyer is taking advantage of a promising young core that includes defensive end Josh Allen, linebacker Myles Jack, running back James Robinson, cornerback CJ Henderson, receivers DJ Chark and Laviska Shenault.  

''My vision, my dream has always been to be the fastest team on the field. When I say fastest, not necessarily 40 times fast, but fast,'' Meyer said. ''And the reason you play fast, the 4 to 6 (seconds), is that I want a team that plays fearless. It falls on the coaching staff. One way to take a great player and slow him down is to be too complicated, and I can assure you that will not happen. If it will, I’ll step in."

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Khan selected Meyer over Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers/Atlanta Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris and Tennessee offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.

''From this remarkable pool of candidates was one man that clearly separated himself from the field,'' Khan said Friday. "As I said yesterday (Thursday), he's a winner, leader and a champion. He's the man we need in Jacksonville, and he wants the challenge.''

Meyer led Florida to national championships in 2006 and 2008 and led Ohio State to a national title in 2014. He had a 187-32 record as a college coach, including 12-3 in bowl games. Meyer's 85.4 winning percentage is the third-best in FBS history.

But there's no recruiting in the NFL. He has to take advantage of the draft, add proven veterans in free agency or through trades, and establish a coaching staff that can recognize and develop talent.

Khan: We need to be 'coach-centric'

Although the Jaguars are expected to announce the hiring of a new general manager by next week, Khan said they are going to be carrying out Meyer's vision of the team and the kind of players they want.  

''We need to be a coach-centric team and organization, where the head coach really has to lead the kind of players he wants, the kind of team we need to be, and the general manager, myself we have to support that vision,'' Khan said. ''Somehow, someway that had been lost and the idea here is really more about transparency, collaboration, teamwork, and accountability.'' 

More:11 things to know about new Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer

Meyer's desire to win every game remains just like it was at Florida and Ohio State, but he's going to be more conscientious of his health issues. He retired from coaching in December 2018 at Ohio State after seven seasons, citing health problems. 

In 2014, Meyer underwent surgery to relieve pressure caused by a congenital arachnoid cyst in his brain that continued to cause headaches through his final season with Ohio State.

''It’s something I’m going to watch very closely, but it’s something that. . . . I had that surgery in 2014 that really helped things,'' Meyer said. ''I'm not going to be running around like a nut on the practice field. Those days are gone. I’m very curious about preventative and that’s what I’ve looked into in great detail. I’m talking about the headache issues that I’ve dealt with. I’ve had long, detailed conversations with people that have helped me through that: physicians that are very close to me.”  

Meyer has yet to coach his first game, but he has already provided the franchise with instant relevancy. NFL Network televised his introductory news conference live Friday and from Florida to California there is now increasing interest in the Jaguars and Meyer.  

The franchise launched its season renewal push shortly after Meyer was hired Thursday and has received a tremendous early response so far, according to team officials. 

On his first full day on the job, Meyer said he's noticed the buzz around Jacksonville, too.

“I do. I’ve spent a lot of time down here, obviously, and I’ve spent a lot of time in Jacksonville recruiting. Friends. My kids were athletes growing up and I remember driving to Jacksonville 10 times a year for whatever events,'' Meyer said. ''We have great friends here and I kind of feel it through them. I have 479 messages I’m trying to get back to. But it’s been fantastic and I can’t wait to do the very best for this incredible place.”  

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