The announcement during Super Bowl Week that next season’s Jacksonville Jaguars game in London is already sold out is the latest indication that new Jags owner Shad Khan is making all the right moves.
It helps, of course, that the Jaguars opponent for the October 27, 2013 game in historic Wembley Stadium, will be the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers. Nevertheless, this latest development is another in a series of rapid fire initiatives aimed at re-building the Jaguars’ organization from the top down.
Since buying the team for an estimated $760 million in January 2012, Khan has wasted little time. His first move, in February, 2012, was to hire veteran sports executive Mark Lamping, as team president. Lamping, is the former CEO of the New Meadowlands Stadium Company and is a former president of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. He is the Jaguars first team president since the end of the 1996 season.
Among Lamping’s first tasks was to enhance the game-day experience with a number of fan-friendly initiatives. The results have been promising, with Jaguars ranking 20th in home attendance in 2012, despite tying the Kansas City Chiefs for the worst record in the league at 2-14. Jaguar officials have promised additional stadium enhancements, including new video boards, are in the offing,
In August 2012, Khan announced the team’s plan to play four regular season games in London, beginning with the 2013 season. While the move was met with some skepticism by the Jacksonville fan base, Khan has consistently maintained the goal is to raise the profile of the Jaguars and the Jacksonville community. With the announcement of a sold-out game, Khan is sticking to his premise.
Finally, after enduring the worst season in franchise history, Khan set in motion a complete re-make of the football side of the organization by firing General Manager Gene Smith and first- year coach Mike Mularkey.
Their replacements, GM Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley, have thus far brought a new level of youthful energy and excitement to the Jaguars persona, which is no surprise given the team’s dismal and stale performance over the past few years.
Khan hinted during Super Bowl Week that additional changes may be on the way, including the possibility of new helmets and uniforms.The first of those changes, a modified Jaguar team logo, was unveiled at a press conference the week after the Super Bowl
The big test, however lies ahead with the upcoming NFL Draft April 25-27. You can’t be in the race without the horses and the Jaguars’ draft history has been nothing short of abysmal for much of the past decade. With this year’s talent pool lacking franchise players, the Jaguars certainly won’t be able to orchestrate an instant turnaround on the basis of a single draft, even with the second overall pick.
However, all indications are the Jaguars have the right ownership and front office structure to begin righting the ship. For loyal Jaguar fans, it can’t come soon enough.