For 30 minutes on Friday, Shad Khan and Urban Meyer had all of Jacksonville in their hands as they outlined their vision to turn the NFL's worst team into a winner.
Khan introduced Meyer, the longtime college coach and three-time national champion, to the media and the public on Friday. For all intents and purposes, it was the biggest press conference in Jaguars history considering the significance of Meyer's hiring.
The pair spoke about how they envision the roster being set up, the new power structure, how the deal came about, and more throughout the afternoon. Each revealed anecdotes that were previously undisclosed, and we learned a lot about how Meyer views his transition to the NFL.
So, what were our biggest takeaways from Meyer's introductory press conference? We give five here.
Detail, intensity, and an olive branch to a wounded fan base defined the day
The Urban Meyer who spoke on Friday sounded just like the Meyer we heard at Florida and Ohio State in terms of his commitment to detail and organization. Meyer clearly plotted how his team would be built, what roles his staff would play (he won't call plays on offense and will delegate his defense), and he described what kind of culture he will be looking to establish to Jacksonville. For all of the question marks around Meyer's hiring, and there are several, Meyer at least provided intense clarity around how he will run the franchise.
“I think it has something to do with, I’m not sure I said this earlier, but I talked to Shad about this, it might be a little high school-ish, I get that, but when they see the Jaguar emblem, you better have ownership and you better love it," Meyer said. "If not, it’s my job to eliminate those people from this organization and I take that very seriously."
Meyer also intently felt the pulse of a fan base that has seen double-digit losses in nine of the last 10 seasons. He placed a big emphasis on how much the fans deserve a winner to match their passion and loyal. That is likely coach speak, but there is also a lot of truth to it. The Jaguars' fans have gave more than the team over the last decade. It is Meyer's job to change that, and it appears he at least understands that.
Urban Meyer's two biggest priorities: building a strong staff and player development
Meyer didn't mince words on Friday or underplay the importance of what the next week means for the Jaguars. Meyer's Ohio State and Florida teams were built on elite talent on the field and on the coaching staff. The building up of Jacksonville's roster will come in the coming months, but it is the next few days and weeks that will determine Jacksonville's true chance of success in 2021 and beyond.
Due to his lack of NFL experience, Meyer's coaching staff is that important. It will be especially key for him to find experienced coordinators to help his young roster and a staff that will likely have quite a few assistants from the college ranks. Over the last few years, though, the Jaguars failed to build any truly impressive coaching staff. They struggled to do this with an experienced NFL head coach in Doug Marrone, and now they have to do it with a coach with no history in the league.
"I’ve got to get a great staff, not a good staff, a great staff. And when people are recommended, I’ve had a multitude of people calling and my comment is to save the recommendation unless you feel that person is elite in all areas," Meyer said.
"Because that’s what Jacksonville deserves and that’s what we’re going to have on our staff. But the players and putting together a team that—they want to win, I know that.”
Aside from building up his coaching staff, Meyer made it obvious that investing time, energy, and potentially even money toward developing his roster will be a pillar of the organization. What this will exactly entail is yet to be determined, but Meyer made it evident that he will pour his energy into putting his players in the right situations.
“I believe everything is. There’s one way that people who work for me, with me, they’ll hear a statement, it’s just the best of the best. If it’s not, then the question is why?" Meyer said.
"That’s the same thing I’m doing every time I walk through everywhere. We did that at Ohio State. We did that at Florida. It’s just the very best. If it’s not, especially when you start talking about player welfare and safety and then just the players and if it’s not the very best, let’s have a chat and do what’s very best. The Jacksonville players are going to get pushed. In return, we give them the very best, that includes the coaching staff, number one the coaching staff. Does a big hot tub have that much of a difference? I didn’t say that, but I just want to make sure it’s the best of the best. Shad is very committed to that, as well as this organization. That’s something that it’s hard for me to answer right now, but I think within months you might see or hear things that we’re doing the very best we can for our players.”
The impact of the hire has seemingly already landed in Jacksonville
You couldn't turn on ESPN or NFL Network the last two days and not hear coverage on Meyer landing with the Jaguars. He is one of the biggest names in sports, whether for his on-field success or the controversies that have followed him.
But for as much attention that has been drawn to the Jaguars and Meyer nationally, it doesn't truly capture the buzz inside Jacksonville. For those who follow or support the team, the hiring of Meyer is the biggest "splash" the team has ever made. The last three head coaches hired were Mike Mularkey, Gus Bradley, and Doug Marrone ... so yeah, the fan base is going to get fairly excited for Meyer.
It appears as if the Jaguars are already noticing the Meyer effect, which begs the question of if the Jaguars realized this could have been the energy around their team all along had they ever really tried. This is the first time Khan has went after a high-profile coaching target and landed him, showing a commitment and desire to win that some supporters of the team have questioned at times.
If this is how excited Jaguars fans are now, before a game has even been played, imagine how excited they will be if Meyer actually turns the Jaguars to a winner. It could very easily put to bed the false perception that there isn't an appetite for football in North Florida.
There will be a massive transition for Urban Meyer in Year 1. How aware of the enormity of it is he?
For all of the questions about the hiring of Meyer, the biggest one is how he will transition from coaching 18-, 19-, 20-, and 21-year-olds on Saturdays to coaching millionaire adults on Sundays. While the basics of building a program and culture will carry over to any level of football (yes, really), it is an adjustment on the field that Meyer will have to make.
For one, Meyer won't have the biggest and fastest players every week. At Ohio State and Florida, his team was stocked with so much talent that his backup units likely could have contended for conference and division titles. The uneven playing field won't be the same at the NFL level, where he won't always have four draft picks in the top-50 and 70+ million in cap space. Does Meyer understand this? It appears that this aspect of the transition is one he has some self-awareness about.
"You’re talking about the league is built to be .500 and that’s—I’ve coached at Utah where we were picked to lose most of our games, I’ve coached at Bowling Green where we were picked to lose most of our games, and then Florida and Ohio State, you’re picked to win most of the games," Meyer said. "So that’s the biggest challenge, is looking across the field and saying they’ve got what you’ve got, or sometimes they’ve got more than you’ve got.”
But what about the part of the equation in which Meyer is going to have to ensure his offensive philosophies carry over to the NFL? Meyer doesn't have a specific playbook or scheme he is married to, but he did have some core concepts at each of his head coach stops. Can he translate those to an NFL game that is faster in every way?
"And I’ve always looked at the college environment as an opportunity to—not that we’re not going to do it in the NFL, but you’re dealing with 17-, 18-, 19-year-olds that are leaving home for the first time and you’re also dealing with an academic environment. So, just a much different environment. However, between the white lines, I don’t see a lot of difference," Meyer said. "I’ve studied the NFL game now for really years, but really studied it for the first time in my life [over] the last six months."
Well, Meyer is right in the first part of that statement. There is some similarities between the white lines and there are college concepts ran throughout the NFL each year, but Meyer is likely underselling just how much of a difference there is.
Jacksonville has joined the ranks of the coach-centric NFL franchises
Some of the coach-centric franchises in the NFL: The New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Football team, and the Carolina Panthers. These are just a handful of the examples of coach-centric models in the NFL, where the franchise is completely driven and defined by their lead coach.
Shad Khan made it obvious on Friday that the days of letting a front office executive guide Jacksonville's every move were over. This type of structure is what led the Jaguars into the NFL's cellar and eventually land Urban Meyer, after all, so it is only logical for them to reverse course.
"My whole aspect—and this started really about 15 months ago—that 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," Khan said.
"And the general manager, myself, we have to support that mission. And somehow, someway, that had been lost. The idea here is really more about transparency, collaboration, teamwork and accountability. So I think this would lead to the natural question. I mean, I’ve talked to Urban about our general manger, who it ought to be and we’re working together on it. I hope we’ll have an announcement or something in the next week or so, but the objective is going to be that—and I’ve shared this with Urban, he’s on board—both of them will be reporting to me. But everybody in the organization, I mean, we’re going to be carrying out Urban’s vision of the team and the kind of players we want.”
The Jaguars had that type of model under Tom Coughlin when the team first came to Jacksonville, but they haven't had it since. Gus Bradley and Doug Marrone were two glaring examples of coaches who worked for the front office, not with the front office following their example. Now, Khan and Meyer are going back to the drawing board in a big way. Nothing else worked for the Jaguars, so why not try this?