When the Jacksonville Jaguars joined the NFL as an expansion team in 1995, the Northeast Florida-Southeast Georgia area was thrilled to have an NFL team.
Owner J. Wayne Weaver, who made his fortune in shoes with his creation Nine West, felt that the area could compete with the two other Florida NFL teams (Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and the love and passion of college football fans, especially those of the Florida Gators.
Weaver may eventually be proven wrong, and here is why.
First, the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party continues its annual play in Jacksonville, and this has enabled the Florida Gators to continue their lock on the passion, love, and excitement of football fans in Northeast Florida.
Today, the Jaguars struggle to put 40,000 fans in the seats for home games; when the Gators come to town to play the Georgia Bulldogs annually, they have to pull the tarps off covered seats and add bleachers to handle the capacity.
Second, while the Jaguars continue to struggle, the Florida Gators are in the hunt every year for the SEC and National Championships.
The fans in the Jacksonville area followed the Florida Gators for decades waiting for the time when they would finally contend every season, and now that the Gators are usually in the hunt, there is little room in the fans' hearts for a NFL team like the Jaguars that do very little to bring excitement and win championships.
Third, if you ask 10 random people in the Northeast Florida area where the Jaguars play their home games, they'll tell you "in the Gator Bowl". The Jacksonville Jaguars have been in the area for 15 years; the Florida Gators have been since 1933 when the annual Florida-Georgia game started.
To illustrate how passionate the area fans are for Florida Gator football, just look to this year's NFL draft. When the Jaguars passed on local Jacksonville hero and Florida Gator great Tim Tebow in the first round, many fans were turned off completely and became quite angered.
Perhaps passion took the place of logic in those fans' minds; nevertheless, it truly illustrated the viewpoints of many fans in the area when it comes to the Florida Gators vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars.
General Manager Gene Smith is in his second season, and the early view of his first draft is somewhat positive, but many feel his second draft was a complete let-down. We will find out in the next three years, but until then, the Jaguars must win on the field if they ever want the fans to return.
Clearly Smith felt the need to address the offensive line in his first draft and the defensive line in his second, but in eyes, hearts, and minds of casual fans, the picks were somewhat unattractive.
The first game for the 2010 Jacksonville Jaguars regular season has the Denver Broncos coming to town; the team that did select Tim Tebow in the first round.
The chances of Tebow playing in that game is slim at best, but I bet you will see more than one orange and blue Tebow jersey in the stands. The question is will it be Gator orange and blue, or Bronco orange and blue?
Show up on Sept. 12 if you want to find out. The Jaguars would appreciate it.