Remember the movie Major League, where the owner tried to field a Cleveland Indians team that was so bad, even the most diehard fans would stop showing up to the stadium, voiding the team's lease and allowing them to move the franchise to a better location?
Sorry, Jacksonville Jaguars fans, but it looks like you're getting Major League screwed.
At 1-8 after Thursday night's demoralizing loss to the Indianapolis Colts, it is pretty clear your team is horrible beyond recognition of almost anything an NFL franchise can put on a football field. Granted, Maurice Jones-Drew has been hurt, but let's not kid ourselves to think that if healthy, he wouldn't be rumored out of town on a platter like he was on the roster of a fantasy football owner who has given up on his season by trading an aging keeper for picks in next year's draft.
It's a disaster in Jacksonville.
It's so bad, the only explanation is that owner Shahid Khan is trying to ruin his own team so fantastically that fans completely stop showing up, giving him a logical (and easily approvable) exit strategy to get the NFL the heck out of Northern Florida.
Let's not forget that Khan's much-celebrated purchase of the Jaguars last season came just one year after a failed bid to buy a majority stake in the St. Louis Rams. It was less that Khan had interest in buying the Jaguars than it was the Jaguars represented the only opportunity for him to get into the NFL ownership club.
Khan has roots in the Midwest, building his empire in the shadow of the Windy City, so with nothing to tether him to Jacksonville, there is nothing but good will toward the fans keeping him in the town.
So what if the team gets so bad the town stops showing up? It sounds ridiculous, but it may not be untrue.
In Major League, when the team caught wind of the owner's plan to move the team (and replace them with better players), the clubhouse banded together, sparked by a cardboard cutout of the owner where each win would remove a swath of clothing until she was ostensibly naked*, a move that helped drive Cleveland to win the American League pennant.
I don't think the chance at seeing Khan naked is going to inspire the Jaguars locker room at this point. There may not be much that can. You're welcome for the mental picture of a mustachioed Khan standing in front of you naked with the words "You Guys Stink" coming out of his mouth.
(*Did you ever wonder how the team got the original photo of the owner posing almost totally naked in the first place? Did they have the ability to Photoshop her head on a different body back then, or was the new owner of a Major League Baseball team some sort of burlesque performer before she took over the team? Movie magic indeed…)
Khan took over the Jaguars, fired Jack Del Rio last season and hired Mike Mularkey as head coach to start fresh in 2012. Mularkey, known as somewhat of a quarterback guru, was brought in with the hope he could turn Blaine Gabbert into a viable NFL signal-caller. Small sample size for sure, but this season Gabbert is 27th in the NFL in completion percentage, 29th in quarterback rating and last in the league in passing yards per game.
This goes way beyond Gabbert, mind you. It goes way beyond Mularkey and his 15-26 career coaching record between Buffalo (2004-05) and Jacksonville (2012-??). The Jaguars have one win on the season, losing six straight while being outscored by 119 points in their nine games.
It gets worse. The Jaguars are 0-5 at home this season, having been outscored 153-44 in those contests. Think about that math. The Jaguars have a net minus-119 scoring margin this season in nine games and minus-109 of that has come in five games AT HOME.
The team has to be tanking in front of their fans, right? It's the only explanation.
The Jags lost by three points on the road to a resurgent Vikings team, beat the Colts on the road, lost by three at Oakland and lost by just nine to the Packers two weeks ago, when Gabbert actually threw for 117 more yards than Aaron Rodgers.
Jacksonville's three road losses have come by a total of 15 points. The Jaguars, in five games at home this season, have lost by an average of 21.8 points per game.
More importantly for Khan, the Jaguars are filling the stadium to 95.1 percent capacity—by no means great by NFL standards (and a bit of a fake number given the amount of permanently blocked-out areas of seats in the stadium), but still far better than the on-field product deserves and, hysterically, the best average attendance and percentage full of all three teams in Florida.
Jacksonville fans are doing all they can do to support a team with six winning seasons in franchise history, none coming since 2007. Still, rumors have swirled about Khan moving the team, and efforts are already in place to marginalize the Jacksonville home schedule each season, as the Jaguars have agreed to play one game per year in London as part of Roger Goodell's pet project of taking over the world.
It's probably a good thing for Jaguars fans that they will only have to pay to watch their horrible team seven times instead of eight. But what if the team gets so bad—sorry, stays so bad—that paying for seven games isn't even worth it? What if the malaise in Northern Florida for NFL football becomes so thick, Khan has no choice but to move to a new town?
He wins, and Jaguars diehards, who have poured nearly 20 years into a franchise, will be left with boxes of black-and-teal merchandise to remind them of what could have been, but never was in Jacksonville.
Sorry to say, Charlie Sheen isn't going coming out of the bullpen, and Tom Berenger sure as heck isn't calling his shot anytime soon, Jags fans. It could be a long time before that team gets good, if it happens in Jacksonville at all.