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Urban Meyer Officially Agrees to Contract as Jaguars' New Head Coach

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2021

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes in action against the Penn State Nittany Lions on September 29, 2018 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Urban Meyer is returning to the coaching ranks, but it won't be at the college level. 

On Thursday, the Jacksonville Jaguars announced they hired Meyer. It will be the 56-year-old's first time as an NFL head coach:

Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero

Statement from Urban Meyer: pic.twitter.com/nuMJc3ICn1

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler and Todd Archer reported Thursday that Scott Linehan "has emerged as a prime candidate" to serve as Meyer's offensive coordinator in Jacksonville. 

Meyer most recently coached at Ohio State, compiling an 83-9 record in seven years at the school. The Buckeyes were national champions in 2014 and claimed the Big Ten title on three occasions under his watch.

Meyer announced ahead of the 2019 Rose Bowl he was stepping down, with Ryan Day to succeed him. During his press conference, he said he was "fairly certain" he'd be leaving coaching for good, which left the door open slightly for a comeback.

Given his history, few will be surprised to see Meyer back on the sidelines.

Citing health reasons, he stepped down as Florida's head coach in December 2009, only to backtrack almost immediately and stay with the Gators through the 2010 season. He resigned for good in December 2010, telling reporters he wanted to spend more time with his family.

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Meyer waited a little less than a year before taking his next gig, with Ohio State hiring him in November 2011.

Many wondered if the same situation would play out once again after Meyer took another extended hiatus from coaching. He might be able to better manage his workload as well, especially in the offseason since he won't have to hit the recruiting trail.

The Jaguars may have to address questions over the circumstances that preceded Meyer's decision to walk away from Ohio State.

He received a three-game suspension from Ohio State to start the 2018 season in connection to his handling of domestic abuse allegations against former assistant coach Zach Smith.

He told reporters at Big Ten media days in July 2018 that he had only recently been made aware of two incidents from 2015 involving Smith and his ex-wife. However, Courtney Smith shared evidence with Stadium's Brett McMurphy of conversations she had with Meyer's wife in 2015 detailing the alleged abuse.

Meyer released a statement, saying his previous comments were inaccurate and that he had reported the allegations to Ohio State officials in 2015:

Urban ❌eyer @CoachUrbanMeyer

pic.twitter.com/wrlRi9jtZz

Ohio State determined following an investigation that Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith didn't deliberately cover up the alleged abuse but "failed to take sufficient management action relating to Zach Smith's misconduct and retained an Assistant Coach who was not performing as an appropriate role model for OSU student-athletes," per ESPN's Dan Murphy.

Looking at Meyer's next stop, the track record of college coaches moving to the NFL is a mixed bag, and there appears to be no set of defined factors that would point to a coach's suitability for the jump.

Nick Saban is one of the greatest ever at the college level, but he flopped in two years with the Miami Dolphins. The same goes for Steve Spurrier, who resigned after his second season with Washington.

Tom Coughlin, Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh and Jimmy Johnson, however, all successfully made the transition from college to the pros.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Dec. 27 the Jaguars had become an attractive vacancy for head coaches and general managers because they were on track to get the No. 1 overall pick and win the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes.

Schefter also cited Jacksonville's haul of draft picks it accumulated from steadily trading away the best pieces from what was once the NFL's best defense, as well as a lot of projected salary-cap space heading into 2021.

The Miami Dolphins showed how quickly a team can go from tearing it all down to contending again. Rebuilding can be a drawn-out process in the NBA or MLB but doesn't have to be one in the NFL.

If Lawrence and Meyer are as good as advertised, the Jags could enjoy a big turnaround next season.

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