The Jacksonville Jaguars continue their efforts to campaign for support in the state of Florida. With competition in the NFL in the likes of the Tampa Bay Bucs and Miami Dolphins, the Jags have had their work cut out for them since the beginning. Plus, Florida also produces three of the top college football programs in the country in Florida, Florida State and Miami and of course the University of Georgia is not too far away either.
Nevertheless, the Jags are making use of their best marketing tool available – ex: Florida Gators. The Jaguars have had several of the top Gators over the last decade stay in Florida to play for the Jacksonville franchise. Such players as future NFL Hall of Fame RB Fred Taylor. DE Jeremy Mincey and new head coach Mike Mularkey are also both former Florida Gators players.
Now, the Jaguars are resting their hopes in Gainesville being the football city that it is before these whispers of moving to L.A. potentially become open discussion.
Despite the ugly news of Justin Blackmon’s aggravated DUI and drinking issues, the Jags sent a caravan to Gainesville to help spark more interest for the franchise in a city where football is everything.
Taylor commented on the franchise’s efforts in Gainesville, “I think (the Jaguars can get a foothold in Gainesville). The fan base is tremendous. As the organization continues to grow and establish the tradition we’re looking for, a lot of it is going to come from right here in this region, this area. We need the support, definitely.”
The Florida Gators program has been a big part of the Jaguars’ short franchise history. In total, there have been 10 Florida University alums to play for Jacksonville in the 17-years since inception.
There’s reason to believe the Jaguars can spark the interest they’re searching for. The fans are there as evidenced by the 72,363 that crammed their stadium, which had a normal capacity of 67,246, to witness their first regular season game in 1995 (a 10-3 loss to the Oilers). There are the 71,139 who attended their first home playoff game in 1998 to see a 25-10 playoff win over the Patriots. And the 75,173 who watched the AFC’s No. 1 seed, the 14-2 Jaguars, drum the Dolphins 62-7 in 1999.
It would’ve been hard to imagine these tough times were coming when about 40,000 diehard Jaguar fans watched their team beat the Broncos 30-27 in Denver from the JumboTrons of then-Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, then slept there until morning came to welcome them home.
The difference now is, those same fans don’t have as much to cheer about.
After four straight playoff appearances from 1996-1999 that included an AFC Championship appearance, the Jaguars have only made the playoffs two of the last 13 years. Since 2000, the team’s biggest win came in 2007 in a thrilling 31-29 win over the Steelers during Wild Card weekend.
This caravan campaign may be more crucial than ever before as the NFL appears determined to place a new franchise in Los Angeles. There have been rumors that the Jaguars are among the teams considered to relocate to L.A. If the team can’t revert Florida residents back to the support their showed the franchise in the mid-to-late 90′s, these rumors could turn into reality very quickly.
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