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'14 League Meetings: Growing fan base key for Khan


ORLANDO – Internationally speaking, Shad Khan remains optimistic.

And if anything, the Jaguars' Owner said he is even more certain than he was a year ago about the value London and the accompanying international presence – to the franchise and, as importantly, to the Jacksonville community.

"London is a very, very important thing for Jacksonville," Khan said Tuesday when speaking to Jacksonville-based media at the NFL Annual Meeting at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes. "Financially, exposure-wise, the awareness we have for the team … it's amazing."

Khan added, "The merchandise we sold in London, the kind of Jaguars stuff you see over there … you have to get out there. Eventually, it's wins and losses, but it's much more than that."

The Jaguars played the San Francisco 49ers at Wembley Stadium in London last October, and will play the Dallas Cowboys there in November. They are also scheduled to play home games there in 2015 and 2016.

Khan said there are no plans for the Jaguars to play in London beyond 2016, but said an international presence remains critical.

"The biggest upside, I think, for Jacksonville is economic growth," Khan said. "We get awareness and we get economic growth. It's a great thing for the team, also. If we have a growing community, people are going to want to engage. If it's a dying community, it's going to be tough."

Khan on Tuesday again noted a statistic he shared late Monday afternoon, that whereas the Jaguars were the NFL's 31st-most-recognized team outside the United States before their first game in London, they ranked ninth in that area in the most recent survey.

"In a little more than a year we had that much visibility improvement," Khan said. "I think it's very important for the Jaguars and I think it's very important for Jacksonville to get the international awareness and to get the story out – what a great area it (Jacksonville) is, the opportunity, the young people, the cost of living, what a competitive environment it would be for businesses to locate there (to Jacksonville). We have a huge component of that and we're going to keep that."

Khan said the Jaguars' fan support has been remarkable, and that the next step is increasing the fan base.

"You couldn't ask for anything more," he said of the Jaguars' fans. "They've been so supportive of the franchise. Got to get more Jaguar fans. That is the only way it's sustainable. And I think we're going to do that. I think the way it's going to be sustainable is we've got to get a regional, international angle."

Also on Tuesday:

*Khan, as he told Monday, said he continues to like the roster-building approach of General Manager David Caldwell and Head Coach Gus Bradley. While building through the draft and supplementing with free agency may not mean a quick-fix, he said it's the surest path to long-term contention. He cited the approach in his first year of ownership, when the Jaguars signed free agent cornerback Aaron Ross and free agent wide receiver Laurent Robinson. The team released both players after a 2-14 season in 2012. "We spent $40 million on free agents and we know what happened," Khan said. "Certainly, I've learned my lesson and if you look at the teams that are successful, they're going to be built through the draft and some missing pieces are going to be filled in through free agency. That is the formula for success."…

*More from Khan on the building plan: "We want to have a consistent, winning team moving forward. This rebuilding over and over again is brutal for the fans and it's brutal if you have anything to do with it. There are maybe a dozen teams that are always in contention and that always manage to be competitive. There's so much competitive balance, parity, whatever you want to call it. Our goal is we consistently want to be there. To be able to do that, you have to really be able to build through the draft."…

*Khan discussed the effort to acquire a franchise quarterback, calling it "by far the No. 1 (position)" and saying the Jaguars will continue to explore various avenues. "We're going through obviously the search and the development and that is a key point," he said. "But in the meantime, you just can't put your hands up and say, 'Since maybe I haven't identified who's going to lead us forever we're not going to do anything.' There is story after story. Seattle is a great example. San Francisco is another example. They had a great team and they said, 'OK, maybe there's a missing piece and that's what we're going to work on.''' …

*Khan opted to not discuss specifics of the team's approach to running back Maurice Jones-Drew. The three-time Pro Bowl selection became a free agent March 11 and has yet to sign with another team. "He's a great player and he's a part of Jacksonville history, an iconic Jaguars player," Khan said.  "But the stage where he is and where we are… it's a question Dave and Gus ought to be answering, but there has to be an area where it makes sense for both sides."…

*Khan compared owning the Jaguars to owning Fulham Football Club of the Barclays Premier League, the latter of which he purchased last summer. Fulham is currently last in the 20-team EPL with 24 points with seven games remaining. Fulham is four points out of 17th place, with the bottom three teams each season facing "relegation" into Football League Championship and three teams from the FLC being promoted. Khan has changed Fulham managers twice this season. "The NFL is a league that's built for the long haul," Khan said. "How you think through things is very, very different. It's like fixing a plane while it's flying. In the NFL, you can land a plane and fix it. Certainly if NFL was the Premier League, Jacksonville would have been relegated, so there are different opportunities."

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