Home-field advantage is nonexistent at EverBank Field for the Jacksonville Jaguars. With Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the team hasn’t won a home game in a full year.
Perhaps even worse, the stadium was filled with opposing fans. More than a half-dozen sections in the north end zone were occupied by purple-clad Vikings fans. This is the second week in a row visiting fans attended as heavily as Jaguars fans.
And once again, those opposing fans left with smiles on their faces. For the Jaguars, it’s the eighth loss in a row.
The losing streak ties the franchise record for a single season, set by head coach Gus Bradley’s regime in 2013.
Between game tickets, parking and concessions for a team they haven’t celebrated victory with since December 2015, season ticket-holders spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each year. For a team that now draws near-equal numbers of opposing fans to its home stadium.
Most of the reasons for hordes of visiting fans are out of the Jaguars’ hands. Jacksonville is a cheap destination for Northerners looking to escape the cold for a week, the team is still one of the newest in the league and many Jacksonvillians are transplants from other areas, perhaps with other loyalties.
However, a poor product on the field has potentially hindered the team from establishing a major fan base, especially outside the Jacksonville area, despite recent boosts in season ticket sales.
The franchise, in its 21st season, has scraped together only seven winning seasons and six playoff appearances. And the biggest rebuild in the franchise’s history has resulted in a 14-47 record over four years and zero postseason appearances.
Maybe this is why team ownership has focused heavily on building a unique, captivating fan experience throughout the stadium … because it’s sure not happening on the field.
Arguably, the biggest takeaway from Sunday was the induction of former wide-receiver Jimmy Smith into the Pride — the team’s hall of fame.
Highlight reels shown during the game of Smith and other former teammates from the late 1990s reminded fans of the Jaguars that used to be.
During the team’s first five seasons, it achieved four winning years and four playoff berths. The 1999 Jaguars was the last squad to bring home a divisional championship.
Since then, fans have had little to smile about. Instead, they have become one of the league’s laughingstocks. When attendance numbers were low years ago, there were jokes about it. Other fans spent years mocking the idea that the team might move to London, despite the unlikeliness of that. Now opponents jeer at the Jaguars’ sloppy play.
Yet season ticket numbers continue climbing as the fan base slowly expands locally.
One has to wonder if the team has reached its fan cap for the time being. After nearly a decade since the last winning record or playoff appearance, how can ownership continue to keep fans engaged and spending money?
This year, we were sold on the completion of the rebuild, on this being the year to steal a first-place spot in a weak division.
Here we sit, at 2-11, eliminated from the postseason once again, another rebuild looming.
Connect with Judson at the Folio Weekly Jag City Facebook page.