This article was written by Nate Monroe. Follow him at @NateMonroeTU.
Imagine being the Indianapolis Colts.
Imagine being the dolts (rhymes with Colts) that lost to this team. That team. The Jacksonville Jaguars. In Week 18. Yeah, that fucking team. And now their playoff dreams — the Colts, that is — are dust in the wind.
And I’ve got news for you: 78 degrees in TIAA Bank Field isn’t like 78 degrees in any conventional sense. It’s windless, humid, sun-blasted. It’s hot as shit. Colts fans who bothered showing up (lol) suffered mentally and physically. They lost to a team almost impossibly devoid of talent. They lost to one of the most dysfunctional organizations in the history of the NFL. That sounds dramatic, but it’s true. If you’re reading this, you already know.
Trent Baalke, the Jaguars general manager, has to go. But gone he hasn’t. He’s still here. A fly in the ointment. A benign tumor on the buttocks. But the Colts lost. Decisively. Embarrassingly. With a sense of finality that is still fucking with my mind even as I type this. The Colts lost to the Jaguars even as the Jaguars — unbelievably, for the second year in a row —secured the №1 pick in the draft. Wow, you Indianapolis dolts.
That brings me to the question of the clowns: The fans — so understandably outraged by Baalke’s continued presence, by the shambolic tenure of Urban Meyer, by Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s decade-long record of misrule— donned red noses, wore wigs; some went full Bozo.
Was it worth it?
Fuck yes it was.
Khan can choose to ignore them. He can take today’s rare victory as evidence his long record of poor character judgment isn’t quite as bad as advertised.
Or he can take a hint.
Full disclosure: I’m a Khan critic. I think he’s been both a bad manager of the football side of the team and a dishonest, greedy manager of the business side. Off the field, Khan spends almost no money on the stadium or in the broader sports-entertainment district without heavy public (taxpayer) subsidies. He owns no property in Duval County. He wants credit for not moving the team away from Jacksonville but has been miserly and weird about signing a new stadium lease — which would help actually guarantee the team’s presence here. He and his lieutenants question the “viability” of a market that has actually turned his ~$700 million-odd investment into nearly $3 billion, despite his almost unprecedented record of mismanagement. Jacksonville, in other words, has made this burgermeister incredibly rich, and he remains not only ungrateful but openly scornful of the city.
Khan couldn’t drive himself from the stadium to Cowford Chophouse without GPS. This ought to be humiliating for him. Instead, I get the sense, from my many conversations over the years with local elected officials and business leaders, it’s almost a point of pride.
Khan has a chance to change all of this.
He may be reluctant to appear as if he’s caving to the masses. No NFL owner wants to answer to a higher god than themselves. But the clarity of what needs to happen now — Baalke’s termination — and the unanimity about it from the professional sports punditocracy to the salt-of-the-earth fan. should give Khan more than enough cover to do the right thing while saving face.
The Jaguars’ unexpected victory Sunday gives him the chance to double down on a feel-good moment.
The fans — the clowns — got national attention. They shamed Khan. They drove home an obvious point: Baalke has to go. The offseason, once again, affords Khan the chance to reconsider his aloofness about Jacksonville generally and yet another chance to right the ship.
Shad Khan ignores the outrage from his most devoted fans at his own peril.