Khan excited about direction of Jags, but aware of challenges
In a state of the franchise address, Jaguars owner Shad Khan and president Mark Lamping touched on several improvements made in the past two years ranging from the ongoing installation of a giant video board at the south end of EverBank Field to the drafting last week of nine new players led by UCF quarterback Blake Bortles.
Jaguars owner Shad Khan described the energy in the city and the offices of the organization as having improved by leaps and bounds from when he bought the team.
Phil Sears / USA TODAY Sports
By Ken Hornack
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The optimism around the Jacksonville Jaguars following a draft which has been widely praised was tempered Tuesday by a realization of all the challenges which remain to make the franchise thriving again.
In a state of the franchise address, Jaguars owner Shad Khan and president Mark Lamping touched on several improvements made in the past two years ranging from the ongoing installation of a giant video board at the south end of EverBank Field to the drafting last week of nine new players led by UCF quarterback Blake Bortles. But Lamping's presentation included mentions of local revenue which ranks 30th out of 32 NFL teams and television ratings which are far below the league average.
"We don't want to be delusional," Khan said following a press conference attended by coach Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell. "I think we are doing better than we were a couple of years ago, but there's a lot of work to be done. And we've got to understand where the opportunities are and where the challenges are."
When the Jaguars began play in 1995, they were second among all NFL franchises in local revenue, a category driven primarily by ticket sales. But a team which has missed the playoffs six years in a row and only reached the postseason twice since 1999 continues to feel the effects of being in the league's smallest and second-most transient market.
Lamping mentioned the local ratings for Jaguars telecasts last season, the first since the hirings of Bradley and Caldwell, had an average rating of 18.3. The league-wide average is 28.5. On the positive side, the Jaguars have not had a home game blacked out in four years and will not have any blackouts this season either, with Lamping claiming season ticket sales are 10 percent ahead of where they at this time in 2013.
The team's effort to expand their regional scope is bound to pick up steam in the Orlando area after the selection of Bortles, the first quarterback drafted Thursday night. That could matter to fans more than stadium enhancements or the inroads the Jaguars have made in London after scheduling a home game there last November as well as for each of the next three seasons.
"When it's all is said and done, we are a football team," Khan said. "And I think what gives me the greatest pleasure is something that we're building here that's really special under the leadership of Dave and Gus Bradley."
"The most important thing we can do is put a better product on the field," Lamping said. "I share Shad's belief that he's very comfortable with where we are in terms of the organization. Now we just have to get done what our fans need."
The new video board is scheduled to be completed in time for an unveiling ceremony July 26 featuring an exhibition soccer match with Fulham FC, a team in England owned by Khan, and a concert featuring country music star Carrie Underwood. The Jaguars will also have the football equivalent of basketball courtside seats for the first time as part of their 20th anniversary season, an occasion which will be marked by a commemorative patch on the jerseys of every player.
Other changes being considered are the addition of a retractable or permanent roof over EverBank Field, which currently qualifies as one of the oldest stadiums in the league, and a reduction in the number of club seats now that there will be a deck for tableside seating in the north end zone.
The Jaguars' roster next season will be almost completely made over from the team which went 2-14 in 2012. Seven veteran free agents were signed in March, most notably running back Toby Gerhart and guard Zane Beadles.
"Jacksonville has always been really appealing," Bradley said. "But I think they sense the vision of our owner and the vision of the organization is going in the right direction."
"As I look back to two years ago, we did have players who were really too comfortable," Khan said. "They didn't have the pressure. We've got great players now, or else they're not going to be (here) because of Gus and Dave and the competition."
Without trying to sugarcoat things, Khan described the energy in the city and the offices of the organization as having improved by leaps and bounds from when he bought the Jaguars.
"I just know the difference," he said. "I feel the difference every day I'm here. We've got a lot of challenges ahead of us, but I think we've accomplished a lot."