The promises are empty, but the stadium is emptier.
It was announced Tuesday that the Jacksonville Jaguars would play two “home” games in London in the 2020 season. This decision, in the contract’s final year, is a one-game increase from Jacksonville’s deal with the NFL to play one home game across the Atlantic Ocean per season. Jaguars owner Shad Khan has proven through this choice, and through his words, that he doesn’t know anything about his fan base.
“First, I want to make it clear that our first priority is winning,” Khan said in an interview with Jaguars reporter Ashlyn Sullivan. “And anything we do or say away from that will never be more important than giving Jacksonville a team that wins and the community can be proud to call its own.”
Not a single word of this quote lines up with a single thing that has actually happened.
The first priority is winning?
Since Khan bought the Jaguars, their record is 38-90. They have had one winning season in that span. General manager Dave Caldwell, who Khan has for some reason allowed to stick around for eight seasons, is 36-76 in his time in Jacksonville. Coach Doug Marrone, who Khan also decided to retain this offseason following a 6-10 year, is 21-28 since being promoted to head man from offensive line coach.
Which of those records indicate Khan’s first priority is winning? NFL GMs and coaches simply do not lose that much and last that long if the most important thing is actually coming out on top on Sundays.
And what about his desire to give Jacksonville a team that makes the community “proud to call its own?”
How can the city be proud to call the team its own when he makes it share the team with somewhere else twice a year? Do you feel like your significant other is really yours if they’re with you only most of the time?
Khan also went on to say that this move for two games will “bridge the gap between now and when we expect the Lot J development to open.” And this is supposed to be why he feels the reaction from fans “should be very positive.”
If you aren’t familiar with Lot J, it is essentially Khan and Jaguars president Mark Lamping’s newest project to improve the game day experience in Jacksonville. Currently, Lot J is just a section of the parking lot at TIAA Bank Field. It is a prime tailgating spot for college fraternities on Florida-Georgia weekend.
The franchise plans to develop that into places for fans to enjoy (bars, restaurants, a hotel, etc). But the agreement to develop Lot J between the Jaguars and the city was reached in July of 2019.
To this day, not a single shovel has touched the area to begin development.
How can you expect fans to take you for your word when it has been six months and there’s been no results? It is a slap in the face to Jacksonville and Jags fans who support this team wholeheartedly when it shows any signs of on-field success. Look at the 2017 season.
When the Jaguars made their magical AFC Championship run, the Seahawks and Bills games were standing-room only. Carrying over into the next year, the early-season revenge game against the Patriots in 2018 was sold out as well.
And as far as the reaction being positive, whose reaction could Khan possibly think that is?
You don’t have to do much more than go on Twitter and type in “Jags London” to see that fans of the teal and black are less than enthused, to put it nicely.
Khan claims the two-game trip across the pond helps NFL football stay viable in Jacksonville long term, but they are in danger of losing the community’s faith in them to put the city first anyway. You know what makes the Jaguars viable in Jacksonville?
Football games in Jacksonville.
Follow Graham Marsh on Twitter @GrahamMarshUF. Contact him at email@example.com.
FILE - This Oct. 3, 2018 file photo shows a view of the exterior of Wembley Stadium in London. The Jacksonville Jaguars will play two home games in London next season, strengthening the franchise’s foothold in an overseas market the NFL is eager to expand. The Jaguars will play back-to-back games at historic Wembley Stadium, giving them a potential “home-field” advantage in the second one since they won’t have to travel that week. Specific dates were not announced.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)