Former Florida, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer interviews with Jacksonville Jaguars for first NFL job

John Reid
Florida Times-Union

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars interviewed Urban Meyer on Friday for its vacant head coaching job, according to the NFL Network.

Meyer, the former Florida and Ohio State coach, is considered to be the frontrunner to replace Doug Marrone, who was fired on Monday after going 1-15 this season.

NFL Network reported last week Meyer had been lining up a staff and telling people he's close to in the football community he expects to land in Jacksonville.

After firing Marrone, Jaguars owner Shad Khan said he hadn't talked to Meyer about the Jaguars head coaching job but acknowledged he's known him over the years through the Big Ten Conference.

Head coach Urban Meyer  celebrates with Florida linebacker Brandon Siler (40) as the game ends 41-14. The University of Florida Gators played the Ohio State University Buckeyes on Monday January 8, 2007 for the BCS National Championship in football in the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. [Bob Mack/Florida Times-Union/File]

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But Friday, according to the report, Meyer met with Khan, Tony Khan, Shad's son, and team president  Mark Lamping, who has a significant role on the Jaguars' search team. Khan is leading the search, and though it appears Meyer is the top target, it's likely to come down to whether he wants to end retirement for a new challenge coaching in the NFL.

Khan's franchise is coming off its worst record, and the Jaguars have had losing seasons in 11 of the past 13 years.     

Meyer, 56, was one of college football’s most successful coaches, leading Ohio State to a national title in 2014, after delivering Florida national championships in 2006 and 2008. But Meyer retired from coaching in December 2018 at Ohio State after seven seasons, citing health problems.

It came after Meyer, who has a 186-32 career coaching record, was suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season after an investigation revealed he had protected an assistant on his staff, Zach Smith, who had a history of domestic abuse.

The Jaguars have the No. 1 overall pick in the April 29 NFL Draft and they are expected to select former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who has declared for the draft and hired an agent this week.  

The Jaguars began the virtual interview phase of their search on Wednesday, with Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. They interviewed Atlanta Falcons interim head coach Raheem Morris on Thursday.

And people with knowledge of the process confirmed the Jaguars will interview San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh on Saturday.

''I certainly think there’s a huge amount of interest in this [opening], much more so than the last time around. And I also look at really -- we're in a much different, and I would say a better position today than we were a year ago,'' Khan said.

Meyer's interview with the Jaguars is his only scheduled meeting at this point with an NFL team, although the Houston Texans, Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons are all seeking to hire a head coach. 

If Meyer doesn't desire to return to coaching, the Jaguars appear to have a strong applicant pool of candidates they have targeted, including Saleh, who was the Jaguars' linebackers coach from 2014-16 under former coach Gus Bradley.

Saleh, 41, has already interviewed with the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons, and besides the Jaguars, has interviews lined up with Los Angeles Chargers and the New York Jets.

The Jaguars have already met their Rooney Rule requirement by interviewing two minority candidates, Bieniemy and Morris, who was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach from 2009-11.

Bieniemy, 51, is one of the most sought-after head coaching candidates. Besides the Jaguars, Bieniemy has interviewed with the New York Jets,  Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions. Bieniemy has been able to go through interviews this week because the Chiefs are the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs and have a bye this weekend. 

The Jaguars are also seeking to hire a general manager to replace Dave Caldwell, who was fired on Nov. 29.  The Jaguars have already interviewed ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, former New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese, former Texans general manager Rick Smith, and former Cleveland Browns general manager Larry Farmer.

Earlier this week, the Jaguars requested to meet with New Orleans Saints VP/assistant GM of pro personnel Terry Fontenot, who has already interviewed with Detroit, Atlanta and the Denver Broncos have asked for permission to meet with him.