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Opinion: Admitting Urban Meyer mistake gives Shad Khan, Jaguars a chance to set things right

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"It takes a big man to admit when he's wrong," so goes the old quote.

That would seem to be the fundamental difference between Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan and the coach he just fired, Urban Meyer.

Meyer has been resistant to owning his mistakes going back to his celebrated career as a three-time national championship coach in the college ranks. But in less than a year with the Jags, he wasn't self-aware enough to legitimately apologize for his misguided hiring of disgraced strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle; to recognize that his methods for managing a football team – which worked well in Salt Lake City, Gainesville, Florida, and Columbus, Ohio, with impressionable teenagers – didn't translate to professional players or veteran assistants; that trying to convert 33-year-old failed NFL quarterback Tim Tebow into a tight end was a fool's errand and cost the team an opportunity to evaluate a deserving prospect; that punishing starting running back James Robinson for a fumble wasn't a smart move; or that Meyer even had a strong grasp of NFL rules and rhythms, which he consistently tripped over, despite his claim that he'd studied the league in depth prior to his arrival in Duval County.

Leadership starts at the top? False start(s), Urb.

Sure, Meyer showed remorse following his infamous Ohio jaunt following a Week 4 loss in Cincinnati. But it's harder to sidestep accountability to your family than it is to twentysomething millionaires.

Yet this is the guy Khan went all in for in January, convinced that Meyer was the man to lead this franchise out of the wilderness after more than a quarter century without a Super Bowl appearance.

"Urban Meyer is who we want and need, a leader, winner and champion who demands excellence and produces results," Khan said 11 months ago. "While Urban already enjoys a legacy in the game of football that few will ever match, his passion for the opportunity in front of him here in Jacksonville is powerful and unmistakable."

Given that level of conviction, it must've been hard for Khan to issue this mea culpa shortly after midnight Thursday.

"After deliberation over many weeks and a thorough analysis of the entirety of Urban’s tenure with our team, I am bitterly disappointed to arrive at the conclusion that an immediate change is imperative for everyone," Khan, who put Meyer on notice following the incident in Ohio, said in a statement.

"I informed Urban of the change this evening. As I stated in October, regaining our trust and respect was essential. Regrettably, it did not happen."

OPINION: Everyone but Urban Meyer and Shad Khan saw this debacle coming for the Jaguars

MORE: Urban Meyer was an NFL embarrassment. Jimmy Johnson knows why.

WHO COULD REPLACE URBAN MEYER?: Eric Bieniemy, Raheem Morris among candidates

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan on the field before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021. Over the past 100 years, around 110 men and a handful of women have owned controlling portions of NFL teams. Of that select group, all but two have been white.
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan on the field before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021. Over the past 100 years, around 110 men and a handful of women have owned controlling portions of NFL teams. Of that select group, all but two have been white.

Khan's (correct) decision was all the more remarkable considering it happened in the middle of the week as his team prepared to host the Houston Texans. Beyond that, he has a reputation as one of the league's most patient owners, employing former coaches Gus Bradley and Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell well past their expiration dates in hopes that staying the course would produce more than the one playoff appearance the Jaguars have gifted Khan in the decade since he purchased the franchise.

But Khan realized the Meyer fiasco wasn't going to self-resolve and wisely pulled the plug rather than hope he had the next Jimmy Johnson on his hands. Yet there is a silver lining here, an opportunity for Khan to correct his blunder and maybe even league-wide missteps, while salvaging what could still be an exciting young team.

Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 pick of the 2021 draft, still has ample opportunity to become the generational quarterback he was widely projected to be even though a poor rookie year spent under Meyer is basically a waste. There are other promising players to build around, including Robinson, pass rusher Josh Allen, cornerback Shaquill Griffin, linebacker Myles Jack and Travis Etienne, a 2021 first-round playmaker himself but one who's missing his rookie year with a Lisfranc injury. Jacksonville is projected to have more than $70 million in salary cap space in 2022, per overthecap.com, and will almost certainly have a top-five pick in the draft – courtesy of a 2-11 train wreck under Meyer's watch.

All that's needed is the right person to combine a fresh set of ingredients.

Khan said Thursday morning that he won't have more to say until the season is complete, but it's almost unfathomable to think he'll turn back to the college ranks after this catastrophe. He's also had recent exposure to more capable men than Meyer was, saying in January: "I was privileged to interview numerous candidates to fill our head coaching vacancy. To a man, they were first-class, they had a high character and they can coach. And I expect them all to be NFL coaches, head coaches in the future."

The future came more quickly than Khan would have liked, but he'll get another chance to give his organization the frontman it deserves – and hopefully Khan, the league's only minority owner, will choose from a strong pool of diverse candidates.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, formerly the Jaguars' quarterback, has Super Bowl pedigree and could be exactly the play caller and schematic architect Lawrence needs. New England Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo is only a few years removed from being a Pro Bowler, understands what winning culture in the NFL looks like and has shown such strong leadership skills as an assistant that he was interviewed for the Philadelphia Eagles' top job after last season. And, of course, there's Kansas City Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, who interviewed with Jacksonville in January but still awaits the opportunity to call a team his own despite the endorsement from his current players both as a leader and X's and O's guy.

The list goes on, the Jaguars' options among qualified men of color – and non-diverse candidates, too – expansive and varied.

Now the ball's back in Khan's court. Hopefully it will only take one wrong to make a right.


Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Admitting Urban Meyer mistake gives Jaguars chance to set things right