The Jacksonville Football Sideshow
The purists might not agree, but there are worse places in the world to watch a football game than EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.
The location offers great weather and beautiful beaches, while the stadium boasts the two biggest HD screens in sports after $63 million in renovations, plus literal in-pool “seating” for lucky fans in the cabana area, where dance music blares and go-go dancers shake their tail feathers. Watching the Jags from this vantage point is sort of like watching football through a filter that turns everything into a 2 Fast 2 Furious montage.
If only the quality of football played by the team offered a quarter of the excitement.
On this past Sunday afternoon in Jacksonville, as the sun bared down on a crowd of over 66,000, the Jaguars lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 17-9. This isn’t really news. The fact that the Jags only lost by eight is, because the Jags hadn’t lost by less than 17 since December 2013. They haven’t won a game in September or October since Week 3 of 2012. The team is 6-31 since owner Shahid Khan’s purchase of the team was finalized, but he’s done a great job of distracting everyone from that fact with gargantuan screens, beautiful dancers, azure pools, and sheer tons of spectacle, from a guy parachuting into the stadium at halftime to mascot Jaxson de Ville cruising the field on a Segway.
Jaxson, of course, made headlines this week after he was photographed holding a sign that read “Towels Carry Ebola,” a taunt aimed at the Steelers fans – who were in abundance on Sunday – and their Terrible Towels, and one that was unquestionably the only thing people will remember from this tepid display of football.
After all, what else are we supposed to talk about? The fact that Toby Gerhart is averaging 2.6 yards per carry? The team’s minus-102 point differential, which has them on pace to eclipse the epically awful 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs’ mark of minus-287? The prevalence of “Save the Ta-Tas” chants on Sunday?
Most NFL franchises treat game day like a rock concert, and the team is always the headliner. But not the Jaguars. They’re the NFL equivalent of an background music, something to listen to while lounging in the pool. Game day in Jacksonville is, presumably, a lot like Friday night at the Landing; ladies get in free to Club Jax, with 2-for-1 wells all night DJ Bortles Service spinning the hits.
The Jaguars are a bad football team. Everybody knows that, including their own fans. But if people keep showing up to the stadium, then what’s the problem? Last Sunday, EverBank was packed, and as I attempted to push my way through a packed concourse, I definitely wasn’t wondering about attendance issues or TV blackouts.
What may be a problem is that at least 60 percent of the fans I saw were wearing Steelers jerseys. It’s well known that Yinzer Nation travels well, but this seemed slightly troubling; eventually, the Jags are going to need their own fans to start showing up, and they’ll need more than drink specials and swimming pools to convince them to do so.
Jacksonville was second-to-last in attendance last year (only Oakland drew less fans), though through two home games in 2014, they’ve moved all the way up to 24th. I suppose that’s progress, and for the time being, Khan’s upgrades appear to be working. Though you have to wonder if fans will stop coming out to games when the novelty wears off, and Jacksonville is forced to highlight a football team that currently has no highlights.
5 Quick Q’s
Will the Redskins change their team name any time soon?
No way. I was at FedEx Field on Monday night and that’s when it really hits you: This isn’t just about tradition, it’s also about money. A lot of money.
The NBA franchise in Washington changed their name in 1997, and nobody batted an eyelash, but about the only thing the two teams have in common is their locale. The Redskins have resided in the nation’s capital since 1937, the year they won their first championship. They won three Super Bowls under Joe Gibbs in a 10-year span from 1982 to 1991, yet they’ve also spent the last 22 years being average at best.
For that reason, the Redskins are nothing if not tradition. They still proudly sing their fight song after touchdowns, flash #HTTR (Hail to the Redskins) on the video screens throughout the game and keep around vivid reminders of days gone by: Out of every 10 jerseys that I saw fans wearing at the game on Monday, roughly eight of them were for players that are not no longer on the team. Aside from Robert Griffin, Joe Theismann, John Riggins, Art Monk, Darrell Green, Clinton Portis and Sean Taylor were all represented.
Why? It’s not just because they’re Hall of Famers – at a Dallas Cowboys game you still see far more Dez Bryant jerseys than Michael Irvin – but because the current iteration of the team doesn’t have many players to sell to fans. The name on the front of the jersey won’t change until the names on the back do.
Is Russell Wilson elite?
Yes, and why is this a debate? Wilson won again on Monday night, upping his perfect record on MNF to 4-0. He has thrown for at least two touchdowns in all four of his starts this year, he’s the only QB to have a passer rating of 99.9 or better in every start this season, he ran for a Monday night record (by a QB) 122 yards against Washington and since his NFL debut in 2012, he has the third-highest QB rating in the league at 102, behind only Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning. Oh, and he won a Super Bowl.
Right now, the only thing Wilson has left to conquer is the stigma against him. He’s a former third-round pick who’s “too short to play quarterback” and though that will factually never change, it’s also why many people may never change their opinions about him. That’s unfortunate for them, because he’s a special player at any height.
Is anyone undefeated?
Nope. After the Bengals and Cardinals both dropped to 3-1 on Sunday, that prematurely ends the pointless debate about whether or not a team will go 16-0 or 19-0 in 2014. It’s only the second time since 1987 that the NFL will enter Week 6 without an undefeated team, with that scenario also occurring just recently in 2010.
Will the Raiders win a game before the Jaguars?
No. Even though Jacksonville is the worst team in the NFL, their schedule already lines up nicely, with upcoming games against the Titans, Browns and Dolphins. If they goose those contests then they’ll be in trouble, but it’s likely that they’ll take a victory lap before Oakland, who faces the suddenly-smiling Chargers in Tony Sparano’s debut as head coach, with games against the Cardinals, Seahawks and Broncos looming. Gulp
Were any NFL players arrested this week?
Nope, we finally got away clean this – oh, dammit, Derrick Shelby.
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