Urban Meyer: The Art of Breaking Up with Your Coach


Urban Meyer was fired by the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first year of a five-year contract worth up to $60 million. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to review how we got here.


Immediately after taking the reins, Meyer hired assistant coach Chris Doyle, a former Iowa strength coach with a checkered past filled with racist allegations and documentation. After the decision was heavily scrutinized, Meyer backpedaled and reversed the hire.


In October, Meyer broke the internet when pictures surfaced of him attending a bar and standing uncomfortably close to a woman that was clearly not his wife. The picture itself paints Meyer in a damning light. But as more news on the story broke, the optics became even worse.



The Jaguars were fresh off a 24-21 week 4 loss in Cincinnati when Meyer made the puzzling decision to not fly back with the team to Jacksonville. The game took place on a Thursday and Meyer seemingly took this as an invitation to abandon his team and spend the long weekend in his old stomping grounds of southern Ohio (Meyer famously was the head coach of Ohio State from 2012-2018).


As it turns out, the picture was taken at a bar that Meyer himself owned, Urbans Chop House, outside of Columbus, Ohio. To add insult to injury, the bar apparently has a picture of Meyer and his wife plastered on the wall for everyone to see.



This embarrassing saga gained national attention and eventually resulted in Meyer publicly apologizing to his team and his wife Shelley for “a stupid mistake”. Reports immediately began to swirl that Meyer had lost respect within the locker room. Jaguars owner, and Meyer’s boss, Shad Khan proclaimed that Meyer needed to earn back the team’s “trust and respect”.[1]


As the season continued, his status as Jaguars head coach and off the field role model only sunk deeper. Recent reports out of Jacksonville are that Meyer and his assistant coaches consistently disagreed on personnel decisions including who should be taking snaps at running back. Allegedly, these disagreements led Meyer to explode like a tyrant on his coaching staff:


During a staff meeting, Meyer delivered a biting message that he’s a winner and his assistant coaches are losers, according to several people informed of the contents of the meeting, challenging each coach individually to explain when they’ve ever won and forcing them to defend their résumés.[2]

Meyer later threatened the leaker of this tirade would be fired “within seconds”.


We didn’t need any more evidence that Urban Meyer was a catastrophe as an NFL football coach. But when it rains it pours. What’s the weather like in Jacksonville this time of year?



Ultimately kicking his own kicker (which reads like the plot of Seinfeld episode) was the final straw for Urban Meyer in Jacksonville.[3] Jacksonville decided to move on from the coach after a 2-11 record in year one.


The hire was nothing short of a disaster since he signed his name on the dotted line. The writing was on the wall almost immediately that Meyer and the Jaguars were headed for a breakup that not even Taylor Swift could have imagined. Now Jacksonville’s focus must shift to moving on from the Urban Meyer era as smoothly and cost-effectively as possible.


When the contract was signed, Jacksonville envisioned success that Meyer endured during his college stops at Florida and Ohio State. Meyer would lead Jacksonville to wins and in return Jacksonville would make Meyer a very rich (even richer) man. Meyer’s utter failure on the field and constant off field embarrassments complicated this contractual formula.


The organization was not satisfied with Meyer’s performance, but they also didn’t want to kick him to the curb and be forced to pay $60 million on the way out. Meyer will no longer coach in Jacksonville, but the question remains how amicable this breakup will be.


This could have gone down in three distinct ways:

  1. Urban Meyer resigned

  2. The Jacksonville Jaguars fired Urban Meyer

  3. The Jacksonville Jaguars fired Urban Meyer “for cause”


Urban Meyer resigned

This was the best-case scenario for Jacksonville, but as of now seems the most unlikely. With the reports that Jacksonville fired Meyer, it seems they decided to take matters into their own hands.


If Meyer resigned, he would likely waive his right to “ongoing pay” or settle on a severance package that was much lower than the $60 million he’s owed under contract. Meyer may be in over his head, but he’s not stupid. He realizes the harsh reality of these massive coaching contracts is that even if a coach massively underperforms, they still hold bargaining power. He’s owed the money he signed for and he likely will try to fight tooth and nail to collect.


Jacksonville had a few things going for them to counter this potential defiance by Meyer. First and foremost, Meyer had become a laughingstock on a national stage. The media completely turned on him and each day stories were published bashing Meyer for his ineptitude (like this one for example). The local media began to shine a spotlight at how unprepared he was:

In an ideal scenario for the Jaguars, this pressure would have been too hot for Meyer to handle. With every negative media report that was published, this option became more and more likely. But also, the Jaguars had to balance that every waking moment Meyer was still employed, the disdain in the organization grew stronger. It turned into a game of chicken between Meyer and the Jaguars. Eventually, the organization blinked first and they couldn’t sit around and wait any longer for Meyer to fall on the sword. They decided to take action against the coach and move forward with his termination.


The Jacksonville Jaguars fired Urban Meyer

Based on the reporting so far, this option is the most likely for Jacksonville. This is the standard tool used when a coach underperforms expectations, and the franchise feels it’s best to move on. Typically, this happens after a coach has been awarded several years to implement philosophies but still shows no signs of improvement. Meyer only coached 13 games, but that was enough for the Jaguars to make the decision to move on. Under a standard termination, Meyer will still be owed a large chunk of the money as the Jaguars would be forced to buy him out.


The Jacksonville Jaguars fired Urban Meyer “for cause”

This final option is the most complicated and likely would involve a slew of attorneys on both sides but may save the Jaguars millions. When a coach is fired “for cause” they breach a material portion of their contract. This allows the team to rip up the deal and part ways being relieved of their obligations. In this case, Jacksonville would no longer be forced to pay Meyer.


Coaching contracts in the NFL typically contain a “Good Moral Character” clause. Basically, this prevents a coach from acting in any way that brings disgrace or embarrassment to the team or the NFL. These clauses are vague and all-encompassing so it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact type of behavior that’s prohibited. But based on Meyer’s actions during his time with Jacksonville, the Jaguars have a good case. If the Jaguars terminated Meyer “for cause” back in October after the bar incident, they would have robbed Meyer the opportunity to continue making a case against his moral character with his repeated petulant behavior.


The contract likely has a provision stating that the decision on if a coach’s behavior violates the “Good Moral Character” clause is determined by Roger Goodell.[4] The weight of Meyer’s pockets may rest in the commissioner’s office.


We’ve already been spoiled on how this movie ends. Meyer and the Jaguars will go their separate ways and begin seeing other people. The suspense now surrounds how they’re going to get there.


Matt Netti is a 2021 graduate from Northeastern University School of Law. He currently works as an attorney fellow at the Office of the General Counsel for Northeastern University. You can follow him on twitter and instagram @MattNettiMN and find him on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthew-netti-ba5787a3/.


[1] John Reid, Urban Meyer video at bar in Ohio goes viral. Here's the reaction on social media, The Florida Times Union (last visited Dec. 16, 2021) https://www.jacksonville.com/story/sports/nfl/2021/10/03/social-media-reacts-urban-meyer-bar-video/5979948001/. [2] Doug Farrar, Urban Meyer calls his assistants 'losers,' alienates players and coaches, TouchdownWire (last visited Dec. 16, 2021) https://touchdownwire.usatoday.com/2021/12/11/urban-meyer-calls-his-assistants-losers-alienates-players-and-coaches/. [3] Tyler Sullivan, Urban Meyer fired: Ex-Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo says he was kicked by former coach during warmups in preseason, CBS Sports (last visited Dec. 16, 2021) https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/ex-jaguars-kicker-josh-lambo-says-he-was-kicked-by-urban-meyer-during-warmups-in-preseason/. [4] Mike Florio, Could the Jaguars fire Urban Meyer “for cause”?, Pro Football Talk (last visited Dec. 16, 2021) https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2021/10/06/could-the-jaguars-fire-urban-meyer-for-cause/.