His Monday comments made it clear that all options were on the table, that losing with a side dish of high-profile drama may not be sustainable in Jacksonville. Early Thursday morning, Jaguars owner Shad Khan did what he should have done weeks ago.
Dysfunctional teams do dysfunctional things. And it’s the height of dysfunction for Khan to treat as the final straw an incident that happened nearly four months ago, and that was reported to the team’s legal counsel a day after it occurred.
Khan tolerated the claim that coach Urban Meyer had kicked kicker Josh Lambo until the moment Lambo told his story publicly, in comments to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. Of course, this assumes that Khan even knew about it; possibly, the contention never made its way up to the top of the ladder. If so, that’s another example of the dysfunction that has contributed to the team becoming one of the least successful in the NFL.
And so, at a time when plenty of in-house enemies had hoped to bring down Meyer, the bucket of water that melted the wicked witch came from someone who himself had been fired by Meyer weeks earlier. Someone who had a story that could have been told at any time.
If Lambo had told his story weeks ago, would that have brought Meyer down? If Khan knew about Lambo’s claim and accepted it as credible, the last straw should have been Meyer’s abandonment of his post in Week Four, after the Jaguars lost to the Bengals and Meyer decided to stay in Ohio for a couple of days when he should have accompanied his team back to Florida.
For a day or two after Urban’s Ohio misadventures, it seemed like Khan was considering making a move, perhaps laying the foundation for a for-cause termination that would have cut off Meyer’s right to ongoing payments. When things died down, there was a sense that the team was vetting Meyer’s version of the events for potential untruthfulness — and that it realized something else could happen later.
The later thing that forced Khan’s hand ended up being something that already had happened. This is precisely the kind of bass-ackward chain of events that proves that something is amiss at a higher level of the organization, that someone who managed to make billions in one industry has struggled to learn the nuances and niceties of managing a sports franchise that operates on an inherent high wire, with every move being studied and scrutinized in real time.
Then there’s the fact that Khan became smitten with the idea of hiring Meyer at a time when no other NFL team — not a single one — seriously pursued him. Perhaps Khan, after a string of failed head coaches who came from the world of pro football, decided that it made sense to roll the dice on an unconventional move, changing the usual order of tuna on toast to chicken salad on rye, untoasted, and a cup of tea.
The experimental nature of the move to hire Meyer provides further proof that those who thrive beyond their wildest dreams in some other line of business don’t automatically know how to run an NFL team, how to properly staff a front office from top to bottom with people who for example know which coaches should be pursued and which should be avoided.
The other 31 franchises knew to avoid Meyer; even at the height of his success, he was never at or near the top of the NFL’s A list. And so, as Khan embarks on his second decade as owner of an NFL team, he needs to take a step back and ask himself what he truly knows about this specific endeavor, what he still doesn’t know about it, and how he can go about the delicate and challenging process of finding someone who will routinely win more games than he loses while also not creating a sting of embarrassments and distractions because he probably never should have had the job in the first place.
It’s one of the most fascinating aspects of the NFL. The game has the uncanny ability to bring to their knees men who have created in some other place a degree of beyond-their-wildest-dreams success, the kind of success that fuels raw and naked hubris. Meyer, for all his achievements at Ohio State and Florida, didn’t belong in the NFL. Khan, like so many other NFL owners before and after him, is learning one day at a time that the only thing better than being really, really rich and sort of famous is being really, really rich.