Jaguars Owner Shad Khan Needs to Take Blame for Meyer Disaster

Syndication: Florida Times-Union
Bob Self/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

Former NFL Executive Randy Mueller weighs in on the Urban Meyer firing. Mueller is no stranger to dealing with controversy from within the NFL. Mueller has been the General Manager of the New Orleans Saints and the Miami Dolphins. His career in the NFL spans more than thirty years.

Anyone who has followed the NFL this year has had to be surprised at the constant ups and downs of their team’s performances on a weekly basis. Those who BET on NFL games get a tip of the hat for having the intestinal fortitude to come back for more punishment each week.

Jacksonville is one NFL city where a team with a flawed culture and a losing record have been consistent for almost an entire decade. Prior to 2021, owner Shad Kahn dipped into the college ranks, picking a highly-successful Urban Meyer as the latest tonic to cure the ills of his franchise. 

However, what Khan got instead was a head coach where every week there was more and more drama surrounding him. The Jaguars cornered the market on how not to run an NFL franchise. This year, their long and winding road has been littered with bodies whom their former head coach thinks have all been part of the problem. Meyer apparently chose to point fingers at not only his players, but also some of his assistant coaches and staff alike. The only thing he knew for sure was that IT WAS NOT HIS FAULT.

For those of us who have been on the inside, the Jaguars poor results on the field, coupled with Meyer’s leadership style, are not a surprise. Any scout or front office executive who made a trip to Columbus on a school visit during Meyer’s tenure as the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes can attest that he probably wouldn’t be a good fit in professional football.  

Kahn and his executive staff who made this hire, choosing to take a leap of faith on a guy ill suited for the job, certainly need to take some of the blame. By not really doing their homework on Meyer, the Jaguars’ brass seemed determined to win the press conference announcing him as the new head coach. What they painfully discovered this year is that relying on him to win games was something totally different.

One thing I’ve said many times in the past is that many successful college coaches do not get questioned often. They are allowed to rule with a dictatorship mentality, if that is their desire. Most, do not- so let’s not paint them all with the same brush. They can, if they choose, control not only the flow of information out of their building, but also the message and narrative through fans and the media. It’s because of this that sometimes they can be oblivious and shielded from criticism. They often have poor self-awareness which disconnects them from the real world. Said another way, they can live in a bubble and can control the entire environment. 

As good of a college coach as Nick Saban is, and I think he’s the best ever, I lived through him navigating the NFL waters when we partnered in Miami with the Dolphins. Dealing with people in a professional football organization is much different than most college coaches realize. Whether it’s dealing with the players, the coaches or the auxiliary staff, the leaders of these franchises MUST have a way of bringing people together. In the NFL, the head coach must also rely on people who have knowledge and experience that matters. Verbal beat downs can only come with an equal amount of Kool-Aid and hugs. 

As Meyer found out, you can’t bully your way through obstacles and refuse to ever be accountable. His leadership style works when you have way better players than 90% of the teams you will face. At a place like Ohio State, he could control every aspect of his football team. In the NFL, you need everyone in the organization rowing in the same direction and even if they don’t agree with all your decisions, they still get in line behind you. A true leader treats everyone with respect and gives them a forum to be heard. The NFL is set up all for the sake of parity and having leadership that gets the most out of their entire organization is what separates your team from others.

Every team in the league has good players to a point, and there is no doubt that the Jaguars are deficient of talent. It will take them some time to acquire more skilled players. I truly think their problems this year go above and beyond just identifying and acquiring good players. Meyer talked of establishing a winning culture within his own ranks but in reality, I don’t think any other team has done more to destroy any chance at building culture than the Jaguars. 

In the NFL, everything is questioned. Real answers that make sense are needed in response. Authenticity and humility are judged daily from the guy at the podium publically. It also matters how that same guy deals with each player or assistant coach individually, internally. The persona and vibe that comes when a head coach gives answers without being accountable for himself and his actions are judged by us all. Head coaches in the NFL expect tough questions at times during the season. It comes with the job of leading any business or organization. Striking back with the demeanor of a snake does not fly in my opinion.

I was literally dumbfounded by Meyer’s response to the accusations that he berated coaches and fought with players. I’m paraphrasing, but it can be summarized by saying “I will find and fire those that are leaking information.” He made no apology for dragging the franchise through more mud, nor did he seem accountable for his own actions or demeanor. It’s just more of the same from Meyer. 

I have experienced what is needed to build “good will” among the troops and I understand everyone’s personality is different. There are multiple ways to lead. I’ve been lucky enough to have had the task of rebuilding two NFL franchises, both not very good at the time but with the help of others we turned both into Division winners and playoff teams.

I have been in Meyer’s world. The thing that gave me the best feeling during this process was interacting with the men and women in our organization every day and knowing I could count on them. I loved the teamwork part as well as the discussion and the comraderie. None of us are smarter than ALL OF US. 

This season-long debacle has now filtered down to the level of asking if the current culture is what is needed to further develop their generational talent at QB? I have seen very little progress in rookie Trevor Lawrence’s game as the season has progressed, If there is daylight at the end of the tunnel for Lawrence, it’s not evident to me.

What is evident for the Jaguars is that the questions will keep coming until we all see some tangible answers that we can believe with our own eyes. Now that Meyer has been fired, the question is how will the organization make substantial changes to begin to rebuild this team, it’s culture and its coaching staff.