Not only are the Jaguars built to be a consistent performer with sound leadership, young talent and depth along the offensive and defensive lines, and a franchise quarterback showing signs of growth, this team is also built to be exciting. We all know what the formula is in the modern NFL. Offense, offense, and more offense. The aerial attack. Big plays. In the last two offseasons, we’ve added a passing-minded coach, a top-1o pick at quarterback, a top-5 pick at wide receiver, the highest-scoring free agent wide receiver from last year (Laurent Robinson, with 11 TD’s), and re-signed the highest scoring tight end from 2010 (Marcedes Lewis, with 10 TD’s). Not to mention our franchise player who’s yet to join the fun this preseason and led the league in rushing last year. All this offense has to do is unleash the immense amount of potential lurking on paper. And early indicators against the Giants and Saints first team defenses suggest that’s a distinct possibility.
So again… They’ve got a great market. They’ve got the opportunity to deliver and to make repeated impressions over four years. They’ve got as good a chance as they’ve ever had in franchise history to be a competitive team in each of those four years. They’ve got an offense that’s got the pieces in place to be EXCITING for a change. That’s a lot of weaknesses of the previous era of Jaguars football that are turning into strengths. So what’s possibly our biggest weakness? Our reputation. And ironically, it has the potential to become our biggest strength in a shorter time than any of the other changes that have occurred. These last few years of being a Jaguars fan have forever tainted my view of national sports media and the farce that journalism has become. Very few writers and broadcasters have taken the time to do their research and report the facts (thank you fellow writers at B&T, John Oehser, Pete Prisco, Paul Kuharsky, and the guys at Big Cat Country, who together remain the few bastions of hope for our public image. Mike Lombardi, sit on a fire hydrant until it disappears). But for as much as I resent the media for constantly bashing my team and my hometown because they were too lazy to report the truth and just regurgitated what everyone else was saying, that same viral messaging can work in our favor. There’s nothing the media loves more than a story of redemption (see Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Tiger Woods, etc.) and they would love nothing more to turn the Jaguars into a feel-good story about a franchise left for dead, destined for LA, that turned it all around and became America’s sweethearts BLAH BLAH BLAH….because these bastards would sell their grandmother’s oxygen tank for a few more clicks of ad revenue. As sick as it makes me to watch them turn tail, that story is the bread-and-butter formula for the infamous BANDWAGON effect. How many Saints fans popped out of the woodworks during their’ 06 season in the wake of Katrina? And even more came out of nowhere when they made their Super Bowl run in ’09. Minus billions of dollars of flood damage and Kanye West’s disapproval of George W, a Jacksonville Jaguars team playing an exciting brand of winning football is an almost identical storyline. We all like discovering an awesome band before they have a hit single on the radio so we can tell everyone “I knew about these guys before they were famous”. The NFL fans of the UK have the unique opportunity to jump abroad the ground floor of something exciting.
So what are the Jaguars putting at risk by playing games in London for the next four years? Some fans are concerned about the ramifications of losing a home game, particularly one that may be a marquee match up. The Jaguars risk losing out on whatever additional single-game ticket sales would have been generated by this game, but this risk is overcome by two benefits: one, the season ticket price is reduced by 10% in a market that has proven to be sensitive to price and second, scarcity is created by reducing the supply of tickets to Jaguars home games. A smaller supply generates demand, which is the greater goal of all of this. More demand. A hotter ticket. More respect. Another reactionary response from fans is that this exposes the team to more rumors of a move to LA or London. I would retort with, “DO YOU REALLY THINK IT CAN GET ANY WORSE?!” Winning and winning with consistency is the only thing that will quell the uneducated masses. The national media and fans of the league have already shown that they completely ignore the facts, whether it be the Jaguars “ongoing blackout issues” or “impending move to LA” or “looking to draft Gabbert’s replacement after determining he was not NFL-caliber after one season”. NEXT ISSUE. So what if we go abroad and lose and fail to make a good impression? The 49ers, Chargers, Dolphins, Buccaneers, and Broncos all lost in their international games and there’s scant evidence that this moved the needle (right, Khan?) one way or the other. And as I stated in the last paragraph, this is the perfect time to take this calculated gamble because the Jaguars are poised to be consistent and exciting over the next five years better than any other point in the franchise’s history.
This is a bold move by Shad Khan, but the upside is mouth-watering. Repeated exposure of the Jaguars product to a foreign audienceis a well-planned strategy enacted with perfect timing. This is no short-term strategy to avoid another blackout or alleviate a reeling fanbase forced to pay premiums for season tickets to see a subpar product. Khan’s four year commitment will parlay the ascent of the Jaguars franchise and gives this team a unique opportunity to stake a claim to the hearts of fledgling NFL fans abroad in a way that no franchise has done before, because those teams all failed to show this level of commitment to a foreign market. Increased recognition from a wider and more diverse fanbase outside of Jacksonville adds a whole new dimension to the franchise’s legitimacy. The more people that hold a certain belief and greater variety of people who hold a certain belief is the epitome of a strong and enduring brand. The train is leaving the station, Londoners. Run, get on it.
And welcome aboard, mates.
- Andrew Hofheimer