JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jaguars owner Shad Khan's courtship of Urban Meyer began just more than a month after he decided to bring back Doug Marrone after a dismal 6-10 season in 2019.
Khan acknowledged that he had admired Meyer from a distance for years because of their Big Ten connections.
Khan is an avid supporter of the University of Illinois, his alma mater, and Meyer, of course, is the former Ohio State coach who won a national championship in 2014 and went 83-9 in seven seasons at the Columbus, Ohio based school.
But it wasn't until last year's Super Bowl in Miami that Khan had his first opportunity to speak to Meyer at length and get an up-close glimpse to evaluate his passion, his knowledge, and if he had any interest at all on a return to coaching at some point in the future.
''For me, I was really impressed, obviously,'' Khan said. ''The Super Bowl conversation was insightful.''
Meyer told Khan about the time he invested in a self-imposed research project on the NFL, desiring to find out the inner makings on why some franchises are successful and why some are not.
Meyer reached out to his former players — which includes 57 currently playing in the NFL or had recently retired, to get their take on the topic.
As he explained his findings and the time he invested, it gave Khan a sense that Meyer was intrigued about the NFL and probably at some point would consider a return to coaching under the right situation.
''The research was very strong, it was something that I was not surprised at the results,'' Meyer said. ''Because the players will tell you, players know. Sometimes you talk to coaches and I’m not sure they all know — I don’t know. But players are the ones that play the game and I really value the guys that I have in the NFL. And we spent, I mean, hours upon hours, I did work on this. And I spoke to Shad about that, and that was our conversation at the Super Bowl — we really had a nice conversation at the Super Bowl a year ago, I believe it was in Miami.''
Khan stayed coy, never showing his hand throughout last year's offseason and into the season. As the losses mounted, no one had a clue about Meyer.