Here are a few words you might relate to if you’re a fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Love has teeth; they bite; the wounds never close. No word, no combination of words, can close those lovebites. It’s the other way around, that’s the joke.”
― Stephen King
For Jacksonville Jaguars fans, the last 20 years have been a labor of love more akin to a horror novel than a love story.
Casual fans come and go. But, the hardcore fanbase returns year after year with love in their hearts and hope in their souls. Yet, time and time again, the team refuses their affections, giving them only four winning seasons in the past 20 years.
Losing doesn’t help the Jaguars nor any other club for that matter
The Jaguars have the third worst record in the league over the last 20 years. That’s two decades of pain and suffering. A generation of heartache.
That’s why it is simultaneously humorous and irritating when national media espouse nonsense about Jacksonville not supporting its team. If you compare the teams with the worst records over the last 20 years to the average home attendance and ticket prices during that same stretch, you will find a strong correlation between losing and lack of ticket sales no matter which market you consider. It’s not just Jacksonville. It’s EVERY LOSING MARKET.
It’s no wonder fans are damaged and looking for signs that this time things will be different. Once again, fans find themselves on the precipice of a season, longing to be great, yet bracing for disappointment.
The preseason doesn’t mean much for the Jaguars but it isn’t meaningless
So, one might forgive the typical Jaguars fan for attaching a bit too much importance to training camp reports and preseason results. Most Jaguars fans understand preseason games don’t mean much. After all, they’ve had that message driven into their heads time and time again while enduring all the negative signs so many preseasons have sent to them over the last 20 years.
Blake Bortles can’t throw a spiral? “Don’t worry, the preseason doesn’t mean anything.”
The Jags get blown out in the first half again? “Fans have to understand, these games are meaningless.”
Urban Meyer’s team literally cannot line up correctly? “Don’t trust what your eyes are telling you, you’re just not that savvy of a football fan.”
Well, not so fast. Many great teams have failed to win a game and numerous horrible teams have looked ok in the preseason. The final scores are particularly meaningless. But, there are things that can be drawn from the preseason, and fans sense that intrinsically. Football Outsiders did a deep dive into the value of the NFL preseason. It’s technical, and a bit of a slog to read, but the essence is this:
"It seems like the data are trying to indicate that preseason does, in fact, mean something — at the very least, fans should be concerned when teams are blown out in the first half. Dismissing the games outright is probably a little irrational."
So, at minimum, there is debate about the importance of the preseason. Hays Carlyon agrees. Appearing on Jaguars Today with Mike Dempsey and Tony Smith, he made his position clear at the 57:09 mark:
"I want to see a damn lead. I want to see this organization actually have more points than the other team on the damn scoreboard. I know it’s an exhibition game. I know it doesn’t mean anything. But, we’ve got to get to the point where when this team takes the field, occasionally, they’ve got more points than the opponent."
Here’s the whole show if you want to give it a listen.
The passion in Carlyon’s voice is reflected in the fanbase. Incredibly, Jags fans still care. They still have a spark within. But, they need the team to stoke that flame. They have had their enthusiasm doused too many times to not be cautious.
Jacksonville has been waiting 20 years for a sustained winner. They simply need a sign, something to feel good about. It’s not necessarily a quantifiable thing, especially in a preseason game. But, fans will know it when they see it. They didn’t see it last week, and they desperately want to see it this week.
"“The waiting is the hardest partEvery day you get one more yardYou take it on faith, you take it to the heartThe waiting is the hardest part”― Tom Petty"