Over the last year, there have been increasing hints the Jaguars are looking at Orlando to make sure the team stays in Jacksonville. It started a year ago when the team publicly said they would be open to playing games in Orlando. The recent articles by Vic Ketchman talking about the Jaguars relationship with Orlando has once again begun to fan the flames.
Should, and more importantly could, the Jaguars move any games down South?
While I certainly don't have any flies in the wall, I believe it is fairly easy to piece together the plan the team may be looking at. The two main points are the seemingly inevitable expansion to an 18 game regular season and the recently signed deal with Everbank. If/When the NFL goes to an 18 game regular season with only two preseason games, it will make the already worthless preseason tickets just that much more worthless to potential ticket buyers.
Conversely, the deal with Everbank allows for preseason games to be shipped without any penalty. Putting two and two together, I think if the NFL does expand to an 18 game regular season, the team will look to play it's lone preseason game in Orlando.
However, should the Jaguars try to ship out a preseason game to Orlando? For a team that is looking to rebuild it's image in the city, shipping a game to another city could be a set back. This is the reasoning Wayne Weaver gave when he was asked about moving a Jags home game to London.
The Bills current Toronto series provides the closest parallel for a Jags/Orlando series. The thought process for Bills fans was that losing a few games a year to Toronto, it was better than the team packing for LA. The general perception has been that the Toronto series has been a failure. Granted, outrageous ticket prices and a poor venue haven't helped the Bills cause, but when they can't sellout a 50,000 seat stadium, questions will arise. Why would the Jaguars fair any better in Orlando?
Something has to happen for the Jaguars ticket sales. While winning can cure all ails, the odds of the Jaguars to go on a Colts or Patriots like run of dominance aren't great. When the lean times come, it seems that there aren't enough diehards to keep Everbank full.
The NFL gave the Jaguars a gift when they made Orlando a secondary market for the team. However, the team has done little to extend it's reach south. Nothing better shows that than when the program director of Orlando's CBS affiliate went on air to publicly apologize for having to show the Jaguars over the Dolphins during the final week of 2008.
If playing a game a year in the Citrus Bowl will get the Jaguars more public equity from Orlando, than it is a good move. Then again, many Bills fans thought Toronto would keep the team in Buffalo.