In a wide ranging interview with the Jacksonville media Saturday morning in London, Jaguars Owner Shad Khan addressed the Jaguars record, the future of Head Coach Gus Bradley and General Manager Dave Caldwell, playing more games overseas and the practice facility/Shipyards project among a variety of other topics.
“Frankly, it’s never crossed my mind,” Khan said when asked about getting rid of Bradley and Caldwell during the season. Although he’s disappointed as any fan would be of the Jaguars 1-5 record, he’s not making a change anytime soon.
“It’s the only sane and proper thing to do,” Shad added about keeping Gus and Dave through the season.
Would he then make a change?
“There are 10 games left. Like any fan, I want to see us win. I think we deserve it. No one is more disappointed in our record than Gus and Dave,” Khan explained. “There are a variety of factors to making that kind of decision. ‘Where are we compared to two years ago? What’s in our future? Are we headed in the right direction?’ We’ll consider all of those things before we decide if we’re going to make a mid-course correction.”
I did get the sense that while Shad was disappointed in what’s happened, especially in the last three weeks, he seems committed to what Bradley and Caldwell are doing and appears to be patient enough to give them through the 2016 season to prove themselves. (Provided the Jaguars don’t get blown out for the rest of the year.) He didn’t blanche at the question of benching Davon House, even though he paid $6 million for him in the off-season as a free agent.
“I think it shows that you shouldn’t be playing players because of what you’re paying them. They should earn their position. There are a lot of reasons for encouragement. The way you measure a football team is wins and losses. We should have won the last three games. Everybody feels we should have won. It’s very important we don’t become a victim of status quo.”
“There’s light years difference between three and three and one and five,” Shad said, his expression clearly showing him stepping between his role as the Jaguars Owner and being a Jaguars fan. “But life, like football, is not a straight line going up. We want to see where the journey’s been over the last three years.”
It’s clear that the Jaguars organization has benefited from playing a game in London and today Khan reiterated that he’s thrilled to extend the deal to play at Wembley Stadium. He added that the Jaguars are committed to London and won’t be interested in playing a game elsewhere. The NFL owners have approved games in Germany and in Mexico and he’s all for that, just not for the Jaguars. He thinks it’s good for the NFL but won’t include his team.
“It’s not on the Jaguars radar,” he said.
That doesn’t exclude another game in London though, as the visiting team. The Jaguars won’t take another home game away from the city, but Khan said he was open to the possibility of playing a second game here, back-to-back with their home game. While it doesn’t seem imminent, it does seem like a possibility.
“There might be a time where that would make sense. We have the NFL’s support. We’re in conversations.”
Being an entity on the sports landscape in London is a priority for the Jaguars and for Shad Khan. He might have wanted a longer deal, perhaps through 2030, to play games in London, but for now, the deal is through 2020 with an option for another five years.
“I’m delighted to see it for 5 years and perhaps another five years. Jacksonville has benefited greatly for another five years. Nothing happens without economic growth.”
“Money is the resource that allows us to be competitive,” he explained when asked about the revenue stream that comes from the London connection. “We should use the power of football for the common good. That’s the ultimate goal. To create jobs for Jacksonville.”
“I think there’s been a lot of personal growth in Jacksonville,” Khan said regarding the way business is being done in North Florida and the Jaguars connection to that.
Everybody remembers Shad’s comment about the lack of “mojo” in Jacksonville so I asked him if there was more mojo at home than in the past.
“You have to create mojo,” he said, pointing to the number of young people who are creating opportunities at home. Khan has spent most of his week working with London civic leaders and Jacksonville’s representatives here trying to create a synergy between the two cities.
“I’d like to see direct flights from Jacksonville to Europe,” he mentioned as one idea of how the city can benefit from the game in London. “That helps put Jacksonville on the map. There’s a missing connection point between Atlanta and Orlando for overseas flights and I think Jacksonville can fill that void. That could really help.”
That’s a pretty good example of the big thinking Shad Khan brings to the table when it comes to driving the economic connection of the Jaguars, Jacksonville and London.
Sitting at Khan’s side, Jaguars President Mark Lamping echoed how well the deal has worked. About 15% of the Jaguars revenue is derived from sponsorship opportunities in London. In fact, the Jaguars have assigned one of their Vice Presidents, Hussein Naqi, permanently to London to continue to explore the revenue possibilities and the possible connection between the Jaguars and Khan’s soccer team, Fulham FC.
“Absolutely,” Lamping explained when asked about creating a bigger connection between the two cities and the two clubs. “Visit Florida is the primary sponsor on the front of the jersey at Fulham. That deal was done in Jacksonville, not London.”
With only eight wins over the last three seasons, Lamping said the appetite for a connection to the Jaguars either in London or in Jacksonville hasn’t been dampened because of the record. “Businesses are looking at it as more of an opportunity rather than what the record is on the field.”
And how have the fans reacted to that?
“We have really smart football fans,” Lamping said. “They’ve gone through a lot of speculation about their football team over the years. They’ve clearly outperformed the team.”
Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bulls will be the first live, streamed NFL contest worldwide. (Although it will be televised in a traditional manner in Jacksonville and Buffalo). Yahoo announced that the sponsorship of the game has sold out, not surprising to Khan.
“I see it as an historic moment. It’ll be the answer to a lot of trivia contests 20 years from now. It’s the first. Other sports are finding the value in being able to go directly from the provider to the consumer.”
As the Jaguars owner, Khan seems committed to Jacksonville, saying the team will start to build, in a small partnership with the city, a full practice facility on the south side of the stadium starting right after this season. It will include an indoor practice field and will have a “destination” quality to it as well. While it’s not tied to the Shipyards project, he said it will be “architecturally integrated with bridges and the like” when both projects are completed.
Environmental issues remain with the Shipyards that the city, the state and even the federal government are working through. That’s why Khan said the practice facility would come first.
“That will give the city a chance to look at what we’re doing. We’d like to engage with the city” (with the Shipyards project), perhaps sending a message to Mayor Lenny Curry and the City Council.
At the upcoming NFL Owners meeting, Khan doesn’t expect any decisions on playoff expansion or putting a team in LA. But he expects those subjects to be discussed.
“The stars will align,” he said when asked if either of those will happen.
Will the NFL ever put a team in London? A whole division in Europe?
“I know there’s been a huge amount of speculation but I don’t know if the fans here have the appetite for it. There will be more games here. Team’s playing home games, that’s for sure.”