What a difference a year makes, as former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer watched his first and last NFL team make the playoffs. For a team that went 2-11 under Meyer the previous season, with three wins total, this year’s team under the guidance of head coach Doug Pederson went 9-8 and is at the top of the AFC South Division.
It’s the club’s first winning record, division crown, and playoff berth since 2017. For Jags quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the change in culture under Pederson validated his and the team’s abilities, which were in doubt by many under Meyer.
“To see the improvement, of the guys that were here. I think the culture has really flipped,” Lawrence said Wednesday to the media. “I feel we’re in a great spot.”
Trevor Lawrence hoisting the National Championship trophy four years ago tonight after Clemson defeated Alabama. Tonight Trevor and the playoff-bound Jacksonville Jaguars capture the AFC South. pic.twitter.com/TSM6hDaQmB
— Mike Mooneyham (@ByMikeMooneyham) January 8, 2023
Out Of The Shadow Of Meyer
On Saturday, his elation continued after the Jaguars defeated the Tennessee Titans 20-16.
“Sounds great. Sounds really, really good,” Lawrence said about being playoff-bound to ESPN’s Lisa Salters. “It’s hard to sum up this season and what we’ve been able to do. To get an opportunity to go play in the playoffs. Another home game here. We’re fired up.”
Jags wide receiver Marvin Jones went even further, saying he knew Meyer wouldn’t work out early in his short tenure.
“We all have phones, we can all fact check … so just be real, ya know?”
— The Volume (@TheVolumeSports) October 24, 2022
“Around like the second week of camp. You know, the vibes and like the meetings,” Jones said about Meyer on the “Open Mike” podcast back in October. “You know, if you said one thing, it wouldn’t be true. I was like ‘Look, everybody in the league we all have phones and we can all fact-check.’ Just be real. That’s one of the big things, somebody that’s transparent and somebody that’s real, that actually, you know, tells us the truth. Especially in this day in age, because you can look up everything and see if it was right or not.”
The tales of rampantly toxic workplace culture at the Jags under Meyer proliferated the news cycle last season. From yelling and screaming at coaches to Jags placekicker Josh , who claimed Meyer kicked him. Lambo filed a lawsuit in early 2022 detailing verbal abuse and saying he could not sleep, have a standard practice or perform at the highest level under the coach.
Marvin Jones on the notion the #Jaguars were broken after last year with Urban Meyer.
"I think one person was broken. It wasn't us," he said.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) January 8, 2023
“Mr. Meyer’s hostility had the intended effect on Mr. Lambo, resulting in Mr. Lambo uncharacteristically missing difficult and long kicks from the ranges of 55 yards, 52 yards and 58 yards,” the lawsuit filing said.
“Multiple skilled players missed assignments, dropped passes or otherwise failed to perform on-field directly resulting in the Jaguars’ game losses. However, Mr. Lambo, the player who objected to the unlawful activity of Mr. Meyer, was the only player Mr. Meyer and [the Jaguars] cut from the roster.”
History Of Abuse
Lambo was dismissed from the Jags after a few games into this fifth season with the team. He said Meyer kicked him at practice during the 2021-2022 season after missing field goals in a pair of preseason games.
“I’m in a lunge position,” Lambo said to the Tampa Bay Times last year. “Left leg forward, right leg back … Urban Meyer, while I’m in that stretch position, comes up to me and says, ‘Hey dips***, make your f***ing kicks.’ And kicks me in the leg.
“It certainly wasn’t as hard as he could’ve done it, but it certainly wasn’t a love tap. Truthfully, I’d register it as a five (out of 10). Which in the workplace, I don’t care if it’s football or not, the boss can’t strike an employee. And for a second, I couldn’t believe it actually happened,” Lambo continued. “Pardon my vulgarity, I said, ‘Don’t you ever f***ing kick me again’ And his response was: ‘I’m the head ball coach, I’ll kick you whenever the f*** I want.'”
According to NFL Research, Jacksonville is now the third team to have the No. 1 pick and win its division the following season since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger. The other two were the 2004 San Diego Chargers and the 2008 Miami Dolphins.
For a collegiate coach as accomplished as Meyer to be a proven bust in the NFL, the Jags’ turnaround has to be an ego bruise of a caliber Meyer never dreamed possible.