The Toxic Leadership of Urban Meyer

At just 13 games, Urban Meyer had one of the shortest tenures of an NFL head coach, and even that was too long.

The Jacksonville Jaguars fired first-year coach Urban Meyer this past week after just 13 games.

Under Meyer’s leadership, the Jaguars generated the worst offense in NFL and produced a dismal 2-11 record. If the mission of an NFL team is to win games, Myer’s failed miserably.

But even more incredible are the stories of poor leadership he demonstrated in his short career as an NFL head coach. Meyer appeared to be a narcissistic boss who created a toxic work environment.

Meyer’s tenure in Jacksonville was filled with losing and controversies, but the Jaguars should have known he would be a problem.

As a college coach at Ohio State, he built a reputation of having a volatile temper, a need for complete control, and a limitless urge to blame those around him for his failings. He was even suspended at one point for poor judgment.

If the Jaguars missed all this, they must have known things were going bad early on.

Meyer’s temper and need for complete control created chaos early in the preseason. He failed to listen to key staff members with extensive NFL experience and insisted on doing things his way. The morale suffered, and his outbursts and fiery remarks to players and coaches created discord and disorder on the team.

“He has everyone looking over their shoulders already,” said one staff member early in Meyer’s tenure. “He becomes unhinged way too easily, and he doesn’t know how to handle losing, even in the preseason. He loses it and wants to take over the drills himself. It’s not good.”

Meyer even threatened to fire staff members after losses in the preseason.

One employee said, “You can’t freak out about preseason games and belittle your coaches on a staff you handpicked every time things don’t go your way. It’s not going to work here.”

And then there was the incident in Columbus.

After the Jaguars’ September loss in Cincinnati, Meyer didn’t travel back to Jacksonville with the team. He didn’t spend time on the plane with his staff and players to review the loss and develop plans to get better. Instead, he went straight to Columbus, where he was recorded in a viral video getting a lap dance from a woman who was not his wife at a bar.

Still, the Jaguars kept him as their coach. Maybe they thought he was just having a bad few months.

But, the problems continued. In early December, it was reported that Meyer had an unusual meeting with his coaches and assistants. According to the report, Myer delivered a biting message where he told his people that he was a “winner” and his assistant coaches were “losers.” He went around the room individually, asking each staff member to compare their “pathetic resumes” to his.

You would think that would have been enough to fire him but the final straw was the revelation Meyer had kicked one of his players, Josh Lambo, during pregame warmups.

Apparently, emotional attacks weren’t enough for Meyer.

In an interview, Lambo said, “I’m in a lunge position – left leg forward, right leg back. And while I’m in that stretch position, Meyer comes up to me and says, ‘Hey Dips–t, make your f–king kicks!’ And kicks me in the leg.”

Lambo confronted the coach, and Meyer said, “I’m the head ball coach, I’ll kick you whenever the f–k I want.”

Hours after this incident was made public, the Jacksonville Jaguars had finally had enough. They fired Urban Meyer. They ended his catastrophic and toxic tenure with the team.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I like to say that leadership matters.

The Jaguars thought they could hire a winning college coach to help them turn their team around. Instead, they brought in a toxic leader that destroyed the culture.

U.S. Navy SEAL and leadership author Jocko Willink likes to say, “there are no bad teams, only bad leaders.”

In Extreme Ownership, he says that “Leadership is the single greatest factor in any team’s performance. Whether a team succeeds or fails is all up to the leader. The leader’s attitude sets the tone for the entire team.”

In this case, Meyer set the wrong tone for the team, and the team failed because of his poor leadership.

[Photo WJXT News4Jax]

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