The NFL is no meritocracy, and Shad Khan's decision to hire Urban Meyer proves it

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·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·5-min read
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The best lie the NFL ever told is that the league is a meritocracy.

For the players? Sure, most of them at least. But anyone else? Heck no. Not for head coaches, unless you think it's just a happy coincidence nearly a third of this year's group is of blood relation to another current or former coach. Not for assistant coaches, who usually get their jobs because of who they're related to or whose father they married or who they worked with two or three stops previous.

And it absolutely, positively is not a meritocracy for franchise owners, the 31 people who like to fancy themselves the smartest ones in every room they enter. Sixteen of them have their multi-billion dollar plaything because they inherited it through birth or marriage, and you could argue that perhaps two of them are actually qualified to run an American football team.

The league they lord over succeeds in spite of these owners, not because of them.

Shad Khan in Jacksonville is the latest example of this, though he's far from the only one.

Khan hired Urban Meyer as head coach earlier this year despite every tainted, terrible thing in Meyer's past, the latest attempt from his perpetually moribund franchise to stimulate any sign of life. Though there have been signs from nearly Day 1 that this would be an unmitigated disaster, an NFL Network report on Saturday detailing discontent under Meyer gave further evidence that it indeed is an unmitigated disaster.

This is the 10th year of Khan's ownership. He had absolutely zero experience with the sport when he ponied up $760 million to buy the Jaguars, just cash and the approval of the existing NFL franchise owners.

Over that time, Meyer is Khan's fourth head coach and Jacksonville is 41-116 (.261) after Sunday's shutout loss to Tennessee. Jacksonville has had one season over .500 during Khan's ownership, in 2017 when it won the AFC South and went to the conference title game.

In spite of everything that has gone on to this point, reports are that Khan wants to keep Meyer beyond this year, assuming Meyer doesn't "retire" again, which is his M.O. whenever he's not being revered in the ways he deems necessary.

If Khan is all-in on a Year 2 with Meyer, it just underlines what a bad team owner Khan truly is.

Everyone in the world seemed to know hiring Urban Meyer as Jaguars head coach was asking for trouble. Everyone except Shad Khan. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Everyone in the world seemed to know hiring Urban Meyer as Jaguars head coach was asking for trouble. Everyone except Shad Khan. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Thanks to the Jaguars' 1-15 record last year they got to draft Trevor Lawrence, hailed as the kind of once-in-a-decade, can't-miss No. 1 franchise quarterback teams crave. As soon as Khan and the Jaguars knew they'd be bringing Lawrence aboard, everything should have been geared toward putting him in the absolute best position to be successful, starting with the coaching staff.

Instead, Lawrence got saddled with Meyer — a head coach who went through the transparently silly preseason theater of pretending there was a competition between Lawrence and Gardner Minshew — and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, whose offenses overall have been incredibly average. Then there's that whole not-handing-off-to-Marshawn-Lynch thing at the end of Super Bowl XLIX.

This is where we remind you that Khan could have hired Eric Bieniemy, who has spent the last three-plus years developing Patrick Mahomes, to guide his own team's potential star. Instead he hired a retired career college coach who is about as familiar with the words "personal accountability" as Tom Brady is with the words "losing season."

Translation: utterly unfamiliar.

Again, Khan isn't the only club owner who has proven to be inept and entirely unsuited to run a professional sports franchise, or at least a franchise that takes winning seriously and isn't just in it to cash the broadcast checks other teams' popularity make possible.

Cal McNair inherited the Houston Texans upon his father's death and promptly handed over the keys to the franchise to a team chaplain with no discernible history in coaching, player evaluation, or contracts and the salary cap.

Daniel Snyder ... well, we could write a book about his 20 years as Washington Football Team owner, from the string of sub-.500 seasons on the field to the horrors off it, in team offices. (Release the report, NFL.)

It might be a little early to classify David Tepper's tenure with the Carolina Panthers, but to this point he has seemed impetuous, though that shouldn't be a surprise from someone who once bought a $43 million Hamptons mansion and then razed it because it belonged to a man who had passed him over for a promotion years earlier.

These are just a few examples.

Were Khan serious about creating a winning franchise, he would have hired a head coach with NFL experience and a clear vision of what it takes to succeed in this league, and someone with either a proven track record of developing quarterbacks or someone committed to installing one at offensive coordinator. The NFL is not the same as the NCAA; first and foremost, it's a league of adult men who cannot be bullied and intimidated, and a coach can't horde five-star recruits and dangle their scholarships over their heads if they don't do as they're told.

Khan is getting exactly what he paid for when he hired Meyer. Everyone else knew it would be wasted money. As always, Khan thought he knew best.

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