Jul 31, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley during the first day of training camp in pads at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Are The Jaguars Getting Better?

It’s a popular question nowadays from non-Jaguar fans. In my own experience many people now truly wonder, ‘Are the Jaguars Getting Better’? For the first time in many years I can say that, “Yes! It certainly seems that way”.

Maybe you are similar to me in the regard that most of your ‘NFL Friends’ don’t know much about your favorite team–The Jacksonville Jaguars. Maybe, as I do, you wonder if their summation of knowledge lies dependent on offhand reports from years ago claiming that the Jaguars were just awful and would never get better. Maybe they even read in a newspaper how the Jaguars couldn’t fill the stands and, coupled with the decision to not sign local hero Tim Tebow, the Jaguars would continue to never have enough fans at an NFL game to fill an NFL-sized stadium. It bothered me too.

The obvious result in not having enough tickets sold sits somewhere between either the team/city not proving they deserve to exist/have this team and it wouldn’t end well. The popularized solution being that ticket issues (AKA a desire to see a football team) would soon move the team to Los Angeles.

Maybe these same friends even went so far in their research as to overhear a passing conversation at a coffee shop describing how the Jaguars were so bad that they would soon be deported. WOAH! England! Could you imagine how embarassing?!

December 23, 2012; Jacksonville, FL, USA; A Jacksonville Jaguars fan wears a squirrel mask in the stands during the second half of the game against the New England Patriots at EverBank Field. The Patriots defeated the Jaguars 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

December 23, 2012; Jacksonville, FL, USA; A Jacksonville Jaguars fan wears a squirrel mask in the stands during the second half of the game against the New England Patriots at EverBank Field. The Patriots defeated the Jaguars 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

So, maybe if you have these types of friends, they are now confused when they read or hear something positive in regards to Duval. Maybe, just maybe, they have watched college football and seen the Jaguars recent draft classes and noticed a pattern. That noticeable pattern churning inside the brains of everyone that has spent a minimum of five minutes connecting the obvious, leads them to ask: “Are the Jaguars Getting Better?”

“No, like really bro, are they getting good, or is that England-thing for real?”

The England thing is for real, but not the way a large amount of people view it. The Jaguars, if nothing changes, will finish with a total of four home games played in London for the 2013-2016 seasons. However, it’s not enough to have knowledge because the stigma that exists remains very, very real.

It’s a popular thing to joke on your Jacksonville Jaguars, just click here. As you can see, Jaguars remain the easy choice to joke on. They always will be….until the culture changes. What changes the culture? Winning. So, when you go to answer the question, merely think about this: “What have the Jaguars done to change the culture”?

I wonder if new owner Shahid Khan Participated....

Jaguars owner Shahid Khan

1. New Owner

On January 4th, 2012 Shahid Khan officially became the new owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Things began to change. It would take a much longer article to go over everything, but, long story short Khan started everything over. At current time there are several new and major positions rehauled. He first started at the top, hiring a new general manager. I find this important because Khan understood that other men knew how to win in much better ways than he did. He reportedly talked to about 100 people regarding this first hire, the general manager position.

The Florida Times Union fills us in:

Khan said waiting to begin the search until after firing Smith was “like trying to train for the Olympics when the starting gun is going off. It’s a little too late. So there’s only two outcomes. You’re going to retain or you’re going to make a change and you have to be ready for both.’’

Khan said he talked to about 100 people, including former Colts general manager Bill Polian, who gave Caldwell his start in pro football with Carolina and then brought him to Indianapolis. Polian gave him a solid recommendation.

Khan said of Polian, “The guy is a winner. He’s an institution, a Hall of Famer. I spent quite a bit of time talking to him.’’

I’ll be honest. I have never once spent that much time interviewing anyone for anything. Perhaps I’m easy, but I find this immensely impressive and I see Khan showing that he is willing to spend the correct amount of time to look into an important hire. Khan did it with as much research as possible so as to make the best hire possible. In any sport, or business for that matter, Khan made the correct, respected process and let it work itself out.

Later from the same article:

“There were some I did with Tony [his son] because that was an issue. Tony is here [working for the Jaguars]. I want them to meet him and wanted him to feel comfortable with that,’’ he said. “And then we had several candidates where [team president] Mark [Lamping] and several other people were involved, because when we were serious about somebody, we brought them here and exposed all the people. They need to have the right chemistry. They need to feel comfortable.’’

You see that? The environment change. That’s a culture transformation.

2. New General Manager

Enter David Caldwell, a very respected man league-wide. Caldwell reportedly spent four years as the Director of College Scouting for the Atlanta Falcons. Aren’t they good? They draft well too, so it makes sense to say that the man who directed their scouting program for the college ranks would have a far above average view of what leads a college player to success in the NFL and  would be an easy improvement over previous front office heads in Jacksonville. Our beloved Jaguars didn’t always draft well.

Caldwell has now completed two drafts and seems to be every bit as successful as originally billed. It all started with his first move, some guy he hired at head coach that people heard enjoyed being enthusiastic.

3. New Head Coach

Caldwell hired a guy that wins and grins. Sports Illustrated went more in depth if you would like to check it out.

To give you an idea of how Bradley acts, let’s look into a particular moment during his first season as Bradley found himself the head coach of an 0-5 team that prepared to face the vaunted and undefeated 5-0 Denver Broncos. Joann Niesen, of the Denver Post, wrote about their interview here.  In it, Bradley spoke about “getting better”.

“We started back in the spring with changing the whole culture of our organization and our team,” Bradley said. “The emphasis is on every opportunity we get, we’re striving to be better.”

Just Get Better. That right there has constantly remained the theme of Bradley’s influence on the Jaguars.  The Jaguars did get better. They stared off 0-8 with a talent-deprived team but once culture became rooted within the locker room, the Jaguars began to get competitive notching four wins in the next five games. For the final three games, the Jaguars had two close losses and then were beaten down by a Colts’ roster that recently began the trip from the bottom that the Jaguars were now beginning.

That’s the culture change. It started all the way at the top with Khan’s purchase of the team. The Jacksonville Jaguars now resemble Khan in that they make intelligent decisions and refuse to mortgage the future and long-term success away for a “headline” moment. The Jaguars aren’t a place where a player can come in and coast through their time spent there, as Aaron Ross learned through the media when Khan spoke these words:

“There’s no sense of entitlement anymore,” Khan said. “You’re not going to have one of our ex-players saying he’s coming back from a paid vacation in Florida anymore.”

That’s music to my ears!

So, next time you hear someone ask if the Jaguars are actually getting better, don’t just say that you think so. Tell them, “YES!” and then tell them why. Tell them of the new owner, gm, and head coach that bring a complete rehaul to not just the team but the very culture within the stadium and practice fields and players alike. Tell them that Jacksonville no longer brings the proverbial hope into each game. No, the Jaguars now bring hope, talent, and the ability to get better into each and every game.

Enjoy the build everyone, the Jaguars are now within a few seasons of becoming almost a consistent playoff team.

 

- Brandon Clark

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Tags: David Caldwell Gus Bradley Jacksonville Jaguars Shad Khan

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