Jaguars Future in Jacksonville Murky

Once OTA's are completed, sometimes not by the team's choice, it becomes time for the media to manufacture "dead zone" stories. Each and every year about this time, the national media begins to examine the Jaguars future in Jacksonville and the news is always tough for Jaguars fans to bear.

It's impossible to argue the fact that Jaguars fans haven't kept up their end of the bargain in terms of ticket purchases. Last season, the Jaguars had nearly all of their home games blacked out at the average home attendance figure of 49,651 (according to ranked them 30th of 32 teams.

When Jacksonville was awarded an NFL franchise back in 1993 it was under the assumption that a growing area would have to overachieve, and just like anything new, the passion was there in the first couple seasons as the team saw capacity crowds in the then nearly 77,000 seat Alltel Stadium. During 1999, the Jaguars most successful season to date, attendance figures dipped despite the team being one of the NFL's elite- a certain sign of trouble.

Attendance figures dipped further throughout the early 2000's as the team went through salary cap issues and averaged just six wins per year from 2000-2004. Then when the team began to improve the on-field product, the attendance still suffered as owner Wayne Weaver had to repeatedly purchase tickets for the team's home games to be televised, despite averaging 10 wins per year from 2004-2007.

With the idea that a new stadium near the city of Los Angeles is becoming more and more evident, the nation's second-largest market will get someone's football team. First you have to look to the teams that don't sell out, and despite having better attendance figures last year than the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders, the Jacksonville Jaguars are on everyone's short list.

Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver has attested time and time again that he has no interest in moving his franchise to California or anywhere but Jacksonville. Still, how long will the NFL and Weaver continue to have egg on their collective faces as television cameras pan up on a kickoff or punts and there's virtually nothing but empty seats and tarps?

CBS Sports columnist Mike Freeman, a former Florida Times-Union writer weighed in on the Jaguars ticket situation.

"Jaguars fans are among the most underrated in the NFL for their passion and football knowledge but cash strapped is cash strapped. The money and populace just aren't there," Freeman said.

Freeman's story caused Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk fame to give his opinion.

Florio claims that the Jaguars made a big ticket sales mistake by spurning Gator fans everywhere and not selecting Tim Tebow with their first-round draft pick. Florio claimed that the only reason the Jaguars took defensive tackle Tyson Alualu with the 10th overall selection is because they were afraid to trade down and take him later on, closer to Tebow, only to further anger the fanbase. He alleges that the selection of Tebow would fill the seats for years, as the hometown favorite is loved by all.

As a person that covers the team and does a radio show in the area, I believe with every fiber of my being that Florio is wrong on every single account. The reason the Jaguars took Tyson Alualu with the 10th overall pick is because he was the best available player on their board and a team source told me that he was "unbelievable on film." I can assure you that Tim Tebow was never in their plans. Jacksonville had a scout at each of his games and never invited him for a private workout.

As far as Tebow selling tickets, I held several polls on my radio show and an overwhelming majority of even the most hardcore Gator fans declared that they wouldn't purchase season tickets if their beloved hero played for the hometown team. To put it simply, nobody that didn't previously have tickets are going to purchase tickets to see a backup quarterback hold a clipboard.

As far as the economy affecting ticket sales, that's an absolute fact. It's a fact that more greatly affects a city with a populous of approximately 1.2 million than a city like Detroit with about five million.

There's no doubt that true Jaguars fans are as hardcore as any and are extremely passionate about their team. Unfortunately, many of the football fans in the immediate area have ties to the teams that play in cities which they are from and there doesn't seem to be enough homegrown Jaguars fans to keep the turnstiles clicking at a pace that will equate to profitability at the NFL standard.

Jaguars fans, this is your time to shine. You always talk about wanting your team to show up on Sunday's, it's now time for you to show up as well. If you don't, the Sunday Ticket will be the closest thing you get to professional football in your town again.

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