Jacksonville Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer has been deep in study mode, watching players from around the league and college, in preparation for the 2021 season. Meyer has been on the job since January 14 and by all accounts seems to have hit the ground running the first two months on the First Coast.
On Wednesday, he joined his podcast host Buddy Martin to catch up on life as an NFL coach and what’s next for the Jaguars. On The Buddy Martin Show, Meyer spoke on a variety of things surrounding his new life with the Jags; here are the highlights.
Will any future Jaguars games be played in London?
The Jaguars had been a NFL fixture in the international London games since 2013. In the 2020 season, the Jags were set to become the first team to play back-to-back games across the pond. Of course, the COVID-19 global pandemic ruined those plans.
However, the 2020 season was the end of the Jaguars and the NFL’s (at the time) current contract to host those games in London. As of yet, no new contract has been publicly announced. Jags owner Shad Khan—who also owns Fulham F.C., a Premier League team—said at the end of the contract, “So there's nothing on the table right now for one game. So, I think the process might start, we'll see where we are. But at this point, there's nothing planned. I think I want to pursue whatever keeps football viable and important in Jacksonville.”
Back in February of 2020, Khan doubled down on the importance of London games for the future of the Jaguars franchise and as a product, the growth of downtown Jacksonville.
And according to Meyer, while COVID still means plans are uncertain, the Jaguars could still be "committed" to playing one annual game overseas in the future.
“That's new to me,” said Meyer of the possible experience playing in London. “When I was at Notre Dame, we played in Ireland one time. And obviously, that's a great experience for everybody involved. I mean, it's a little bit of wear and tear. And I don't know -- we've talked about it here with our owner. And I think they are committed to one time a year. With COVID, I'm not sure we'll be able to do it this year.”
The Jaguars are 3-4 in games played in London since 2013, including a 26-3 loss to the Houston Texans in 2019.
For Meyer, There Are “None Better” Than Alex Smith
On Friday it was announced the Washington Football Team had released quarterback Alex Smith, calling it a “mutual decision.” That means Smith is now a free agent. The 15-year veteran and former No. 1 overall pick—and 2020’s Comeback Player of the Year—will presumably be in high demand. While he understandably will look for a possible starter role, his greatest asset is arguably as a mentor and backup.
With the Jaguars set to draft Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall in next month’s 2021 NFL Draft, Smith could potentially reunite with his college coach (Meyer) and be a steadying guide for a young quarterback who will be in the same position as he once was.
As for whether the Jaguars—who have the most cap space in the league—could sign Smith, Urban Meyer can’t speak on the decision…or non-decision.
“I'm not in position to talk about any of that, because I don't know that, you know. Those decisions have not been made. And, you know, there'll be a time and a place, you know. I usually just, [have] been very honest about if something or decisions have been made, I'll let you know. We're nowhere near that now.”
That being said, while contemplating which of his former players Meyer would draft in their prime, one name stood out on the list.
“I go back to maybe [San Francisco 49ers defensive end] Nick Bosa, [Dallas Cowboys running back] Zeke Elliott. At Florida…[Pittsburgh Steelers corner] Joe Haden in his prime was as good a football player as I've ever been around. You know him and [New Orleans Saints corner] Janoris Jenkins at that safety position. I think [former Seattle Seahawks receiver] Percy Harvin is, the best player I've ever coached.
“Then obviously you got [former Denver Bronco’s quarterback] Timmy Tebow in his prime of his career. I’m very biased but I still think he's the best college football player of all time.
“And then there's a guy named Alex Smith. In his prime—none better; none better. He's the number one pick overall in the NFL Draft.”
Chris Doyle Hire Was Done with Homework; New Hire Is Still Being Evaluated
When Meyer announced his full stuff, one name immediately drew ire. Former Iowa Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Doyle had been hired as the Director of Sports Performance. Doyle and the school agreed to part ways after nearly two decades at Iowa due to allegations of bullying and racism. Within 24 hours of the hire being announced, Doyle tendered his resignation to Meyer and the franchise.
At the time, Meyer and General Manager Trent Baalke said in a release, “Chris Doyle came to us this evening to submit his resignation and we have accepted. Chris did not want to be a distraction to what we are building in Jacksonville. We are responsible for all aspects of our program and, in retrospect, should have given greater consideration to how his appointment may have affected all involved. We wish him the best as he moves forward in his career.”
Despite the backlash, claims and criticism from the Fritz Pollard Alliance, Meyer maintains the hire was done with extensive homework and even expectations of disapproval.
“I want to hire the best and, you know, Chris Doyle was the best. There was some backlash that our GM and I, we anticipated there would be some. It was an administrative position. We did our homework. I've known the guy for a long time. There might have been some mistakes made, you know, during his time in Iowa, but you know my thoughts on that. It's, you know, I knew him.”
As for who will now feel that role, that hire has yet to be made. Meyer has been adamant about the strength and conditioning program being one of the strongest aspects of the team. As such, he’s sticking with those he already hired and taking time with any changes.
“Right now, we're going to just keep it in-house. You know, we're going to -- I'm still evaluating that. But I'm really impressed with the guys we hired. And the sports performance model we put together, I've never worked harder on anything because I think it's that important for the health and safety of our players. And there's nothing more important than that. And I like where we're at.”