Attendance at Jaguars games is difficult to understand. With this Sunday's game, which is expected to be another disappointing no-show event, the Jaguars will have completed a home season that failed to produce one capacity crowd.
The largest crowd at Alltel Stadium this season was for the Washington game, 69,061, a full four thousand fans less than Alltel's 73,000 capacity. Next came Seattle at 68,063.
Not even Tennessee and Pittsburgh filled the place. Tennessee, the hottest ticket on the Jaguars' schedule, produced an attendance of 65,454, and Pittsburgh, which has always filled Alltel Stadium, drew only 64,351.
Baltimore, the hot-new team in the AFC Central, drew 65,194 on a Sunday night, and the NFL's two Ohio teams were treated as though they had the flu. The Browns, on a cold and windy day, drew just 51,262 this past Sunday, and the Bengals, playing on a home-opener day that included a forecast for flooding, barely filled half of Alltel's seats, 45,653.
What's happened? Do we blame it all on the Jaguars' record?
A major share of the blame must fall on the disappointment of a season gone sour. For example, the attendance for the Tennessee game was clearly held down by the fact the Jaguars were not facing the Titans with the division title or the playoffs on the line.
But how do you explain the Pittsburgh game? The Jaguars were 2-2 and at a crossroads in their season. The Steelers were 0-3. Is that the explanation? The Steelers weren't an attractive opponent? That's a lame excuse.
The facts aren't jibing. For instance, attendance is way down, but the Jaguars' TV ratings remain very high. Interest in the team hasn't waned, and ticket sales haven't dropped dramatically. It's just that people have decided not to use their tickets, and that's most perplexing.
Through seven games, the Jaguars are averaging 61,291 fans per game, and that figure could drop beneath 60,000 for the full season if this Sunday's attendance is as low as feared.
This season will produce, by far, the lowest attendance figures in Jaguars history. Amazingly, in 1999, when the Jaguars had the best record in the NFL, attendance was lower than three of the Jaguars' first four seasons.
What gives? Attendance figures say there's a problem. The TV ratings say everything is fine. Tickets sales are somewhere in between.
This is an issue the Jaguars are certain to research exhaustively during the offseason. They're going to market their product more vigorously. They're going to market it regionally. But they may only disguise what must be perceived as a problem.
You can offer any and all of the reasons you want for attendance being down, but the numbers are undeniable and businesses make decisions based on numbers.
This will be an offseason of decisions.