A look at how Jaguars owner Shad Khan landed Urban Meyer

John Reid
Florida Times-Union
View Comments
Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer is hugged by running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) after the 2015 Sugar Bowl against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2015 in New Orleans. Ohio State defeated Alabama 42-35. Mandatory Credit:  Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Jaguars owner Shad Khan's courtship of Urban Meyer began just more than a month after he decided to bring back Doug Marrone after a dismal 6-10 season in 2019. 

Khan acknowledged that he had admired Meyer from a distance for years because of their Big Ten connections.

Khan is an avid supporter of the University of Illinois, his alma mater, and Meyer, of course, is the former Ohio State coach who won a national championship in 2014 and went 83-9 in seven seasons at the Columbus, Ohio-based school after winning two national championships at the University of Florida.

But it wasn't until last year's Super Bowl in Miami that Khan had his first opportunity to speak to Meyer at length and get an up-close glimpse to evaluate his passion, his knowledge, and if he had any interest at all on a return to coaching at some point in the future. 

''For me, I was really impressed, obviously,'' Khan said. ''The Super Bowl conversation was insightful.''

Meyer told Khan about the time he invested in a self-imposed research project on the NFL, desiring to find out the inner makings on why some franchises are successful and why some are not.

Meyer reached out to his former players - which includes 57 currently playing in the NFL -  or had recently retired, to get their take on the topic. 

As he explained his findings and the significant time invested, it gave Khan a sense that Meyer was intrigued about the NFL and probably at some point would consider a return to coaching under the right situation.       

''The research was very strong, it was something that I was not surprised at the results,'' Meyer said. ''Because the players will tell you, players know. Sometimes you talk to coaches and I’m not sure they all know—I don’t know. But players are the ones that play the game and I really value the guys that I have in the NFL. And we spent, I mean, hours upon hours, I did work on this. And I spoke to Shad about that, and that was our conversation at the Super Bowl—we really had a nice conversation at the Super Bowl a year ago, I believe it was in Miami.''

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan fields questions from the media on his interest in buying Wembley Stadium in London ahead of the start of the Uniform Launch and Draft Party at EverBank Field Thursday, April 26, 2018. [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]

Khan stayed coy, never showing his hand throughout last year's offseason or into the season. As the losses mounted, no one had a clue about Meyer's potential interest in the Jaguars.  

Khan's first public comments about Meyer didn't come until Jan. 4, the day he fired Marrone after four seasons. It came after reports surfaced that Meyer had been lining up a staff and telling people he's close to in the football community that he expects to land in Jacksonville. 

The speculation was valid enough that it led Marrone to call Khan during the weekend before coaching his final game to see if it was true. 

''He said it was news to him, and he would talk to me on Monday,'' Marrone said after coaching his final game, a 28-14 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 3, less than 24-hours before he was fired. 

When asked what some of the specific qualifications he was looking for in a new head coach, including if the search would include any potential candidates on the collegiate level, Khan said he would lead a thorough search before he addressed the Meyer rumor.

''Obviously, I’ve known Urban over the years through Big Ten and what have you,'' Khan said. ''But we have not spoken to anyone about this job or even, obviously, interviewed him. I mean, this is something—just made the decision (dismiss Marrone). So, you know there is—and I’ll leave it at that.”

Yet, it was clear from the start, Meyer was the leading candidate. He was the only candidate that Khan invited for an in-person interview on his yacht and also got a second in-person interview. And there was never a point where Meyer was wavering to consider other NFL offers or was hesitant about returning to coaching because of his previous health issues. 

''We spent [an] incredible amount of time together,'' Meyer said of Khan. '' I felt like this was not only the right time for me to return to coaching but the right place in Jacksonville as well.''

During his introductory news conference Friday, Meyer spoke about having deep conversations with his family on returning to coach in Jacksonville, 'they're all in - they're all Duval now.' ''

As Khan has seen a significant spike in season-ticket deposits since Thursday's announcement, Meyer is already working to hire his staff.

Meyer's input in the organization is going to be widespread.

The keys are in his hands, his desired upgrades are expected to occur at the facility to enhance weight training and rehabilitation improvements.

Meyer is even stressing that more pride should be given to the team's logo.

''When they see the Jaguar emblem, you better have ownership and you better love it. If not, it’s my job to eliminate those people from this organization and I take that very seriously,'' Meyer said. ''The two things I always talk about that inspire or are part of inspiration are love and ownership. I want you to own it and if you don’t want to do that then you can’t be here. Own that emblem.”

Throughout Friday's news conference, Khan appeared to look elated. Without question, he has landed a prize - a successful coach who is eager to turnaround a franchise that's had nine losing seasons in 10 years.

'' I was just absolutely blown away [with] how he can help us and really reinvigorate the Jacksonville Jaguars,'' Khan said. ''I’m obviously delighted he’s here.”

View Comments