Shad Khan understands the frustration.
Midway through his first season as the Jaguars’ owner, Khan said he understands fans feeling that way – and being angry, upset and confused with what so far has been a disappointing season. He said he feels it, and that he’s also disappointed. But Khan on Wednesday afternoon said this, too:
Now is the time for evaluation, not reaction.
Once that time is done, then it will be time to determine how to fix what needs fixing.
“At this point, I’m just evaluating,” Khan said told a small group of local media at EverBank Field late Wednesday afternoon.
“To me, the worst thing is knee-jerk, emotional reaction,” Khan added during an hour-long conversation that covered a variety of topics, including the benefits of the Jaguars playing a home game in London’s Wembley Stadium each of the next four regular seasons.
“Let me quote Einstein here, the definition of insanity, ‘Doing the same thing over, and expecting different results.’ If you have a losing season, what are the changes that are being done that will change the organization?”
Khan, who built automobile parts manufacturer Flex-N-Gate into a multi-billion dollar corporation, said while he understands fans want changes now, not later, his focus is on making the correct long-term decisions.
“I want to see where we are as an organization,” Khan said. “There are certain companies and organizations that win over time. There are certain companies and organizations that lose over time. It doesn’t matter if it’s auto parts or football.
“The most important thing for me is that this becomes an organization that wins over time.”
Khan, who took over as owner January 4, 2012, shortly thereafter hired Mike Mularkey as head coach. Through the offseason, there was optimism that with a largely new offensive coaching staff the team would be significantly improved from a 5-11 record last season. Instead, the team has lost five consecutive games since a Week 3 loss at Indianapolis, and for the season, they have lost four home games by a cumulative 126-34.
“Everybody here wants to win,” Khan said. “There’s nobody here who’s happy with the results. We want to win.”
The Jaguars lost to Detroit this past Sunday, 31-16, and with the team struggling, fans have called into question General Manager Gene Smith.
Khan declined to discuss specifics in terms of potential changes, and said his focus is on doing what he can to ensure the Jaguars’ organization is structured for success, which he said means three having three principles in place:
- The right people in the right spots.
- The correct processes to make decisions.
- Support from ownership and customers.
“Those are the three key ingredients,” Khan said, adding, “What I want to evaluate is really the organization. People are one part.”
Khan also said while fans may want him to react emotionally on the state of the team, that’s not his way. Titans Owner Bud Adams, for example, spoke to the Nashville Tennessean after a one-sided loss to Chicago this past week, saying among other things that “all aspects of the organization will be closely evaluated, including front office, coaches and players over the next seven games.”
Khan said such statements aren’t his style.
“That’s not something I would do – that’s not me,” he said, adding, “The other teams – they have to do what works for them. I have to do what works for us. Teams reflect the personalities and management style of leadership. I’ve been here half a season.”
Khan said while he understands the importance of fans – “We need fan support, we need sponsor support, we can’t exist without it,” he said – he said decisions for the franchise must be made for the long-term and not to quell short-term public anger of frustration.
“Some of these answers might not be satisfying,” Khan said. “I want to satisfy people in the short-term, but what’s more important is the long-term. We don’t want to make the wrong decisions now and pay a price over time. You have to be concerned about the short-term, otherwise you’re not going to get to the long-term. But you don’t want to make decisions that compromise the success of the organization over the long-term.”
And if the first half-season has been difficult, Khan said it’s not as if he never has dealt with difficult times.
“You don’t show up at (age) 16 from Pakistan and just have a successful life,” Khan said. “You go through a lot of adversity and failures. You learn from that, and probably the most important things is not to have knee-jerk reactions when things get tough, not to add drama to uncertainty.”
*Khan said whatever decisions he makes on personnel changes will be made based on his experience with the organization. “The reason is very simple,” he said. “I had no idea what they were doing (before). I wasn’t here before January 4. I’m going to go with my judgment.”
*Khan said he is pleased with the direction of many aspects of the team, particularly its efforts in marketing and fan experience. He said the team is 21st in the NFL in season ticket sales, and has added depth on the business side of the organization. He said the game-day experience also has improved. “I was here last year,” he said. “I think it’s definitely better. It’s resonated with the fans. That’s why I think we’ve got the support we have.”
*Khan said contrary to reports, the Jaguars are above the NFL’s $120.3 million salary cap for the 2012 season. While reports have had the Jaguars up to $20 million under the cap, Khan said the Jaguars have $135 million in payroll this season, the sixth-highest in the NFL. Asked if the Jaguars would potentially have to overpay future free agents, Khan said, “To me, it’s not a matter of overpaying or underpaying. You have to pay what the market is.”
*Khan discussed the idea that the Jaguars are giving up a home game to play in London the next four years to instead play at a “neutral” site. “London is not a neutral site,” Khan said. “We’re the home team over there. That’s what we’re doing over there. We’re developing a fan base over there.” Khan told the story of being in a store in London selling NFL merchandise. The store featured items from 31 NFL teams, but not the Jaguars. Khan approached the counter and asked about Jaguars merchandise. “She looked in the computer and said, ‘Sorry, that’s our new home team for London – we’re all sold out,’’’ Khan said.
*Khan said he is fine with the idea of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings also playing a game in London next season. “Frankly, I was excited,” Khan said. “So far, we (the NFL) have had one game a year (in London). This will build an appetite and fan base for two games. It’s like you have one phone. How good is it? When someone else gets a phone, then it’s valuable. When a third person does, it becomes more valuable. I think it’s great. I think it’s huge upside for the Jaguars and Jacksonville.”
*Asked what the franchise would have after playing a game in London for four years, Khan said, “We’re going to have more fans. We’re going to have more exposure. We’re going to have more sponsors we wouldn’t otherwise. That’s absolutely key, having a bigger market to attract more sponsors. Obviously, you want to win football games, but (a team’s mission) is also to have a sustainable business and to provide economic growth, to be a civic asset.”