PHOENIX – Shad Khan knows the process may not be quick.
The Jaguars’ owner also says he knows this journey he, new General Manager David Caldwell, new Head Coach Gus Bradley and the franchise are now on likely won’t be easy.
But Khan said he’s very much OK with that. In that same vein, he said he absolutely favors the Jaguars’ approach to the 2013 offseason: participating minimally in free agency and focusing instead on building through the draft.
“I like it, I endorse it and highly support it,” Khan said late Monday afternoon during a break at the NFL’s 2013 spring meetings. “They (Bradley and Caldwell) are pretty much doing everything the right way.
“One thing I’ve learned in life is that when you get to a fork in the road – the easy way or the hard way – most of the time the hard way is the right way.”
The Jaguars, after spending more than $141 million in real cash last season, finished 2-14, with Khan in January hiring Caldwell as general manager and Bradley as the head coach.
Khan spoke upon hiring Caldwell of the need to build through the draft, and Caldwell has said often since that that will be the approach, with free agency – at least this year – largely avoided, particularly when it comes to high-priced free agents.
The team has followed that plan in the first week of the 2013 free agency period, signing four players – linebacker
The team also opted to not re-sign cornerback Derek Cox, releasing veterans such as wide receiver Laurent Robinson, safety Dawan Landry and cornerback Aaron Ross.
Khan said while studying the league during his first year as owner it became apparent that the teams that win consistently over time typically do so by drafting well and for the most part staying out of high-priced free agency.
“You come to the conclusion because you look at the teams that are successful,” Khan said. “How did they get there? It’s taken a year. I might have a viewpoint, but quite frankly, I want to verify. I want to really get a reality check from some of the more successful teams.
“If you look at the NFL, it’s very difficult to win games, but there are teams that are consistently successful over time. And some – regrettably we would fall into it – have consistently been unsuccessful. What are the lessons? That is a key lesson learned: you have to suck it up.
“I think free agency is very appropriate to filling some critical holes. I think we proved last year that you can spend the fourth-highest and have the worst record in the league. You have to build a team and the fill – to get to the next stage, the playoffs, that’s where free agency makes sense.”
Khan during a lengthy interview with jaguars.com and the Florida Times-Union discussed extensively his confidence in the people now leading the Jaguars, particularly the trio of Caldwell, Bradley and team president Mark Lamping.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the right approach, and Dave and Gus are the right people for the Jaguars at this stage of their life,” he said. “They’re absolutely the right people.”
Here’s more of the discussion with Khan at the NFL owners meetings this week:
Q: How big of a difference do you feel now compared to your first spring meetings, this time last year?
A: It’s huge. I came here and had just been approved (for ownership). I had met some of the other owners, but I think over the year I’ve gotten to know everybody and what some of the challenges are facing the league. How do the Jacksonville fans benefit? That’s the most important thing.
Q. You like being here, talking to other owners, don’t you?
A. That’s really a privilege. A smart man learns from experience. A wise man learns from the other guy’s experience. What a privilege it is to be here with the owners. I like to hear where they came from, what are some of the challenges. Today, the league is at such a high level, but I think it’s still far, far from where it can be. That’s where I end up spending most of the time here, talking to the other owners.
Q: You seem to have the support of most fans in your approach to free agency. How pleasing is that?
A:It’s very gratifying. We need fan support or our team can’t exist. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the right approach, and Dave and Gus are the right people for the Jaguars are this stage of their life. They’re absolutely the right people. I can say this with a huge amount of confidence. I felt from the football side the most important decision I was going to make was the general manager – a, do you make a change?; and b, who that person is. Absolutely I think Dave is and was the right guy. He’s doing the right things. They practice what they preach. They’re walking the walk and talking the talk.
Q: In what way?
A: How you evaluate players, the philosophy. Their actions are matching their words. I think it’s very important that you see what their background is, what they have done. Does it match what their feelings are? And obviously over the last three months you see if it correlates.
Q: You’ve talked some about being able to reach out to other owners about many things over the first year. Surprised at their willingness to offer insight and share?
A: I haven’t been surprised. I’d met a lot of them before, and frankly, it’s just verified the whole experience. They were very helpful to me, so maybe the surprise was before I got into the league how welcome and how helpful they were.
Q:How confident are you that
A: It takes two to tango. I think it’s very, very important for him and obviously for us for him to be healthy and have a good year. Then, it’s mutual, but I think we want to do the right thing for him.
Q:Is the best case for the proposed videoboards the 2014 season?
A: That’s the best case. That’s what we’re shooting for.
Q: Have you gotten good response from the city?
A: Let’s see what happens. We’re going to spend Wednesday in Tallahassee supporting the city effort. I think it’s important for the Jaguars, but I think it’s even more important for the city of Jacksonville to have a differentiating feature, something that is a destination. It would help (EverBank Field), help the Florida-Georgia game. In the last 30 days, we’ve had at least four events that had nothing to do with us – huge events – so this makes Jacksonville a destination and makes it absolutely stand out. I think it’s on the right track, but it’s not going to happen until it happens.
Q: Are you pleased thus far with the team’s approach on the business side?
A: We’re doing everything we can to be relevant and successful in Jacksonville. That’s what we’re doing. That’s why we started all the initiatives last year. One thing fans cannot say is we’re taking them for granted. We want to go out and earn their support every day.
Q: What sort of feedback have you received this week regarding the series of games in London?
A: It’s incredible. It’s very, very good. It’s ideal. It’s helping Jacksonville. It’s helping the league. It’s perfect. In any business, when there isn’t enough demand for whatever reason, you have to create the demand. When there isn’t, you have to be able to reduce the capacity. This is the perfect way to do that and at the same time, raise the profile of Jacksonville and develop more fans for the Jaguars. It’s about as win-win a proposition as you can get. Everything we’ve done since that initiative has borne out.