On a recent Sunday, something unusual happened. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ offense put together a quality drive, one that ended with a touchdown by running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
It’s unusual because it was the first time all season the Jaguars scored two touchdowns in a quarter.
Unfortunately, those were the only points the team scored against the Arizona Cardinals on Nov. 17, and it ended up as another loss.
It hasn’t been easy for Jaguars fans, but many remain faithful.
Richard Halstead loves football and moved to Jacksonville about six years ago.
And then there are the diehards. And yes, even the Jaguars have diehards.
Mark and Mike Whaley are brothers from the Daytona Beach area who have been taking the hour-and-a-half-long drive up I-95 to every home game since the Jaguars joined the NFL.
True fans look for better days ahead and Mike Whaley admits the season is now all about where the team will be drafting next spring.
“Everybody expects a better future,” he said. “But, you know, we’re still fans. It doesn’t matter. We support them when they lose. We support them when they win. We’re fans.”
“That’s what loyalty is all about,” Mark said. “When you’re loyal you stay there.”
Optimism and loyalty from long-time season ticket holders is predictable, but the Jaguars’ more casual fans are less enthusiastic. Longtime Jacksonville sportscaster Cole Pepper says they now spend Sunday afternoon on the couch.
“They say, ‘You know what? I’m not spending a nickel of my money on this team until they show me something better. I’ll watch them on TV. I will hope that they win. I’ll talk about them at work on Monday morning. But I’m not spending a nickel of my money to support the team or to put myself in the stadium where I can’t just turn off the TV and go into the next room if the game gets bad.’”
But Pepper says there are reasons for optimism. Players and fans have responded to the positive energy of new head coach Gus Bradley, and general manager David Caldwell’s first draft was, by most accounts, a success.
The team and city are also working to make the stadium experience more enjoyable. Recently the Jacksonville City Council and the Jaguars agreed to $64 million in stadium improvements, including what are being called the largest scoreboards in the world, which will stretch completely across each end zone. They’ll be installed by the start of the 2014 season.
Jaguars Team President Mark Lamping admits such amenities may enhance the stadium experience, but the team just needs to win more games.
“We know we’re making progress,” he said. “We know we have the right leadership team in place, and it’s going to take some time. You know the good news is in the NFL things can turn around in a hurry and that’s certainly our hope and our expectation leading into next year.”
For years Jaguars fans have had to put up with sports columnists from around the country insisting the team would soon relocate.
None of those stories turned out to be true.
And diehards like Mike and Mark Whaley say they’ll be ready for the time when their loyalty is rewarded on the field by their beloved Jaguars.