Urban Meyer announced a massive coaching staff on Thursday, a day many had been waiting on for nearly a month. Despite this, nearly 50% of the questions asked to Meyer in the following press conference revolved around one hire.
Just one month into his tenure, the Jaguars head coach spent much of his Thursday press conference explaining the hiring of new Jaguars' director of sports performance Chris Doyle, less than one year after Doyle left Iowa amid controversy.
“I vet everyone on our staff and like I said, the relationship goes back close to 20 years. [There were] a lot of hard questions asked, a lot of vetting involved with all our staff, but we did a very good job vetting that one," Meyer said when asked about hiring a coach who has drawn massive criticism.
Doyle was the Iowa Hawkeyes' strength and conditioning coach for over 20 years before he and Iowa entered a "separation agreement" following numerous former players alleging the program had racial disparities, referencing alleged racial remarks and mistreatment by Doyle. Doyle disputed the claims, but it resulted with the end of his tenure at Iowa.
"Many of the discussions have centered around our strength and conditioning program and coach Chris Doyle," Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said in a statement when he first placed Doyle on leave. "I have spoken with him about the allegations posted on social media. They are troubling and have created a lasting impact on those players. Therefore, coach Doyle has been placed on administrative leave immediately while there is an independent review. He and I agree that all parties will have their voices heard and then a decision about how to move forward will be made."
The hiring of Doyle is one that Meyer says he consulted owner Shad Khan and general manager Trent Baalke over. He also noted he has a longstanding relationship with Doyle.
“I’ve known Chris for close to 20 years. Our relationship goes back to when I was at Utah and he was the number one strength coach. Really, he was doing sports performance before sports performance became a high priority in college sports," Meyer said. "I’ve known him. I’ve studied him. We’ve had a relationship. I vetted him thoroughly along with our general manager [Trent Baalke] and owner [Shad Khan]. [We] feel great about the hire, about his expertise at that position.
"We vetted him thoroughly. Sports performance is going to be a high, high priority as it really has in the last probably ten years. Certainly, at Ohio State, that became if not the most important. You guys know my relationship with [Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Performance] Coach Marotti at Ohio State. This whole [thing] from the strength training room, physical therapy, sport psychology, and nutrition, it all falls under the sports performance team umbrella and I wanted to get the best of the best.”
Meyer continued to reiterate he and the Jaguars "vetted" Doyle, largely due to the numerous questions raised from hiring. The hire has already been panned by many nationally and even drew remarks from one member of last year's roster, Chris Conley -- who is currently set to be a free agent.
Meyer said Doyle will report to him, but the team's strength program, equipment program, and so forth, will report to Doyle. Meyer said he has met with his coaching staff about Doyle's hire and will listen to his locker room, noting that he will not permit any mistreatment of players.
“I met with our staff about it and I’m going to be very transparent with all the players, like I am with everything, and listen closely and learn. There’s going to have to be some trust in their head coach that we’re going to give them the very best of the best," Meyer said.
"Time will tell. Once again, a player that’s hurt and not performing or not maximizing what strength and prehab abilities [they have] so they’re getting hurt or they’re not performing at the highest level I think is a high priority. The allegations that took place, I will share I vetted him. I know the person for close to 20 years and I can assure them there’ll be nothing of any sort in the Jaguar facility.”
Meyer explained that he largely hired Doyle due to issues the Jaguars have faced with injuries in recent years. A major factor to the success of his past teams was their ability to avoid soft tissue injuries, something the Jaguars haven't found as much luck in.
"The one thing I’m very confident [in] is that I would imagine within a year or two, we’ll have the best sports performance team in the National Football League," Meyer said.
"As far as the last few years, we’ve had serious issues with injuries. I want to say 63 games were missed just on the defensive side of the ball because of injuries, where in 2017, there were only two. So keeping players healthy at their maximum performance is a high, high priority for [me]. Mine has really changed over the years about the priority of that. At Ohio State, I’m very biased, but we became the best in college football. Now, our job is to make sure we become the best at professional football.”
The hiring of Doyle comes a little over a year after the NFLPA sent a scathing statement aimed at the Jaguars for breaking CBA protocols by fining players for missing "mandatory" offseason rehab sessions in Jacksonville.
Meyer said he has no concerns with Doyle's hiring negatively impacting the team's ability to draw free agents, though the question will likely continue to be raised.
“If I was, I wouldn’t have hired him. Once again, I’ll explain that if that becomes a question," Meyer said.