“For cause” firing of Urban Meyer makes effort to downplay Josh Lambo claims more understandable

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The Jaguars want everyone to believe that the allegation that former coach Urban Meyer kicked kicker Josh Lambo didn’t spark Meyer’s firing only a few hours later, and that the decision was made last Sunday night. As of Saturday morning, the reason for the “revisionist history” (as Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times calls it) became clear.

The Jaguars have fired Meyer “for cause,” in an effort to not pay him the balance of his contract. The “cause” can’t be Lambo’s claim, because Lambo’s agent told the Jaguars about the kicking of the kicker the day after it happened in late August. The decision to keep Meyer around for nearly four months after finding out that he allegedly kicked the kicker makes it much harder to pin “cause” on that event.

Stroud, who reported the quotes from Lambo, expresses skepticism about the effort by owner Shad Khan’s spokesman to deflect attention from the obvious logical connection between Lambo’s claim and Meyer’s firing. Per Stroud, the team was told about the looming report at 8:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday. The team asked Stroud to delay publication of the story until 4:00 p.m. ET. A rebuttal was provided by the team’s lawyer at 3:00 p.m. ET. Meyer’s representatives sent a letter, too.

Stroud, who was in the middle of these events, explains that Lambo’s claim forced the franchise into “crisis mode,” and that a team executive told Stroud, “This is going to be really bad” for Meyer.

Asks Stroud, “Does that sound like an organization that made the decision to fire Meyer Sunday?”

Regardless of the truth (and some indeed believe that Khan made the decision to fire Meyer on Sunday night), the inevitable fight over Meyer’s money will entail the creation of a new reality, one in which pointed questions are posed to witnesses under oath regarding the straw that broke the camel’s back and whether that specific thing constitutes “cause” under Meyer’s contract.

It will be difficult for the Jaguars to say, “Well, he did some things we didn’t like and maybe those things would have been ’cause’ but we looked the other way until we decided to fire him.” The precise factor that caused Khan to go from thumb up to thumb down will be highly relevant to whether that reason amounts to “cause” under the contract.

That’s why Khan’s spokesman issued a Friday night statement disputing the obvious link between Lambo going on the record and Meyer being told to go on the lam. The Jaguars KNEW about Lambo’s claims in August. Lambo’s claim doesn’t suddenly become “cause” simply because Lambo decided to talk about it publicly now. They didn’t care when they found out about it. Now that everyone knows, they can’t credibly claim it’s a big deal.

So they’re trying to claim it had nothing to do with the firing. Whether anyone believes that is a different issue. Stroud doesn’t. I don’t. But our opinion doesn’t matter. It all comes down to who decides the grievance that Meyer will file.

Other facts will be highly relevant to the situation, including the extent to which the Jaguars papered Meyer’s file with warnings and other evidence that makes it clear he was on notice that one more false move would be regarded as “cause” for termination. To persuade an objective factfinder that this isn’t simply an effort to whip up “cause” after the fact like a batch of Christmas cookies, the Jaguars will need to provide clear, extemporaneous documentation of violations, warnings, and clear explanations of the consequences for the next screwup.

None of that may matter, because Khan’s contract with Meyer surely stacks the legal deck in the team’s favor, delegating the decision-making process to Commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee. (One of these days, a coach with real leverage will insist that this provision be removed from his contract.)

On that note, this fight has relevance to the Jaguars going forward. Although it’s clear that Meyer never belonged in the NFL, it will make plenty of sense for the next person offered the head-coaching job in Jacksonville to do due diligence on this specific aspect of the uncoupling of coach and team. If Meyer is in any way getting screwed, it’s important to know that before signing up to be the next person to land in a similar position.

“For cause” firing of Urban Meyer makes effort to downplay Josh Lambo claims more understandable originally appeared on Pro Football Talk