At the beginning of the 2016 season, fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars were filled with an optimism that they hadn’t felt in over a decade.
The team was coming off a season of improvement, and an offseason of major acquisitions. The young offense looked poised to erupt, and the defense added key veterans as well as almost-guaranteed future stars Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack. While no one could agree on just how good the team would be, almost everyone did agree that they would at least contend for a playoff spot.
Instead, the Jags now find themselves in the midst of an eight-game losing streak. The team would need to win all three of its remaining games just to match last season’s 5-11 record.
Instead of the expected offensive explosion, the unit has regressed in just about every measurable category. Its quarterback looks broken, and its receivers can’t stop dropping passes. And while the defense has looked solid, it hasn’t been able to generate enough turnovers to make up for the offense’s ineptitude.
As a result, the fans have started to turn away from the team out of frustration.
After selling out the season opener against the Green Bay Packers, the crowds have dwindled with each subsequent home game. Even more concerning, the opposing crowds have continued to grow. In the team’s two most recent appearances at EverBank Field, the away crowd actually outnumbered Jags fans.
Why fans don’t show up
It’s hard to sell people on showing up to watch a team that seems uninterested in on-field success. In previous years, it was easier to hand-waive the team’s shortcomings. The rosters were weaker and inconsistent, and the team was largely still rebuilding. Now, it’s completely built and still playing terribly.
Those who have continued to show up haven’t exactly been rewarded for their efforts, either. The team hasn’t won a game at EverBank Field since last December; at this point, fans show up expecting a loss. Additionally, players like Allen Robinson have bad-mouthed the crowds for booing – even when booing was the only possible response.
Meanwhile, nothing has been done to stop the bleeding aside from the dismissal of offensive coordinator Greg Olson.
It’s fair to say that the fan experience for the Jaguars hasn’t been great this year.
Why it’s no excuse
All of that being said, it still doesn’t excuse the pathetic home crowds at the last two or three games. It doesn’t excuse the constant whining on social media. It certainly doesn’t excuse those who claim they will not renew their season tickets next year.
The tendency of a large portion of the Jaguars fanbase to only show up during “the good times” is concerning – in fact, it’s pathetic. It’s part of the reason why Jaguars fans have been subject to ridicule over the past decade or so.
If the fanbase wants to truly establish itself, it needs to master the most fundamental aspect of being a sports fan: loyalty.
It’s fine to question the team’s leadership. It’s reasonable to think that Blake Bortles kind-of sucks. What isn’t okay is abandoning the franchise entirely, just to pick it back up whenever the issues appear to be sorted out.
For a true fan, being at the game is always better than not being there. This is true regardless of the final score.
For years, the most common complaint of Jacksonville residents has been the lack of things to do in the city – especially downtown. The reality is that for seven Sundays each year, Jacksonville residents can experience a live NFL game in a stadium filled with fellow residents. That’s something only 31 other cities have to offer. (Not to mention, Jags tickets are relatively cheap.)
And while Shad Khan has committed to Jacksonville and thrown a lot of his own money into stadium improvements and city investments, his patience is not infinite. All of the cash he’s sunk into the team will be a waste if the fans don’t show up.
If London comes calling, we don’t want him to even give thought to the idea of moving the team. We need to show up to games – if not to support the Jags, then to support Jacksonville as a whole.
The best way to make sure that never happens is not to spitefully cancel your season tickets because the team is playing bad. It’s to remember that being a fan is often not easy, and that there’s always a chance that everything will go wrong in any given season. Leaving now means you’re a fan only under the right conditions.
And if you do cancel those season tickets, do the real fans a favor: don’t come running back when the team does start winning.