AFC South: Shad Khan

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When Maurice Jones-Drew decided to sign a free-agent contract with Oakland, he took more than just 8,071 rushing yards and a Jaguars-record 81 touchdowns to the West Coast.

He took the Jaguars’ national identity.

Jones-Drew was the franchise’s most recognizable player. He was one of the few Jaguars players -- and possibly the only one -- who the average football fan in, say, Kenosha, Wisconsin, could pick out of a lineup, mainly because of fantasy football. When Jones-Drew said something interesting or controversial, it was national news.

[+] EnlargeBortles
Phil Sears/USA TODAY SportsThe Jags are surely hoping that rookie Blake Bortles will soon be identified as the face of the franchise.
He was the team’s unquestioned leader and the person whose name first came to mind when the Jaguars were mentioned.

He was the face of the franchise, and now he’s wearing silver and black.

The Jaguars are entering the second season of the Dave Caldwell/Gus Bradley era, and while the rebuild is focusing on improving the talent level on the roster, they also need to find Jones-Drew’s replacement as the public image of the franchise.

"I think that will just develop," Bradley, the head coach, said. "We don’t talk to our guys about that. Our hope is that they just continue to become the best that they can be, and then that might be a byproduct of it. That’s kind of how we look at it, and we think in due time those things will come."

Every NFL team needs a face, especially a small-market team like the Jaguars. In many cases it’s the quarterback -- think Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. But not always -- think J.J. Watt, Adrian Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald. It certainly helps from a marketing perspective to have one -- especially when it comes to jersey sales -- but it goes beyond that.

The face of a franchise gives the team an identity. He's the player who rallies the team when things go wrong. It goes hand in hand with leadership, but think of the face of the franchise as the alpha leader. Teams generally have several leaders, and a player can be a leader without being the face of the franchise, but a player can’t be the face without being a leader.

In almost every case, he's a good player -- usually among the league’s elite. That’s the Jaguars’ problem. While they do have some very good players, they don’t have any who would be considered elite. Tight end Marcedes Lewis and middle linebacker Paul Posluszny have been to the Pro Bowl, but neither carries the same national recognition and cachet that Jones-Drew did for the past five seasons. Posluszny even admits that.

"Maurice is a national figure, and playing the running back spot, Pro Bowl player, offensive guy, great personality -- so whether you can fill his role in that aspect, I don’t know," Posluszny said. "Maybe it’s going to be by committee. Marcedes Lewis is a huge name, and then you look at Chad Henne and how he’s going to be able to lead, so as far as the leadership aspect of it there are several guys that’ll definitely step up to fill that void.

"Who’s going to be the guy? I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine."

The most logical pick would be quarterback Blake Bortles, the No. 3 overall selection in last month’s draft. He’s the most high-profile player on the roster right now. However, it’s hard to be the face of a franchise when you’re sitting on the bench, which is what general manager Caldwell and Bradley want Bortles to do in 2014.

Henne is well-liked in the locker room and has become more of a vocal leader now that he is assured of being the starting quarterback, but he doesn’t have the star power. Neither do receiver Cecil Shorts and running back Toby Gerhart.

The Jaguars’ most notable player may actually be wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who is serving an indefinite suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy for the third time, but he wouldn’t be considered the face of the franchise.

Right now, the most visible and prominent Jaguar is owner Shad Khan, and not just because of his handlebar mustache. He has put $31 million of his own money into improvements at EverBank Field -- $11 million to renovate the locker room and weight room and $20 million to help finance the $63 million in stadium upgrades that include the world’s largest video boards and two pools in the north end zone.

The mustache helps, though. It is featured in advertising campaigns and on T-shirts, and you can spot fans sporting fake ones throughout the stadium on game days.

It’s clever and it’s funny, and it’s obvious that the fan base has completely embraced Khan, who purchased the team from the beloved Weaver family in late 2011. But how long will that last if the Jaguars continue to struggle on the field? And can an owner truly be the face of a sports franchise? It has happened with Jerry Jones, Mark Cuban and George Steinbrenner, but those three men share the same traits: huge egos and dominant, aggressive personalities. That’s not Khan.

It appears that Caldwell and Bradley have begun adding good players. They need one to become the franchise’s new face.
Jaguars FansKirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsThe Jaguars' overseas presence and marketing are paying off, boosting their popularity and profits.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- As the record crowd at the rookie minicamp showed, there is certainly a buzz about the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Apparently it's not limited to North Florida's First Coast.

The Jaguars also have enjoyed a significant surge in international recognition. According to an NFL survey, the Jaguars rank ninth among NFL teams in popularity outside the United States. That's a huge jump from the previous year, when they ranked 31st.

"In a little over a year we've had that much visibility and improvement and I think it's very, very important for the Jaguars," owner Shad Khan said.

The NFL compiled the results by culling a database of several hundred thousand fans. Each fan that registers selects his or her favorite NFL team and the Jaguars were the team that gained more fans last year than any other in the United Kingdom.

The surge is obviously related to the fact the Jaguars played a game in London last season and will do so for the next three years, as well as how aggressively the Jaguars have marketed their brand in the UK. The NFL has granted the team extended territorial rights in the UK to allow them to take advantage of their four-year presence overseas.

The result is that no other team had a surge in popularity as big as the Jaguars' move of 22 spots, said Chris Parsons, the vice president of NFL International. Parsons said New England was No. 1. Darlene Caprio, the NFL's senior manager of media relations and international communications, said the league will not release the complete list.

"Either new people coming into the database or the database itself has a lot more people [listed as] fans of the Jaguars," Parsons said. "It's certainly representative of the fact that the Jaguars have done a tremendous amount of work in the market to build their fans and their reputation. As new fans come into the game why not follow a team that's done that work and is playing a game there for four years?"

The Jaguars have two full-time employees in the UK and send cheerleaders, mascot Jaxson de Ville, and players on numerous trips to London throughout the offseason. The Jaguars' fan club in the UK -- Union Jax -- has more than 23,000 members and the impact that those and other fans in the UK have had on the team's bottom line is significant, Jaguars president Mark Lamping said.

[+] EnlargeJacksonville Jaguars fans in London
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsJaguars fans strike a pose in front of Wembley Stadium prior to the Jacksonville-San Francisco 49ers game in October 2013.
The team's local ticket revenue was down 18 percent in 2013 from the previous season but adding in the London ticket revenue brought it back up to the same level. The Jaguars' domestic sponsorship revenue rose 14 percent in 2013 but that number swells to 29 percent when the London sponsorship money is added.

Overall, London accounts for 15 percent of the franchise's local revenue, Lamping said. The London game counts as local revenue since it's technically a home game for the Jaguars.

"They're certainly involved in an entrepreneurial approach to what they're doing in the UK and I think that definitely has been a great advocate for the NFL," Parsons said. "They've invested both with people and dollars to build their brand in the market."

The NFL is certainly trying to take advantage of the game's popularity in the UK. The league has added a third game in London in 2014 and the possibility of a fourth game being added in 2015 has been discussed. It's not hard to see why: All three of the 2014 games at Wembley Stadium have already sold out.

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank recently told The MMQB's Peter King that the NFL is headed toward having a permanent franchise in London and eventually other franchises throughout Europe. He didn't name a timetable but said it would be "less than you think."

The Jaguars, because of their presence in London, their four-year commitment to playing a home game at Wembley, and the fact that Khan also purchased the English Premier League's Fulham FC, automatically leap to most people's minds when the subject of a permanent franchise overseas arises. That would be erroneous, Parsons said.

"There's no reason for fans to draw that conclusion," he said. "There really isn't. What we're doing in the UK at the moment is building a foundation. It's growing every year. We're pleased with our progress. I know there's talk out there of will a team go there, but those two things are very much separate entities. I think, as I said, there's no reason to make that direct connection."

As for the Jaguars' future in London, Khan said there haven't been any talks on extending their agreement to play a home game there beyond the 2016 season. However, he didn't rule out a possible long-term commitment for an annual game there, either.

"Right now going to London for us is a game a year for four years. That's what it is," Khan said. "This is something that obviously the league is deciding. I think it's very good for us. I think it's good for the league to have us. It's a privilege for us, but right now that's all our commitment."

For now, he's just happy to be No. 9.


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There’s nothing wrong with swinging for the fences every once in a while. Sometimes it works and you do hit one into the stands.

Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell took a shot with Alex Mack. He didn’t connect because the Cleveland Browns quickly decided to match the Jaguars’ five-year, $42 million ($26 million guaranteed) offer sheet Mack signed earlier on Friday. But it was a heckuva swing.

Caldwell deserves a lot of credit for attempting to steal one of the game’s best offensive linemen away from a Browns team that made a mistake by not using the franchise tag. The contract was structured in a way that was supposed to make it difficult for the Browns to accept by including a clause that allowed Mack to void the deal after two years, but Browns management accepted that risk.

Even though Caldwell was unable to pull it off, it should be a message to the rest of the league that the Jaguars aren’t going to be the last guy picked for the dodgeball game any longer. Owner Shad Khan has made a significant financial contribution to the team’s facilities -- spending $11 million to renovate the weight room and locker room and $20 million to help finance the stadium and scoreboard improvements -- and now he is showing he’s willing to do the same when it comes to improving the roster.

Adding seven free agents, including guard Zane Beadles ($30 million over five years) and defensive linemen Red Bryant ($19.5 million over four years) and Chris Clemons ($17.5 million over four years), was a good indication of that commitment, but his willingness to give Caldwell the green light to pay that much money to land Mack offers even more proof.

Caldwell has steadily improved a roster that was the worst in the NFL the past two seasons. Taking a shot at Mack was a shrewd gamble that would have accelerated the rebuilding process. It didn’t work, but the Jaguars are no worse than they were before Mack signed the offer sheet.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- With more than $50 million in salary-cap space at the beginning of the month, the Jacksonville Jaguars had plenty of ammunition to go on a spending spree.

Michael Johnson, Michael Bennett and Aqib Talib were available. So were Alex Mack, Eric Decker and Jared Veldheer. The Jaguars had enough money to sign three or four of those players, and they certainly would have made the team significantly better in 2014 -- maybe even a playoff team.

But the Jaguars didn’t pursue any of them. General manager David Caldwell resisted the lure and signed seven second-level free agents to responsible, team-friendly contracts. He and coach Gus Bradley are adamant about not taking a shortcut in the second year of the franchise’s rebuild.

"We all know there’s expectations and we get that," Bradley said. "But I think for me it’s more the city of Jacksonville deserves an opportunity to be a part of something really good. I think [owner] Shad [Khan] deserves that and so does Dave. In order to do that, I think we have to be really strict and disciplined to go on our journey this way."

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AP Photo/Michael ConroyDespite a 4-12 record, coach Gus Bradley said the Jaguars made significant strides in 2013.
Sometimes it’s hard not to stray, but being patient and building the franchise through the draft is what sold Khan on Caldwell and Bradley. He learned that was the best approach pretty quickly after purchasing the team in November 2011.

Khan listened to then-general manager Gene Smith and opened up his considerable pockets and splurged in his first free agency. The Jaguars signed receiver Laurent Robinson to a five-year, $32.5 million contract and cornerback Aaron Ross to a three-year deal worth up to $15.3 million. They also signed defensive end Jeremy Mincey to a four-year extension worth $20 million, including $9 million guaranteed.

They signed several other players, too, and Khan sat back and eagerly awaited the playoff appearance that Smith said would come because of those signings.

The Jaguars went 2-14.

"Certainly, I’ve learned my lesson," Khan said. "If you look at the teams that are successful, they’re going to be built through the draft and some missing pieces are going to be filled in through free agency. I think that is the formula for success."

Khan fired Smith and then-head coach Mike Mularkey after the season and hired Caldwell away from the Atlanta Falcons. Caldwell in turn hired Bradley away from the Seattle Seahawks and the two put together their plan to rebuild the franchise.

They signed 10 new free agents in March and April and hit big on four: linebacker Geno Hayes, cornerback Alan Ball, defensive tackle Roy Miller, and defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks. None were in high demand and the most expensive was Miller, who signed a two-year deal worth $4.5 million. The four combined to start 59 of a possible 64 games.

Among the team’s eight draft picks were offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, safety Johnathan Cyprien, cornerback Dwayne Gratz and receiver Ace Sanders. All four started as rookies and showed they are foundation pieces moving forward.

Despite those additions, the Jaguars went 4-12 and started the season by losing their first eight games by double digits. Yet Bradley said the 2013 season was important because it helped establish the culture and the standards by which the team operates.

"We had valuable, valuable lessons that we could teach our team," Bradley said. "We talked about not getting consumed in defeats. We talked about not reveling in accomplishments. All these conversations came up -- celebrating victories, getting better for everybody, being unselfish, learning trust, all these things came up in our conversations last year, and I loved every aspect of that.

"If my sole focus was on winning or losing, I would have missed all that, and we would have missed all those lessons for our team."

It was evident the roster in 2013 was even less talented than anticipated, which produced the temptation to try and speed the process along by splurging in free agency this March. Caldwell and Bradley didn’t waver even though they know expectations are bigger in their second season and they’ll be bigger in 2015 and 2016, as well.

Short-term rewards are not more valuable than long-term success.

"We want to have a consistent winning team moving forward," Khan said. "I think with this rebuilding over and over again is brutal for the fans. I mean, it’s brutal if you have anything to do with it. Just think about it. There are maybe a dozen teams that are always in contention that always manage to be competitive.

"Our goal is we consistently we want to be there."
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars are taking a bit of a different approach at this week’s NFL owners meetings.

In addition to president Mark Lamping, general manager David Caldwell, and head coach Gus Bradley, owner Shad Khan has brought six members of his senior management team to participate in the various committees and other meetings taking place at The Ritz Carlton. That specialization allows the Jaguars to get a bigger benefit out of the meetings, Khan said.

"I think we’re probably the only team that’s rotating different people through different sessions here," he said. "I thought that was really important to get a number of people from our organization exposed to what the league’s thinking. Rather than to use Mark or myself or typical couple of people sit through [meetings] and have to go and communicate the information again [to the rest of the Jaguars management] this is to get direct one-on-one and really participate in that."

The six additional staffers are Dan Edwards (senior vice president, communications), Scott Massey (senior vice president, corporate sponsorships), Hussain Naqi (senior vice president, fan engagement), Chad Johnson (senior vice president, ticket sales), Megha Parekh (vice president and general counsel), and Kelly Flanagan (vice president, finance and planning).

In addition, Tony Khan -- the team’s senior vice president of football technology and analytics and Shad Khan’s son -- also has been at the meetings.

Here are some additional nuggets from Shad Khan's 15-minute meeting with the media on Tuesday:

• Khan said he still hopes the team can re-sign running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who has met with the Pittsburgh Steelers and has reportedly drawn interest from New England, Miami and the New York Jets.

"I think he’s a great player," Khan said. "I think he’s a part of Jacksonville history. He’s one of our iconic Jaguars players, but the stage where he is, where we are, I think it’s a question really Dave and Gus ought to be answering, but there’s got to be an area where it makes sense for both."

• The Jaguars aren’t the only struggling professional franchise Khan owns. Fulham Football Club is 7-21-3 and in last place in the English Premier League with seven games remaining. The bottom three teams in the league are swapped with the top three teams in a lower division.

Khan said building a consistent winner in the English Premier League is harder than building a consistent winner in the NFL.

"Premier League is like a loose collection of clubs and you don’t know who are the three clubs that are coming in next year and which are the ones that are dropping off," he said. "NFL is a league that’s built for the long haul. How you think through things is very, very different. Premier League, it’s like fixing a plane while it’s flying. With [the] NFL you can land the plane and fix it."

• Khan said the Jaguars' first game in London and the overseas marketing the team has done has helped the franchise’s popularity immensely, and he’s hoping it’ll do the same for the city.

"So in a little over a year we’ve had that much visibility and improvement and I think it’s very, very important for the Jaguars," Khan said. "I think it’s very important for Jacksonville to get the international awareness and really get the story out what a great area it is, the opportunity, the young people, the cost of living, what a competitive environment it would be for businesses to locate there."
Gus Bradley Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesJaguars coach Gus Bradley's enthusiastic approach to his job is attractive to prospective players.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- NFL free agency isn’t quite like college recruiting. Sure, in many places facilities are pretty similar, the possibility of playing time plays a role, and it can be a lifelong dream for a player to join a certain team.

But in the NFL, money is often the No. 1 factor -- and in some cases the only factor -- when a player makes his decision on where to sign.

However, it appears there is the beginning of a twist involved in the Jaguars’ pitch to free agents. Something in addition to the $11 million in upgrades to the weight room and locker room and the plethora of holes in the roster.

Coach Gus Bradley is quickly becoming a crucial part of the draw players are feeling toward the franchise.

Money and fit in a team’s scheme are still the most significant factors for free agents, but Bradley is beginning to gain a reputation around the league as a coach who is good to play for. More importantly, he is becoming known as a coach who is fun to play for.

When multiple offers are relatively equal, something has to serve as the tiebreaker. If what happened during the first days of free agency last week is an indication, it’s Bradley in Jacksonville.

"As soon as you meet him, he is already a likable person," said cornerback Will Blackmon, who joined the Jaguars in August on a one-year deal and re-signed last week. "That’s what’s really cool about all the competitive players that are coming here. They don’t have to come here. Usually teams are like, ‘Oh, Jacksonville didn't do well.’ But once they come here and they see the environment and they see what they’re about, they’re real attracted to it."

Owner Shad Khan and general manager David Caldwell created the environment, but Bradley is the public face. He’s the one who is showing visiting free agents a PowerPoint presentation. He’s the one spewing energy like mud off a tractor tire. He’s the one who had at least one visitor ready to put on his pads and hit the field after only a few minutes.

That was running back Toby Gerhart, who chose the Jaguars over Cleveland and San Francisco, which is led by Gerhart’s college coach Jim Harbaugh.

"I’ve never seen in anything like that," Gerhart said. "Meeting Gus, it was unlike anything I’ve … I walked away, and I was like, ‘Yes, I belong here.’ I actually was going away coming out thinking, ‘What type of person am I?' He talks about different characteristics of people and how can I make people better and the positive, prosperity and adversity. All this stuff he talked about in a quick 10 minutes. I was like, ‘I wish I had a notebook to write some of this stuff down.’

"I was enlightened and fired up and extremely excited. I’ve never met anybody like him. I can see why everybody spoke so highly, and you can tell things are going to get going and you’re going to want to jump on this train."

Gerhart was blown away even though he knew what to expect before his visit. He’s a former roommate of tight end Allen Reisner, who spent the 2013 season with the Jaguars, so he called him. Gerhart also talked to Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne, who also is represented by Athletes First.

"[Henne] said, ‘Trust me, there’s something about this program,’" Gerhart said. "Coach Bradley, there’s something special that’s going to happen."

Gerhart could have been the No. 1 back in Cleveland or gone to a San Francisco team that has played in three NFC Championship Games in a row, but he chose Jacksonville in large part because of his experience with Bradley. Defensive lineman Ziggy Hood and his representatives had contact with Washington, Oakland, St. Louis and Kansas City, but he chose the Jaguars. Being able to move back to his natural position at defensive tackle from defensive end, which he played in Pittsburgh, was the main reason, but Bradley also was a major factor.

"The first time I met Coach Bradley, his energy was high," Hood said. "It was different. This guy has energy. He was bouncing from wall to wall. He was from room to room, side to side."

If most NFL coaches are like poetry readings, Bradley is a monster truck rally.

But perhaps most importantly from a player’s perspective is that he’s a monster truck rally every day.

Players function best when things are consistent. They liked Bradley’s message, the way he treated them on the field and in the locker room, and his positive attitude during organized team activities, minicamp and training camp, but they wondered how it would be during the season. They especially wondered how it would be when they were 0-4.

Nothing changed. Not even when the Jaguars were 0-8.

That’s what Reisner, Henne and other Jaguars players told colleagues around the league. Not only will Bradley let you be who you are and allow you to have fun, but he’s also going to be the same person every single day.

That certainly doesn’t mean the Jaguars will land every free agent they target. Walter Thurmond and Emmanuel Sanders visited last week and signed elsewhere. Not everybody fits the system, and not everybody is willing to come to a small-market team that has won just 11 games in the past three seasons.

But playing for Bradley was a pull for several players this year, and that number may grow as his reputation quickly spreads throughout the league.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars-to-L.A. talk could finally be over.

Or, maybe not.

News broke Thursday that St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke recently bought a 60-acre tract of land in Inglewood, Calif. The Los Angeles Times and St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the land is located between the Forum and Inglewood, Calif., and Times sources said it could be used for a new NFL stadium.

That could mean that the wheels are starting to move in a potential Rams relocation to California, or it could be just another routine land purchase for Kroenke, who has made his fortune via land development. Kroenke already owns large pieces of land in California. If it’s the former, then talk of the Jaguars leaving Jacksonville for the West Coast should lessen considerably, if not disappear.

If it’s the latter, then the Jaguars will continue to be the subject of rumors and speculation that they will be relocating even though owner Shad Khan has given no indication he wants to move the team.

It’s really too early to tell, but ESPN.com Rams reporter Nick Wagoner presented some interesting information regarding the Rams’ lease with the city for the Edward Jones Dome. Wagoner writes that there is a clause in the lease that will kick in at the end of the 2014 season that says that as long as the stadium hasn’t been upgraded to one of the eight best in the NFL by that time, the lease becomes year-to-year beginning in 2015.

Wagoner also writes that the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission and the team have been in discussions for several years on how much it would cost to make the Edward Jones Dome one of the NFL’s eight best facilities. An arbitrator ruled in favor of the Rams’ proposal last February but the SLCVC has made it clear it will not enact the proposal, which Wagoner writes will mean the lease will almost certainly expire after the 2014 season.

Not having a lease to break would eliminate the largest hurdle for a team to relocate to Los Angeles.

The Jaguars’ lease with the city expires in 2030 and it would cost nearly $100 million to break the lease, according to a Florida Times-Union report published shortly after Khan purchased the team from original owner Wayne Weaver in 2011. However, the Jaguars could break the lease with no penalties if Khan were to show the team lost money in one year and was below the NFL’s revenue average the following two years.

The Jaguars and the other 31 NFL teams would have to publicly reveal their finances for that condition to be met, which is highly unlikely.

Khan has given no indication that he plans on moving the franchise. In fact, he has sent the opposite message by investing $31 million of his own money toward improving EverBank Field.

He is contributing $20 million toward $63 million in stadium improvements that include two new video scoreboards and an interactive area inside the stadium that will include a pool. He already has spent $11 million on improvements to the weight room, locker room and training facility.

Double Coverage: Jaguars at Colts

December, 26, 2013
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Henne-LuckGetty ImagesAndrew Luck and the Colts will look to take momentum into the playoffs with a win over Chad Henne and the Jaguars.
It’ll be a battle of teams headed in opposite directions at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.

The Indianapolis Colts want to have momentum heading into the playoffs. They also need the victory to have a shot at moving up from the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoffs. The Jacksonville Jaguars are simply playing out the season before vacation starts following the game.

The Colts easily beat the Jaguars 37-3 in Week 4.

ESPN.com Colts reporter Mike Wells and Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco discuss the rematch:

Wells: Running back Maurice Jones-Drew has been a fixture in the organization for eight years. Will Sunday be the last time he wears a Jaguars uniform?

DiRocco: My gut feeling is that he’ll be back, but it’s certainly not a slam dunk. Jones-Drew said after Sunday’s loss to Tennessee that he wants to be back in Jacksonville, but he has a price and contract length in mind. So does general manager David Caldwell, so I expect this to be a deal that’s going to take some negotiating to get done. Jones-Drew may still want to test the free-agent market to see what kind of money is out there, but he’ll probably find that there isn’t a lot of demand for a 29-year-old running back who has battled injuries the past two seasons. It really would be best for both sides to have Jones-Drew finish his career in Jacksonville. Jones-Drew wouldn’t have to prove himself all over again and he would help bridge the gap between the past five terrible seasons and the new regime.

Since we’re talking about running backs, was the Trent Richardson trade the worst move of the NFL season? What does it mean going forward for both the Colts and Richardson?

Wells: The trade obviously hasn’t worked out the way the Colts envisioned -- Richardson isn't even starting -- but the front office is nowhere near ready to ball up a white towel and throw it in on the second-year running back. They still believe he’s a huge part of the team’s future. The Colts believe a full offseason of organized team activities and training camp will help Richardson’s development. Richardson has shown some flashes -- he ran for 51 yards on seven carries in the fourth quarter against Houston on Dec. 15 -- but the Colts don’t want flashes. They want consistency out of him, and believe that will come.

I know I asked you about Sunday possibly being Jones-Drew’s final game with the Jaguars, but what about the coaching situation down there? Do you think you’ll be covering a coaching search in the offseason?

DiRocco: It may look to outsiders that Gus Bradley should be on the hot seat after a 4-11 season that included an 0-8 start, but he’s just as secure in his job as Bill Belichick, Andy Reid and Pete Carroll are theirs. Owner Shad Khan knew this was going to be a rough season because he, Caldwell and Bradley agreed to essentially blow things up and start over. The Jaguars’ roster is the least talented in the league, and it’s also one of the youngest. Caldwell is committed to building through the draft (the Jags have 10 picks in the 2014 draft) and Bradley is on board with that. The first priority is finding a quarterback, which likely will be done in May. Now, if the Jaguars are still only able to manage single-digit victories three seasons from now, Bradley would be in trouble.

Did Chuck Pagano use QB Andrew Luck correctly this season? Even with the Reggie Wayne injury, shouldn’t Luck have been throwing it all over the place?

Wells: The Colts put a heavy emphasis on being a power-running team this season. Any thought of that happening basically ended when Ahmad Bradshaw was lost for the season with a neck injury after the Week 3 game against the San Francisco 49ers. The Colts became a team that simply wanted to be able to run the football, and they weren’t going to let anybody stop them from trying to do it. They’ve gained at least 104 yards in 10 games this season, with the idea of helping ease the burden on Luck’s shoulders. Luck’s passing yards are down from his rookie season, but he has had a better overall second year. His completion percentage is up and his interceptions are down. It didn’t seem that would happen after Wayne was lost for the season and there wasn’t much continuity with the rest of the receiving group outside of T.Y. Hilton. Have you ever heard of Da'Rick Rogers? But Luck’s faith and trust with his receivers has improved each week because he has put in the time with them in practice.

The quarterback situation in Jacksonville is still a mess. Will the Jags look to upgrade the position in the offseason or will Blaine Gabbert get another shot?

DiRocco: I mentioned it briefly above, but finding a franchise quarterback is the No. 1 priority and I believe the Jaguars will select one with their first-round pick. ESPN Insider Todd McShay’s first mock draftInsider had them selecting Johnny Manziel, which would certainly make them relevant nationally and bring some excitement to the franchise. Teddy Bridgewater is still an option, too, depending on how the draft plays out. The Jaguars also could opt to go defense in the first round and take a QB in the second. Regardless of their approach, I’d be stunned if the team doesn’t draft a quarterback. Gabbert’s days in Jacksonville are done.

Denver isn’t a lock to win the AFC, by any means. How do you break down the Colts’ chances in the playoffs?

Wells: Health, continued improvement from the receivers, the defense forcing turnovers and having a running game are the biggest keys for the Colts in the playoffs. I believe it’s a two-team race between Denver and New England in the AFC, but both teams have their flaws and are beatable. The Colts are in a situation where they could finish anywhere from the No. 2 seed to the No. 4 seed. They’ve been able to overcome the loss of Wayne to be in the position to possibly match their win total of 11 games from last season, but I think it’s in the playoffs -- possibly in the second round if they get there -- that the Colts will miss Wayne’s talent and experience.

 
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell said he regrets telling a national radio audience that all indications are that the franchise is headed toward relocating to London, possibly as soon as the next few years.

Speaking Wednesday morning on Jacksonville radio station 1010XL (AM 1010), Brunell said he got caught up in the moment during a segment on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike on Tuesday morning and wishes he could take back what he said because his comments angered a lot of Jaguars fans.

"I certainly caused quite a stir and upset a lot of Jaguars fans," Brunell said. "Let me tell you guys: I regret those comments. A poor choice of words. I had an opportunity up there to speak to all that [Jaguars owner] Shad Khan has done in this community, his investments, and his plans, and all the great things that are going on with the Jacksonville Jaguars and I didn’t do it. That certainly will not happen again.

[+] EnlargeMark Brunell
AP Photo/Jason DeCrowFormer Jaguars QB Mark Brunell angered fans Tuesday when he said "all indications are that we're headed" toward the Jaguars relocating to London.
"Obviously all of us, we want the Jaguars to stay in Jacksonville and I do not want this team to leave. I love this team. I love the franchise. I love the direction it’s heading in. I love this community. I think I got caught up a little bit. My quote, my comment, was all indications are that the team is heading in that direction towards London, but, really those were comments based on what’s being said and what the perspective is outside this community. Inside this community, of course we all know what’s going to be going on the next few years with the stadium renovations and all that, so [I made a] poor choice of words."

Brunell, who is paid by the Jaguars to do a weekly radio show and as an analyst on preseason television broadcasts, went on to say he will correct those comments whenever he gets another opportunity in his role as an NFL analyst with ESPN.

"I regret it," said Brunell, who is going to be inducted into the team's Pride of the Jaguars on Dec. 15. "I’d love to have it back. I upset a lot of people and that certainly was not my intention and I feel terrible about it. I wish I could do it all over again. It’s unfortunate.

"I know this may not heal a lot of the wounds but I’m thankful for the opportunity to share those thoughts."

During his Tuesday morning appearance on Mike & Mike, co-host Mike Golic asked Brunell if he thought the Jaguars topped the list of franchises that could move to Los Angeles or London. Brunell’s response angered Jaguars fans, who took to Twitter to criticize one of the most beloved players in franchise history.

"You know, it wouldn’t surprise me," Brunell said. "I hate to say it, but we’ve got an owner in Shad Khan that’s bought the soccer team over there and all indications are that we’re headed that way. It’s not good for Jacksonville. You don’t hear a lot of that talk in Jacksonville right now but everywhere else, someone mentioned it the other day it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars of London. I want them to stay. That’s my home. I love the franchise. I love the organization, but it wouldn’t surprise anybody if in a few years it happened."

However, Khan has said several times he is committed to Jacksonville and he has already spent $11 million on improvements to the Jaguars’ weight room, locker room, and training facility. Earlier this month the team announced Khan is contributing $20 million toward $63 million in stadium improvements that include two new video scoreboards and an interactive area inside the stadium that will include a pool. That brings Khan’s total investment since he purchased the team to $31 million.

Brunell's comments irk Jags fans

October, 29, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell is one of the most beloved players in franchise history, but he riled up some fans during a Tuesday morning appearance on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike show with comments about the team moving to London.

"You know, it wouldn’t surprise me," Brunell said when Mike Golic asked him if he thought the Jaguars topped the list of franchises that could move to Los Angeles or London. "I hate to say it, but we’ve got an owner in Shad Khan that’s bought the soccer team over there and all indications are that we’re headed that way. It’s not good for Jacksonville. You don’t hear a lot of that talk in Jacksonville right now but everywhere else, someone mentioned it the other day it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars of London. I want them to stay. That’s my home. I love the franchise. I love the organization, but it wouldn’t surprise anybody if in a few years it happened."

Those comments stirred up fans on Twitter, so much so that Brunell, who was recently hired by ESPN as an NFL analyst, posted a response shortly after 3 p.m. EST.



Brunell -- who is paid by the Jaguars to do a weekly radio show and as a color commentator on preseason TV broadcasts -- is right about one thing, though: There isn’t much talk around Jacksonville of the Jaguars heading to London. That’s because of the significant investments that Khan has already made in the facilities and has pledged to make to the stadium.

Khan spent $11 million on improvements to the weight room, locker room, and training facility and earlier this month the team announced Khan is contributing $20 million toward $63 million in stadium improvements, that include two new video scoreboards and an interactive area inside the stadium that will include a pool. That brings Khan’s total investment since he purchased the team to $31 million.

That’s a significant amount of money for someone to sink into facilities and a stadium, and it seems unlikely that Khan -- whose net worth as of September 2013 is $3.8 billion, according to Forbes -- would invest that much only to move the team.

Khan did purchase the Fulham Football Club of the English Premier League in July and is using each franchise to help cross-promote the other, especially with the Jaguars being committed to playing one game in London’s Wembley Stadium in each of the next three seasons.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said last week that he wants to put franchises in Los Angeles and London and said he doesn’t care which happens first. However, Los Angeles still doesn’t have a stadium or ownership group in place and there are significant financial issues to work out for a London franchise, including tax implications for players, and numerous players around the NFL have gone on record saying they wouldn’t play for a team in London.

That means either city getting a team in the near future appears highly unlikely.

It also means Brunell may not get as warm a reception as he deserves when he is inducted into the Pride of the Jaguars at halftime of the Dec. 15 home game against Buffalo.

Brunell played nine years in Jacksonville (1995-2003) and still owns or shares 23 franchise passing records, including career passing yards (25,698), single-season passing yards (4,367 in 1996), single-game passing yards (432 vs. New England in 1996), touchdown passes (144), and 300-yard passing games (six).

He led the NFL in passing in 1996 and helped guide the Jaguars to an improbable playoff run to the AFC Championship Game in just the franchise’s second season. Brunell led the Jaguars to a franchise-best 14-2 regular season and another appearance in the AFC title game in 1999. He is a three-time Pro Bowler and was the game’s MVP in 1997.

"I was very fortunate," Brunell said when his induction was announced. "I’m a firm believer that to do well as a quarterback in the NFL you’ve got to have good people around you. From the first day that I stepped foot in Jacksonville, I was very thankful that I had very good people around me, starting with the head coach in Tom Coughlin, a great coaching staff, and like I said great teammates like Tony [Boselli], Fred [Taylor] and the list goes on and on."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars' 2014 home schedule includes several pretty good draws, but it could have been even better had the NFL not moved the premier game to London.

In addition to regular division opponents, the Jaguars will play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and the AFC East team that finishes in the same spot in the division that the Jaguars finish in the AFC South. The Jaguars also have a home game against the Dallas Cowboys, but the NFL announced Thursday morning the Cowboys would be the opponent the Jaguars will play in London.

"It’s a strong schedule from both a competitive standpoint and from a fans’ perspective, and we hope to continue building and improving in both ways," owner Shad Khan said in a statement. "We’re also pleased to face the Cowboys in London in our second game at Wembley Stadium."

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Wednesday night that the NFL wants to match the Jaguars with a marquee franchise when the team plays in London the next three years. Because the Cowboys were the biggest draw on the home schedule and owner Jerry Jones has wanted to bring his team to London, the league made that the game that will be played at Wembley Stadium next season.

Playing a home game in London is good for the Jaguars from a financial standpoint. The revenue they receive from ticket sales there is more than what they'd receive from a home game because Wembley Stadium seats about 20,000 more fans. But certainly the Jaguars would rather have played the Cowboys -- the country’s most popular NFL team, according to a recent story in SportsBusinessDaily -- at EverBank Field.

Though the Jaguars haven’t had a blackout since 2009, the team could certainly use an attendance boost. The Jaguars have lost 28 of their past 35 games heading into Sunday’s game against San Francisco in London, and that includes a 5-15 record at home.

A visit from the Cowboys undoubtedly would have generated a lot of excitement and resulted in a packed house.

Still, having the Steelers on the home schedule is beneficial. The Steelers were the Jaguars’ opponent in two of Jacksonville's four best-attended home games in franchise history, including the record of 76,877 on Dec. 5, 2004.

In addition to division opponents, the Jaguars' road opponents will be Baltimore, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Washington, and an AFC West team.

The NFL will announce dates and times for all games in the spring.

Q&A: Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell

October, 23, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Some leftover soundbites from a recent conversation with Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell on his team-building philosophy:

How would you describe what you are trying to build in Jacksonville with the Jaguars?

Dave Caldwell:
Shad Khan is very passionate about this team and this city. When I interviewed here, he gave me the opportunity to interview other places before he offered me the job. His thought was "I want you to want to be here, and I want you to be part of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the community here. I think if you go explore other opportunities, you’re going to realize that." He was right. My heart was here. Same with Coach [Gus} Bradley. He had the opportunity to stay in Seattle. There were a couple other jobs he could have gone for, or waited another year, but he wanted to be a part of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He wanted to be here with Shad, [president] Mark Lamping, myself, and the team we have here. We want people who want to be here. That’s our mindset. I think we’re slowly getting it to a point where people are going to want to come here. With our head coach and our coaching staff, I’d be hard-pressed to find a better situation. Conversely, when people leave here, we want it to be a difficult decision for them, kind of like it was for me when I left Atlanta. That was difficult, but it was difficult for the right reasons. Same thing, I want to treat our guys like Thomas [Dimitroff] treated me and if it’s a great opportunity, let’s get you that job. Let’s get coordinators head-coaching jobs, but let’s make it difficult because this is a great spot.

Why is Gus Bradley the right coach to lead the Jaguars, and for you as a co-builder of this franchise?

[+] EnlargeJacksonville's Dave Caldwell
AP Photo/John Raoux"We've made the commitment to build [the Jaguars] through the draft. Thats part of the reason I took this job," GM Dave Caldwell said.
DC: The biggest thing is that he cares. Not just about being successful, but he cares about his people, he cares about his assistant coaches, he cares about his players. Not just from a professional standpoint, but from a personal standpoint. He is extremely genuine. When he speaks to you, or he speaks to a player, he’s not concerned about anything else going around. He’s not looking for his next conversation. He makes you feel like you’re the most important person at that time. I think that’s very important, when he’s talking to players, or coaches, whoever that might be, he has their full attention and they have his full attention. You saw that really quickly in the interview -- he is as genuine of a person as I’ve been around. He’s highly passionate. Highly competitive. He was willing to take a chance. When I said we’re going to build this through the draft, and play young guys early on, he was all for it. Throughout the interview process, our philosophies just aligned very quickly. Same with Shad. When Shad interviewed me, it was about continuous improvement. I said "that’s what I’m looking for." When I interviewed Gus, it was about getting better. Shad’s belief, all the way through, was about continuous improvement. The three of us were on the same page with that. That’s how we felt we needed to get better. That process was really good. I think it’s worked out well.

What have you focused on when it comes to hiring people around Gus and in scouting?

DC: I am a first-time general manager and Gus a first-time head coach, so there was a thought of "let’s use this as an opportunity to give other people their first opportunity." Marcus Pollard was a guy who we said, "let’s give him an opportunity" knowing he was going to have to grow into his role and become an expert in that role. A lot of our coaches -- Jedd Fisch, first-time offensive coordinator, Mike Mallory, first-time special-teams coordinator. [Assistant special-teams coach] Matt Smiley, we brought from college. [Quality control coach] Tony Sorrentino, we brought from college. We have a lot of youth. We have a lot of energy. Coach Bradley wanted great teachers, passion, and guys who were excited about being here. That was the biggest thing for us. That’s kind of what we did throughout the entire organization. Kyle O’Brien, college director. I felt like that if I was given my first opportunity, I could pay it back to people where it was important for them. That’s kind of how we approached this from a building and culture standpoint, and it’s been good. I love coming in here on daily basis with the camaraderie we have here.

How would you describe your approach of building the roster?

DC: We’ve made the commitment to build this through the draft. That’s part of the reason I took this job. Everybody says "I want to build through the draft, I want to build through the draft" but only a select number of them actually commit to it. I firmly believe in doing it. I know we’re going to go through some adversity doing that, but in the long-term, you’ll see success through it. Obviously, we have to pick the right players. I feel like that’s the way to do it, and I felt like this was a market we could do that. The owner is committed to doing it. The head coach is committed to doing it. That’s what we’re going to do. I’m not very patient, so sometimes I tell Shad and Gus, "remind me how we’re going to do this." We’re convicted in our beliefs in doing it. I think it can work here. One thing about Jacksonville, they’re passionate. The perception that maybe the nation has is not accurate, these fans are passionate. They love their Jaguars. It’s a very similar feel to growing up in Buffalo. That city loves their football team. They live and die with them. I feel very similar to the fans here, and the passion that the fans here have.
David Fleming takes a wonderful look at the progress and state of analytics in the NFL in this ESPN The Magazine piece that is well worth your while.

One especially interesting element covers how an analytics department like the one in Jacksonville is working to be integrated into the operation.

One member of an NFC front office told Fleming: "These guys are convinced the data should sell itself. It won't. They either have to learn coachspeak or get used to being ignored."

Tony Khan, son of Jaguars owner Shad Khan, and the Harvard alum he hired, Daniel Alder, have done increasingly good work in that area. And most importantly, their work flows two directions. While they can take stuff to coach Gus Bradley, Bradley or a member of his staff is now just as likely to make a request.

"All we've ever asked for was an audience," Adler says. "We've got that. Now the challenge isn't to come up with the perfect football stat -- that would be impossible and paralyzing -- but to challenge the conventional wisdom while maintaining people's trust."

Here is a coach coming to Tony Khan and Adler:
Before camp started, offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch asked the analytics department about practice schedules: Did the amount of time the team dedicated each day to individual game situations correlate to how frequently they come up in actual games? For example, were they burning 20 percent of their practice time on fourth-and-goal when it occurs only 1 percent of the time in games?

In his hands a few weeks later, Fisch had a report detailing every NFL play of the past five seasons. The first thing he noticed was the frequency, and importance, of second-and-long, a game situation that is often overlooked. So Fisch adjusted his planning, hoping to improve tempo, efficiency and performance.

Smart stuff.

Jaguars guarantee no blackouts

July, 25, 2013
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NFL fans who don’t pay close attention to the details love to use the Jacksonville Jaguars as a punchline over attendance issues. EverBank Field is unlikely to be filled on a regular basis as the team looks to dig out of a 2-14 season.

But critics looking for a blackout poster boy will have to steer clear of North Florida. The team hasn’t had a blackout since Dec. 13, 2009.

While ticket sales are off last year’s pace and expensive club seats don’t count in the blackout equation, team president Mark Lamping has guaranteed that every game will be on local TV this season.

From Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union:
“(Lamping) can make that guarantee because teams can write a check for 34 percent of the cost of the unsold non-premium seats to avoid blackouts.

Last year, the Jaguars sold all of the non-premium seats and didn’t have to buy any.

“We’re not planning on doing that this year, either,’’ Lamping said. “First, there won’t be any blackouts. We can put that aside. Our goal last year was not to buy any tickets. That’s our goal this year and we’re going to do everything we possibly can to achieve that.’’

No blackouts and no ticket issues are not the same thing. And with the games on TV, empty swaths of seats in the club areas don’t look good.

You won’t hear any talk from inside team headquarters complaining about the challenges of the market.

Stellino cites a message owner Shad Khan delivered recently about that possibility.

“I think it’s not about Jacksonville. It’s about leadership of the Jaguars,’’ Khan said. “We’ve got to have the value proposition so the fans want to come out and support the team. I put it all on the leadership of the team. We’ve got to reach out to the fans [and say], ‘Please come out and spend your hard-earned money on us.’’’
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Young players who will need to offer the Texans depth are one concern as camp approaches, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

McClain is amazed over how much heat Matt Schaub has taken for the Texans' late-season struggles and playoff failure in New England.

Sorting through outside linebackers with Patrick Starr of State of the Texans.

Indianapolis Colts

Five questions facing the Colts as training camp approaches, from Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Offensive tackle Ben Ijalana has a healthy left knee and, like his bosses and fans of the team, is eager to see what he’s got to offer, says Chappell.

Assessing the running backs on the Colts with Marcus Dugan of Colts Authority.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Depth behind Marcedes Lewis at tight end is a concern for the Jacksonville Jaguars, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

Front office executive Mark Lamping has been a major addition, says John Oehser of the team’s website.

Lamping has already been named to the board of Shad Khan's newest franchise, Fulham of the English Premiere League, says Cole Pepper on his blog.

Tennessee Titans

Damian Williams and Alterraun Verner recently visited Guatemala, a perspective-changing trip for the two Titans, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Previewing the cornerbacks heading into camp with Wyatt.

Some thoughts about new defensive tackle Sammie Hill from Tom Gower of Total Titans.

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