Could the Jaguars fire Urban Meyer “for cause”?

USA TODAY Sports

Before Jaguars owner Shad Khan issued a statement strongly suggesting that he won’t be firing coach Urban Meyer, rumors and speculation were building as to whether Khan would try to fire Meyer “for cause.” It’s still a possibility.

While Khan may hope that Meyer will quit (and in turn waive his right to ongoing pay) or may want to negotiate a middle-ground severance package, Khan could still take an aggressive position, firing Meyer for cause, refusing to pay him, and sitting back and waiting for Meyer to fight it.

Fighting it, based on the language teams conventionally use in these agreements, means having the Commissioner resolve it. That’s a stacked deck in favor of the team, especially since (in this specific case) firing Meyer now means not taking Meyer to London next week for one of two NFL games to be played there this year. Although the NFL craves more media attention in England, this isn’t the kind of media attention the league covets, anywhere. If the Jaguars fire Meyer, the NFL avoids the potential embarrassments and complications arising from his time in and around Trafalgar Square.

A “for cause” firing can happen if the coach breaches a material provision of his contract, and the coaching contracts typically used by NFL teams include a “Good Moral Character” clause.

“At all times during the term of this Agreement, whether in the performance of his duties and responsibilities under this Agreement or otherwise, Coach shall conduct himself in accordance with the NFL and Club Personal Conduct Policies, high standards of honesty, morality and good conduct and shall refrain from taking any actions which could be construed as detrimental to the best interests of Club or the NFL,” a comparable contract obtained by PFT explains. “This shall include, but not be limited to, insubordination, drunkenness, any personal conduct on or off the job which could bring disgrace on or discredit to Club, the NFL or both. Coach shall conduct himself with regard to public conventions and morals, and shall not gamble or bet illegally or excessively or gamble at all on any football game or team sport, shall not use intoxicants or stimulants to excess or frequent places or associate with persons of questionable character, shall abide by all standards set forth by Club regarding appearance and standards of workmanship, shall not participate in any activity in violation of the NFL rules, constitution or bylaws, and shall not do or commit any act or thing which would tend to bring him, Club or the NFL into public hatred, contempt, scorn or ridicule, or that could shock or offend the community or ridicule public morals or decency or prejudice the NFL or Club or professional football generally.”

It’s vague. It’s broad. And it’s ultimately decided by the Commissioner, who is employed by Khan and his 31 partners.

The stakes would nevertheless be high. The general sense in league circles is that Meyer is making $10 million per year. The number of years of the deal, and more importantly the number of years that are fully guaranteed, could make this a problem costing as much as $50 million or $60 million, minus what he has earned so far this year.

Khan’s assessment of the broader risks and rewards should include the benefit to the organization of making a change now, the possibility that he’ll resign at some point, and the chances that he’ll do something else that would make a case for a for-cause firing even stronger. Khan also would have to be willing to set aside his own pride and ego and admit that he made a serious mistake, something he may not be inclined to do.

Regardless of where things go from here, it feels much more like the beginning of the end than the end of the beginning. The team already was 0-4 before Meyer’s misadventures in Ohio. Recent events won’t make it any easier to stop a historic losing streak, which currently is at 19 games and counting.

20 responses to “Could the Jaguars fire Urban Meyer “for cause”?

  1. It must be nice to have contracts where you still get paid if you the only reason you get fired is that you’re terrible at your job. Unless I’m missing some detail of the story, I’m not sure that there’s enough there to qualify as ridiculing public decency.

  2. Job abandonment. The second Meyer let his team travel without him.. he lost them.

    It’s like letting your wife go on a date with another man.

  3. After this, it’ll astound me when he gets hired again, but you know he will. There are so many young/desperate AD’s out there that’ll look at this guy as a lightning rod and this whole song and dance will start over again.

    Karma will come for him one day with a big bill; it’s not going to be pretty.

  4. The crime committed in regards to his job was that he abandoned his team after a big loss and didn’t fly back to Jacksonville with them. I don’t think that is against the “Good Moral Character” clause, even with the clause as vague as it is.

    Now if we were to focus on what happened at the bar, there could be an argument that he violated the “Good Moral Character” clause, but then again so have countless coaches and players without being cut. The wishy-washy enforcement of the “Good Moral Character” clause may not hold up if Meyer got this in front of a judge. Court is expensive and even worse if you don’t win outright.

    For Khan, offering severance package for WAY WAY less than the contract buyout may be the least damaging way to go about this.

  5. Khan seems clueless so I doubt he’ll go the nuclear route but it’s definitely an opportunity if he has decided Urban isn’t going to cut it. The chance to ditch him early and save a ton of money? Most owners would find that hard to pass up. But most owners wouldn’t have hired Urban to begin with so anybody’s guess on what Khan will do.

  6. No way the NFL allows what Myer did to set the Bar fof a breach of “Good Moral Character”. Just no way.

  7. I think Khan should have to pay him the money because it was such a stupid decision to hire him in the first place. College head coaches rarely make a successful transition to NFL head coach and it didn’t take long to determine that Meyer didn’t know what he was doing. Khan should have been able to figure this out during the interview process.

  8. No this isn’t cause to be fired and you would never win that in court. Also lets not forget these owners have some skeletons in the closet in this area as well. It was stupid and I think he should be fired but this won’t get you out of the contract. Also think about the coaches that won’t even consider working for Kahn if he pulled this stunt.

  9. I’m not making any predictions but it seems worth pointing out that Jimmy Johnson was 1-15 his first year and everyone was convinced he was way out of his depth too. To draw conclusions about Meyer’s ability to turn around a talent-bereft Jags team four games in is laughable.

  10. At the end of the day, what really matters is, does he want to coach the Jaguars? Can he make the Jaguars winners? These are the reasons he was hired, because the belief is he can. So deal with it internally, and move on. Whatever the answers are to the questions, move on. If he suffers the wrath of Khan so be it.

  11. I do not read the Good Morals Clause as being vague at all. In fact, it sets forth in detail specific acts that are prohibited.

    This section in particular specifically addresses the conduct Meyer engaged in: “shall not do or commit any act or thing which would tend to bring him, Club or the NFL into public hatred, contempt, scorn or ridicule, or that could shock or offend the community or ridicule public morals or decency or prejudice the NFL or Club or professional football generally.”

    Meyer’s conduct has brought him and the Jaguars into public scorn and ridicule. His conduct ridicules public morals and decency. The contract clearly and specifically covers this situation.

  12. Khan is hoping he will resign because he doesn’t want to pay him if he fires him. Since Khan is so cheap he’ll probably keep him as head coach through the life of his contract so he doesn’t waste any money. That’s more important than winning to Khan.

  13. The NFL and PFT are shills for Big Pharma says:
    October 6, 2021 at 11:28 am
    College head coaches rarely make a successful transition to NFL head coach…
    ____________

    Pete Carroll, Kliff Kingsbury, and Matt Rhule would like a word with you.

    Vince Lombardi coached at Fordham and Army before transitioning to the NFL.

  14. I’m not an attorney. If fired by Khan, would Meyer be able to sue (Khan? The NFL?) in Federal court if the Commissioner ruled against him?

    If not, why WOULDN’T Khan just fire Meyer for cause?

  15. Khan is a smart business man making he’s billions making car bumpers. Urban just didn’t pass the crash test. Lesson learned…time to move on.

  16. When combined with Meyer’s other blunders, Khan should get rid of him for not flying home with the team. Think Belichick would have stayed behind to ‘visit his grandkids’? No, of course not. It’s the middle of the football season, and for successful head coaches, there is no focus other than the team. If Meyer has lost the locker room, it’s because of selfish actions like this. Signing him was yet another mistake by one of the league’s worst owners.

  17. If this guy were doing this “finger” business in public with my daughter, all his job concerns would be moot. First, my kid (in this young woman’s age group) wouldn’t put herself in this situation. Second and most importantly, Urban’s gig and contract would be the least of his worries. Don’t any of his defenders have daughters or wives or sisters?

  18. ebpatton says:
    October 6, 2021 at 12:04 pm
    I’m not an attorney. If fired by Khan, would Meyer be able to sue (Khan? The NFL?) in Federal court if the Commissioner ruled against him?
    ___________

    As an attorney, I can tell you that the answer to the question: “would someone be able to sue?” is always yes. If you can pay the filing fee you can file any type of suit against anyone you want to. That does not mean that the lawsuit will have any merit, or that it will survive a motion to dismiss, or that you might face sanctions for filing a frivolous action.

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