Seldom does an NFL head coach get more questions about hiring a director of performance than, say, an offensive or defensive coordinator.
But that was the case Thursday in Urban Meyer’s news conference announcing his Jacksonville Jaguars staff, and the director of performance is former University of Iowa football strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.
Doyle spent 21 seasons on Kirk Ferentz’s Hawkeyes staff. He left last June amid former Hawkeyes players’ accusations of racial mistreatment. The UI reached a separation agreement with Doyle last June. According to the separation agreement reached between Doyle and Iowa, Doyle received two separate payments of $556,249.50 on Aug. 1, 2020 and January 1, 2021. He also was to get full health benefits from Iowa for 15 months.
Meyer, who coached national-championship teams at Florida and Ohio State, became the Jaguars’ coach on Jan. 14. He took multiple questions about hiring Doyle.
“I’ve known Chris for close to 20 years,” Meyer said. “Really, he was doing sports performance before sports performance became a high priority in college sports. I’ve known him, I’ve studied him. We’ve had a relationship.
“I vetted him thoroughly, along with our general manager (Trent Baalke) and owner (Shad Khan), feel great about the hire, about his expertise at that position. ... I wanted to get the best of the best.”
Meyer was asked if he had reservations about hiring Doyle given the many comments from Black former Iowa players on social media last June who stated bad experiences they felt they had under Doyle’s supervision, some they described as of a demeaning racial nature.
“A lot of hard questions asked, a lot of vetting involved with all our staff,” Meyer said. “We did a very good job vetting that one.”
NFL free agency begins in March. About 70 percent of NFL players are Black. Meyer was asked if he was afraid hiring Doyle would impact the Jags’ ability to sign free agents.
“If I was I wouldn’t have hired him,” Meyer said. “The one thing I’m very confident is that I would imagine within a year or two we’ll have the best sport performance team in the National Football League.
“Keeping players healthy at their maximum performance is a high, high priority. ... At Ohio State we became the best in college football, now our job is to make sure we become the best in professional football.”
As for Jaguar players’ response to Doyle’s hiring, Meyer said “I want to be very transparent with all the players like I am with everything. And I’ll listen closely and learn.
“Also, there’s going to have to be some trust in their head coach that we’re going to give them the very best of the best, and time will tell.
“The allegations that took place, I will share. I vetted them. I’ve known the person for close to 20 years. I can assure them there will be nothing of any sort in the Jaguar facility.”
Meyer said Doyle would oversee the Jaguars’ strength program, training room, equipment room, nutrition program and sports psychology, among other things.
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“Anyone who has any contact with our players will be direct reports to Chris, and his job is to make sure we’re doing the best of the best.”