If Urban Meyer was fired “for cause,” a fight over his remaining pay could be looming

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans
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The issue first emerged in early October, in the days before Jon Gruden’s email scandal yanked the spotlight away from Urban Meyer’s Ohio misadventures. Will the Jaguars fire Urban Meyer “for cause,” cutting off his pay?

The fact that Meyer didn’t resign suggests that he didn’t want to waive his chance to get the balance of his contract. The fact that everything happened so fast after Josh Lambo created a fresh headline with an old story (from the team’s perspective) of being kicked at practice by Meyer suggests that (at best) the team had their “for cause” ducks in a row and that, at worst, they decided to pull the trigger now and worry about the money later.

A “for cause” firing can happen if a coach violates a material provision of his contract. The contracts typically used by all NFL teams include a  “Good Moral Character” clause. Here’s an example of one: “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. 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.”

The language is broad, sweeping, and just vague enough to strike the balance between not being enforceable and being sufficiently malleable to apply to a wide range of situations.

If Meyer chooses to fight a “for cause” firing, he likely will have his hands tied by another common provision of NFL coaching contracts — the requirement that any disputes be resolved not in a court of law but by the Commissioner. That stacks the deck firmly in favor of the oligarchs who have hired and compensated the Commissioner, making it very difficult for the team to lose.

Besides, the team really doesn’t lose anything by holding firm. If Meyer fights this and in the unlikely event he wins, he’ll get what he would have gotten if he hadn’t been fired “for cause.”

Then there’s the question of whether Meyer is truly up for a fight. There could be other things that the team knows, and that the team would leak, if/when Meyer essentially sues the Jaguars. Although the in-house arbitration process doesn’t play out publicly like a court proceeding, Meyer has learned the hard way the ease with which those motivated to talk and those inclined to repeat what they have to say can come together to create all sorts of difficulties and challenges for an NFL head coach.

So if he was fired “for cause” and if there’s other stuff that we don’t yet know about, maybe his best move is to cut his losses and move on. Or to accept whatever cents-on-the-dollar settlement the team may offer (there’s a sense his base pay was in the range of $6.5 million annually) to allow everyone to put this behind them, for good.

22 responses to “If Urban Meyer was fired “for cause,” a fight over his remaining pay could be looming

  1. The contracts typically used by all NFL teams include a “Good Moral Character” clause.


    I think they had that one in their back pocket once the married 57 year old head coach left his team in Ohio to go feel up a 20 something co-ed in a bar on camera using the pretext of visiting the grand kids. Go Buckeyes, who looked the other way on Urban’s behavior as long as he was winning.

    I really thought he’d get another year after he got to this point in the season after all the scandals.

  2. I have a feeling he’s going to have trouble being in public without getting physically kicked, seriously or joking.

    “Hey, I saw Urban Meyer at restaurant, so I kicked him”

  3. From Day One this was a money grab by a guy who thought he could cakewalk through it. Steve Spurrier II. It doesn’t take a lot of coaching acumen to coach the best college players in the country, for whom recruitment was not necessary.

  4. Those may be the commonly used provisions in coaches contracts, but Meyer was highly sought after by the Jags. Such provisions are typically negotiated, especially if the coach is highly in demand. Meyer’s lawyers probably asked for changes to those provisions to make it harder to withhold payment, and given how badly Shad Khan wanted Meyer, probably got them.

  5. Shad Khan brought this headache on himself. With so many assistant coaches in the NFL who have proven themselves ready to move up to a head coaching job, Khan chose to hire a guy who had issues as a college coach and knew virtually nothing about the differences between coaching at the NFL level. What could go wrong? It will be interesting to see if Khan has learned his lesson when it comes to hiring the next head coach. As to what’s next for Urban Meyer, I don’t care. I hope never to hear anything about him again once this is over.

  6. It’s all in the lawyers hands now. I bet Kahn had better lawyers than Urban Meyer.

  7. That’s the owner’s problem. He’s either stupid for not having done his due dillegence to have known Meyer’s long-standing character issues or he should pay the price for not doing it!

    I’m sick of making apologies for billioaires who exploit and ignore the fans!

  8. Is the contract language about conduct detrimental to the team vague enough to cover going for it on 4th down inside your own 30? Asking for a friend in Detroit.

  9. “…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,” This claus in itself would mean Goodell and at least a few owners would be gone.

  10. I would love to live in a world where getting fired for being horrible at my job means I get to collect my full contract salary.

  11. sbc2556 says:
    December 16, 2021 at 8:24 am
    I’m sick of making apologies for billioaires who exploit and ignore the fans!

    How exactly have you been exploited? Are you upset about ticket, parking, and concession prices? Guess what, it was your decision to attend the game. Anything that you believe you have exploited by came about by your own decision to consume the product.

  12. If being an embarrassment to the organization and being a poor excuse for being a human being isn’t cause what is..not developing the quarterback and losing almost all of the games aside

  13. “Urban Meyer has had a great record, really phenomenal record everywhere he’s been,” Harbaugh said. “Also, controversy follows everywhere he’s been.”

  14. If this happens here – what happens down in the college ranks?? The NCAA – has issues and we know it – but it always gets hidden under a cloak of secrecy – but as Paul Harvey used to end his segements – “Now you know the rest of the story” – but we really DONT

  15. It is going to be really weird to see Meyer pop up on ESPN or FOX for college football

    If it is true he kicked a player and then doubled down about doing what he wanted…he really should’ve out of all football.

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