Days after the worst season in franchise history, Jaguars owner Shad Khan promised he wouldn’t stop until he built Jacksonville a winning football team. It turns out he would pull out all the stops and, in the process, land one of the winningest coaches Northeast Florida and college football has ever seen.
Urban Meyer, it seems, couldn’t pass on the opportunity that presented itself with the Jaguars. Khan lured the coach, who has three national championships and 187 career wins against just 32 losses, with the No. 1 overall pick in April’s NFL Draft, the cleanest salary cap in the league with the promise of spending when free agency opens in March and an owner who wants to win and is willing to spend what it costs.
Today the phones are ringing off the hook in the Jaguars’ ticketing department because the combination of Meyer and soon-to-be former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence offer the most promising potential professional football possibilities that Jacksonville has ever seen.
It wasn’t easy to get here. Fifteen consecutive losses dampened enthusiasm and even interest in the Jaguars in 2020. But those 15 losses were what it took to put themselves in the position to draft Lawrence and attract the attention of Meyer, who told reporters after a Rose Bowl win a few years back that his coaching days were behind him.
The draw of a franchise quarterback and everything he brings with him has never been seen in Jacksonville. Lawrence got the Jags Meyer, and he’ll get the new head coach nearly any assistant coach he wants. He’ll also bring the Jaguars nearly any free agent they set their sights on because players know it’s a quarterback league, or, as Meyer so succinctly put it when he was introduced to the media, “it’s a quarterback sport.” Call Lawrence a force multiplier because before he’s even been drafted, even practiced once in an NFL uniform or played a preseason game, he’s drawn the attention of coaches, players, fans and media to a team that had fallen off the map; a team that had become irrelevant to the conversation and that was putting the franchise in a precarious situation.
Lawrence could do for Jacksonville what Peyton Manning did for Indianapolis. In 1997, the Colts were the worst team in the NFL, played in a convention center in the old RCA Dome and were largely considered the frontrunners to eventually return professional football to Los Angeles. Manning arrived at the top of the NFL Draft in April of 1998 and changed everything. The Colts are now considered one of the bedrock franchises in the NFL. Lawrence could do the same for Jacksonville.
Everything is different now and everyone seems to know it. The opportunity in Jacksonville is distinct and the promise of an exciting NFL future once again gives Northeast Florida the chance to stand on one of sport’s and entertainment’s biggest stages, and that means the bright lights will shine on us all, and that’s exciting for our community and our economy.