Call this piece a rant. Call it opinion-based. Call me a “fan writer.” I really don’t care at this point. Jaguars fans have suffered for long enough and deserve better.
The absolute best the Jags can finish in 2019 is at .500. That means there has been one winning season in the past 12 years. That came in 2017 when Jacksonville was minutes away from the franchise’s first Super Bowl berth. At the conclusion of that season, I wrote a piece entitled “Jaguars crushed expectations this season.” Because they did. But what it also did was raise the bar for expectations moving forward, and in the nearly two full seasons since then, the Jaguars have done nothing but disappoint.
At what point do we, as fans of this franchise, say enough is enough? The truth is, if you’re truly invested in this team, you don’t. The diehard fans will, for better or for worse, ride or die with this team, and continue to suffer the consequences of a poorly constructed and poorly managed football team. And yet, the team’s ownership has stated that there is “limited demand” for football in Jacksonville.
But Jaguars fans have been through the wringer for the better part of two decades, and the loyalists continue to buy season tickets, concessions, merchandise and other items that pour money into the franchise. The problem isn’t that there isn’t an appetite for football, it’s that we are sick and tired of watching losing football year in and year out.
But the team continues to struggle, so selling single game tickets is a tall task right now. Selling out the stadium or reaching near capacity is a pipe dream. Fans don’t want to make the trip just to watch their home team be dominated once again. The Jaguars currently rank 28th in NFL attendance, according to the Florida-Times union, with an average attendance of more than 60,000 loyal fans. It’s simple— put a better product on the field, strengthen the game day experience and the fans will come.
About 13 minutes before kickoff at TIAA Bank Field, plenty seats available unless it’s a late arriving crowd. pic.twitter.com/kmnfRLSQIS— John Reid (@JohnReid64) December 1, 2019
Even this picture above turned out to have an announced attendance of 62,633, according to Pro Football Reference — higher than the team’s average this season. And the result was again embarrassing.
Now admittedly, I am not a Jacksonville resident or a season ticket holder. But I have been an out-of-town Jaguars fans for as long as I have loved football, and an ever-optimistic one at that. So, if I am this frustrated, how upset must the season ticket holders be? How disappointed is the Bold City Brigade who shows up in droves at every home game (and road games at that)? There is a great sense of pride and loyalty with this fanbase — it’s still #DTWD, but the organization has to do a better job. I don’t speak for everyone, but I think it’s fair to say we’ve hit a boiling point, collectively.
Maybe the future is promising. Maybe the Jaguars find a way to move on from Nick Foles and his massive contract this offseason. Maybe the coaching staff changes (and, for the record, I like Doug Marrone, but something isn’t clicking). Maybe the front office changes. Maybe Gardner Minshew II is the future. Maybe the bevy of draft picks in the next two drafts will bode well for the coming seasons.
But that is too many maybes and too many question marks. It’s so hard to trust this franchise, even if an entire new regime takes over. Jaguars fans know better than most that first-round picks don’t always hit. We know how difficult it is to win in the NFL on a consistent basis. But we also know changes need to me made, somewhere, somehow.
And pundits and fans alike will ask who is to blame? Is it ownership? Is it the front office? Is it the coaching staff? is it the players? The truth is, I don’t know, maybe a combination of all of the above, but it’s really not my place to decide — I am not an employee of the team or some sort of expert. But it is up to those in charge to identify the problem and fix it. They have to, or else the Jacksonville Jaguars will continue to live in football purgatory forever.
Again, us die-hard fans aren’t going anywhere. But it should be the Jaguars’ responsibility to reward that kind of a loyalty to a team that has proven once and again it doesn’t deserve it. That starts with putting out a product that is at least watchable for four quarters on the football field.