Tony Boselli once again feels the energy.
Not that there wasn’t passion for the Jaguars in 2011, but Boselli – the Jaguars’ former All-Pro left tackle – is the Commissioner of Team Teal. In that role, Boselli is about promoting the Jaguars and the NFL in Jacksonville, and he said circumstances last year made achieving the objective difficult.
That year is over, and Boselli said one thing has become increasingly clear:
This year is about change, and in this case, change is very good.
“Once again the excitement and the passion of the fan base is very evident,” Boselli said. “As much buzz as we were able to create with Team Teal (in past years), it’s exponentially more now.”
Boselli said that was clear Monday night at the 2012 Team Teal Kickoff, the first official Team Teal Event since Shahid Khan took over as the Jaguars’ owner early last month. New Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey spoke and introduced the Jaguars’ coaching staff at the event, which drew more than 2,000 people to EverBank Field on a chilly evening in mid-February.
“No football had been going on for a while, but people were excited,” said Boselli, who also this week helped announced a new ticket sales initiative that will pay season-ticket holders $25 for each general bowl referral and $100 for each club seat referral.
Boselli said while the Jaguars have not had a game blacked out locally since 2009, multiple factors made last off-season difficult. One was the NFL lockout, and another was uncertainty and dissatisfaction from some fans over the head coaching situation.
Those circumstances and others around the Jaguars have changed.
The NFL and the NFL players Association last off-season negotiated 10 years of labor peace, and Boselli said while that has helped the Team Teal Initiative, the biggest positive in the push has been the atmosphere of change around the franchise.
Boselli said Khan has brought an air of energy and excitement to the fan base, and that the fan base also is enthusiastic about the addition of Mularkey, who spent the past four seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons before joining the Jaguars on January 11.
“There’s a lot of hope in the fan base right now,” Boselli said. “It’s much easier. A lot of fans for the last couple of years have been, ‘C’mon, we’re ready for change. We want something new.’ The addition of Mike Mularkey energized the fan base and it would have energized the fan base if there had been no ownership change.”
Boselli said it’s also impossible to overestimate Khan’s impact.
“He has a bigger-than-life personality,” Boselli said. “The excitement and the commitment to the market he has shown and spoken about – it brings the excitement to another level in terms of thinking about the future and getting this franchise playing for championships.”
Boselli, perhaps the most high-profile of former Jaguars players in the Jacksonville community, said the change in fans’ attitude is evident well beyond planned events. Boselli said the first year of Team Teal, 2010, generated excitement and energy and last year – because of the lockout – many of his conversations with fans on a daily basis were “about people being mad.”
“This year, it’s about hope and about looking forward to the future, and about Shad Khan and about Mike Mularkey,” Boselli said, adding that Khan “is all about fan experience.”
“He wants to create a great fan experience for Sunday afternoons at EverBank Field,” Boselli said of Khan. “He knows that’s about what fans experience on game day, but also the product that’s put on the field, the football side. The game-day experience is only going to be so good if you don’t win more than you lose.
“You need both sides. One of my favorite likes Shad has said is, ‘The Jaguars need the fans and the fans need the Jaguars. It’s a two-way street. We need each other.”
And Boselli said with that in mind there is a new objective for Team Teal and the Jaguars. While during past years the focus was on avoiding blackouts, Boselli said higher goals are appropriate now.
“We’ve raised the bar,” said Boselli, who said about 1,000 new tickets have been sold compared to around half of that at this time last year.
“It’s not just about making sure there are no blackouts. That was nice for the last couple of years, but we want to sell the place out. We want every seat filled and to really create the home-field advantage we had for so long here and make it one of the toughest places to play in the NFL.”