The Jacksonville Jaguars began playing in the 1995 season. They were a young franchise in a market that was expected to fail. Some experts viewed them as an experiment. Yeah, Green Bay and Buffalo are small market teams, but they have both had a long and proud football history. Such teams draw from the neighboring markets to sell tickets. Could the Jaguars really establish themselves in the NFL? Could Florida really support 3 NFL teams in a state that has a hard time selling tickets? The Jaguars have established themselves in the AFC South. Any rumors of a move to L.A. were put to rest last season as the community came together, and the team didn't have a single game blacked out. Gene Smith is building a roster to last, and with time, the Jaguars could become the "Green Bay of the South."
Skepticism is nothing new to the fans of the Jaguars. The Jaguars don't often get a lot of attention from the media. Remember the Hail Mary against the Texans? The play was featured on ESPN all week. It shed some light on a usually overlooked football town. This Jaguars team has all the look of a new contender.
Living in Indiana makes it hard to go to Jaguars games. That being the case, I made the trip to Jacksonville a few years ago. It was a Monday night game in 2007, and the atmosphere was electric. That's the atmosphere that the Jaguars organization is working towards. It's not about avoiding blackouts. It's about selling out the games. Jacksonville could be on the verge of doing just that.
There's no doubt that the Jaguars are on the rise. Gene Smith has added new, young talent every year since he's been the GM. Along with that, I get the sense that the Colts are fighting to hang on. Let's face it, when Manning retires, it will be time to rebuild for the Colts. How about the Texans? They have picked up the distinction of the "yeah but" team of the NFL. The Titans have effectively self destructed in the past year. They now have a new head coach, and they need a young quarterback to take over after Collins is gone. With all due respect for the rest of the AFC South, the Jaguars seem to be the only team on the upswing.
The NFL is all about wise decisions. The Jaguars have embraced the slowest method of building a playoff team known in the NFL (outside not building a playoff team at all), but the method the team has embraced also produces the longest term success. The focus on Jacksonville is all too often ticket sales and not the team. To fix ticket sales, the Jaguars have to build a winning roster. Not to quote cheesy sports movies, but "if you build it, they will come." The Jaguars are building it.