While it may not be the biggest business Jacksonville Jaguars Shad Khan owns, it certainly is the most global and polarizing. And with that comes the realization the masses that watch the NFL team on a weekly, and even daily basis, want a winner coming out of the gate.
Are Khan’s and the fans' expectations of this team too high right now, and with those expectations, are the city, the fans, and even Khan himself, going to be let down by the product on the field?
In an article (Q&A) with Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union, Khan spoke about what he thought about being a first-time NFL owner and how he has learned on the job since he took over as owner in January of this year.
“The experience has been fabulous, Khan said in the interview. “I knew several of the owners before. Obviously I’ve gotten to know most of them. It’s absolutely a great group of owners. Great front office and leadership at the league level and, obviously, most importantly for me are the Jacksonville fans. I think it’s important to them and the area, and it’s something for us to build on.”
Jacksonville was a 5-11 team last season, had a lame-duck coaching staff (Jack Del Rio) and a rookie quarterback (Blaine Gabbert) who looked like a high school freshman at times on the field. All of this while their star running back (Maurice Jones-Drew) was leading the league with 1,606 yards.
The defense, which returns most of its starters from last season, was a top-team unit, and the offense was handed new toys to play with in the offseason with the addition of three new receivers to the unit.
Khan thinks there is a balance in the conference the Jaguars play in (the AFC South). The Jaguars are rebuilding as are the Indianapolis Colts. Houston is the cream of the crop, and Tennessee is looking o make a move forward.
Khan said he does not think his expectations are unreasonable for this season.
“For us, we should be getting up in the morning all of us committed to being the best we are and competing for the AFC South division [title],” he said in the interview.
This is not a bad start. However, these are hard times in North Florida. An offseason that saw the team and the city of Jacksonville bicker over stadium management could have put a real strain on media relations with the community.
Khan is hoping everyone in the community and the outreaching sections of North and West Florida, as well as south Georgia, will still come in masses to see the product live instead of seeing it on television.
The team started using player caravans this summer to pass through local communities close to Jacksonville to drum up support for the team.
Khan was one of the owners in the NFL to not approve a new policy ruling that would have changed the amount of non-premium seats to be sold before kickoff to avoid blackouts. Khan did not budge on changing the percentage of seats sold from the current amount of 85 percent. He's counting on the city and the community to do their part to buy tickets and help raise revenue for the team.
“I think it’s very important. I think it’s money but it’s frankly more than that, that we have the support of the community, support of the fans and more importantly, energy in the stadium. We’re talking about the 12th person in the stands so I think it’s absolutely vital that we don’t have the blackouts.”
While the Jaguars have not had a blackout in two seasons, former owner Wayne Weaver either bought the remaining tickets to avoid the blackout of his team at home or sold the remaining tickets to area businesses who either used them for their own employees or donated them to charity.
While the “all in” motto of the team and television and radio blasts in the community are positive and fresh, they're not as effective as they may need to be.
Where is the young passer making his presence known in the community? Where is the urgency in getting their star runner into training camp? Where is the need for more pass-rushers and stability on the offensive line?
These are questions that need to be answered. But until then, Khan, the Jaguars brass and the local media may be hyping up a team that may be better on the field and internally, but the record may indicate that not a lot of progress has been made.
And then, it remains to be seen if the new owner has as much faith in the team and the community as he says he does right now.
Let’s check back with him in six months.