According to ProFootballTalk, NFL attendance has steadily declined since it reached its peak in 2007 – just one year after Sony and Samsung formed the most dominating TV manufacturing partnership in television history. Honestly, who was surprised by this? You can get a better view to every NFL game in one season on your sofa for less than the price of a lower bowl ticket in some stadiums. No traffic, no parking, and no obnoxious fan who has had way too many $7 beers.
So how do you compete with in home HD TVs? One way to do it is by making them even bigger than homes themselves. Jerry Jones, the man responsible for creating the world’s biggest HDTV screen (72 ft by 160 ft – a 2,100 inch diagonal screen) at the time, has been rewarded with the NFL’s highest attendance the last three years running, in both average home attendance and percentage of stadium capacity filled. Yep, number 1 three years running. The three years prior to the new mondo TV screen stadium? Number 22, three years in a row – in percentage of stadium capacity filled, which should correct for biases in total stadium size that a smaller stadium might face. Hey, that may only be an n=1, but I’ve seen all I need to see – Mr. Khan, get us some new video boards please!
This being said, I wanted to look at attendance from the Jaguars angle. Now, the blackout travesty of 2009 (as it shall henceforth be dubbed) is well-remembered by most Jaguars fans. As it should be. In one season, our average attendance dropped 15,000 people. Per Game. Our 73ish-thousand capacity stadium was being filled by less than 50,000 people per week. Rumors about the Jags moving to LA flew rampant, and then owner Wayne Weaver was being accosted by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to address the issue. What you may not realize from that year is that the Jaguars actually weren’t the worst team in the league at filling up the stadium. For that you can thank 7th overall pick Darrius Heyward-Bey and his Oakland Raiders.
Needless to say, the 2009 season was far more embarrassing for the Jaguars from an attendance point-of-view than it was from a record point-of-view. And we’ve clearly bounced back – blackout free since ’93 2009. But how do we look in relation to the rest of the league? Are we still in Raider territory? Well in relation to the rest of the league, we’re about as good at filling-up-the-seats as we are at winning games. We were 7th worst in the league this past year by record (hence the 7th pick in the draft) and were 9th worst (24th) at filling up the stadium. In 2010, we were 16th worst by record and 12th worst (21st) at filling up the stadium. While those numbers might not seem that great to the casual observer, our 73.9% stadium capacity in 2009 is a far cry from the 93.8% and 92.8% numbers we posted the last two years. So we’re not exactly demolishing our competition when it comes to filling the stadium, but given our 2009 season, our records the last two years, and the incredible roster overhaul our team has seen in the past 2-3 seasons, the place where we’re at is a pretty remarkable feat for Team Teal and the organization as a whole.
Are we back to pre-2009 levels yet? The answer to that would be a decisive no. In 2008 and 2007, we saw stadium fill rates of 97.0% and 97.2%, good for 18th in the league – basically middle of the pack. So we still have a bit to go to reach the NFL average and get out of the LA discussions once and for all. But, in going through the ESPN attendance data, I noticed something interesting. Although the Jaguars have seen sub-par attendance the past 3-5 years at Everbank, we’ve seen better than average attendance on the road. In fact, from 2008-2011, we were ranked an average of 10th in road stadium capacity filling, and we were ranked ahead of NFL playoff teams like New England, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Baltimore last year. What does this mean?! Is Blaine Gabbert unseating Tom Brady as the NFL’s favorite pretty boy QB?
Are the Jaguars really valued more highly by their opponents’ fans than they are by their own fans? Unlikely. The underlying cause of our high ranking in filling stadiums on the road is likely the fact that we play teams that generally fill up the stadium. Well, that or teams have been giving out sweet collectible Byron Leftwich bobbleheads when the Jaguars come into town. Which do you think it is? (Hint: The Colts, Texans, and Titans ranked in the top 10 in stadium filling capacity the past three years).
– Zain Gowani
Tags: Blaine Gabbert Byron Leftwich Cowboys Stadium Dallas Cowboys Darrius Heyward-Bey Everbank Field Houston Texans Indianapolis Colts Jacksonville Jaguars Oakland Raiders Shahid Khan Tennessee Titans Tom Brady