Fans of the Big Cats have been through the wringer over the last two decades. After an unbelievable first five seasons of existence, in which the Jaguars made it to two AFC Championship games, Jacksonville's beloved professional football franchise has been one of the worst teams in all of sports. Since the turn of the century, the Jags have won enough games to reach the playoffs only three times. Three playoff appearances in 20 years? Woof.
While the Jaguars have struggled to earn relevance from a national perspective for most of the last two decades, the issue at hand began in 2012, when Shahid "Shad" Khan purchased and took the reins of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars were a franchise in shambles before Khan arrived — they were struggling to sell tickets, win games, and compete — but what has transpired since he became the franchise's owner has been sickening to the loyal supporters of the Teal and Black.
Khan bought the club for a measly $760 million. Since then, he's earned money hand over fist year after year, and has seen the organization's estimated value rise all the way to $2.33 billion. While business is booming off the field for Shad Khan, on the field, it's been a different story.
Khan and his cohort, Jaguars' team president Mark Lamping, have consistently spewed talk of making Jacksonville a viable long-term home for the Jaguars. As if the millions he makes from the struggling franchise every year is not enough. I get that he's a billionaire businessman, and on that front, he's always looking to grow his business. But as his team continues to lose, perhaps his focus should be on the on-field product's viability. Jacksonville is a small market for a professional sports team. With that, it's been difficult to land the massive corporate sponsorship deals that are part of the lifeblood of any successful franchise. But maybe, just maybe, winning would help that process along.
Instead of focusing on improving the football side of his business, Khan's been keen on spending his time and energy on scoreboards, stadium pools, amphitheaters, and entertainment districts. All of these off the field investments have been carefully devised to make you forget the stench of a football team with a pathetic 41-96 record under Shad Khan's guidance.
It would be a different predicament if Khan were doing everything in his power to create a winner on the gridiron and off it, but that is not the case. Dave Caldwell, the Jaguars' general manager since 2013, has been the captain (or co-captain) of this sinking ship for nearly eight seasons now. After he completely whiffed on his first two draft classes and most of the early free agents he brought in, Khan saw fit to keep Dave around. After Gus Bradley, the first head coach that Dave Caldwell hired, got the ax, Khan kept Dave Caldwell on board. Shad did take away some of Caldwell's power by bringing in Tom Coughlin to run the football operation as the team's executive vice president in 2017, but after Coughlin ran all of the Jaguars' young stars out of town, Caldwell remained.
Dave Caldwell, who has helped the Jaguars to one winning season during his tenure, and head coach Doug Marrone who has led the Jaguars to a 12-26 record since the start of the 2018 season, are both still employed by Shad Khan? Why? I could not tell you.
Folks often joke, the NFL stands for "not for long." The NFL is supposed to be a cut-throat business where winning conquers all. But Shad Khan has been content with keeping folks in power for far too long. As I mentioned before, Dave Caldwell still has a job despite winning more than six games just once since 2013. Never winning more than five games in a season, Gus Bradley was given almost four full seasons as the Jaguars' head coach. Shad Khan has not been willing to make sacrifices for a brighter future. Instead, he's opted to give the wrong people the longest leashes.
As the Jacksonville taxpayers and Jaguars fans continue to line Khan's pockets, he keeps the status quo. Shad Khan owes it to the city of Jacksonville, to his loyal fans, and to himself to tear it down. Dave Caldwell is not the answer. Doug Marrone is not the answer.
For this drowning franchise to recapture the glory of the mid to late '90s, Shad Khan needs to worry more about wins and losses than he does debits and credits. He needs to hire someone who understands the modern game. There are several aspiring NFL executives that have seen how to win with quality organizations. Shad needs to start there, and if he does, maybe, just maybe, this franchise will have a chance to rise from the ashes of what Caldwell, Bradley, Coughlin, and Marrone will have left behind.
The cupboard is not bare. The Jaguars have plenty of youthful talent. The Jaguars have tons of salary cap space. And the Jaguars have a hoard of draft picks in 2021. If Khan opts to make sweeping changes, this will be an attractive job for a potential general manager and head coach.
Will Shad Khan do what's necessary for the long-term viability of the product he pushes? History would suggest the answer will be no.
No Change, No Hope.
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