PHOENIX, Ariz. – Shad Khan is smiling these days.
These are good times around the Jaguars, with significant success in the recent past and plenty of reason for hope for the immediate future. The Jaguars' owner sees this, and he likes what he sees.
"It's awesome," he said.
Khan, who will enter his 12th season as the Jaguars' owner in 2023, sat down with senior writer John Oehser at this week's 2023 NFL Annual Meeting. Among the topics: the 2022 season that ended in thrilling, high-profile fashion and included the AFC South title.
"The players believed in each other," Khan said when asked what stood out about a team that won its first AFC South title since 2017 and its division title in Khan's tenure as owner. "They believed in the coaches and they believed they were destined to win."
Khan added, "I think it's taken a while, but I'm glad it's happening. I'm glad for all the fans."
Khan, too, discussed his thoughts not only on the 2022 season and postseason, but why believes more winning can follow – with those reasons centering on Head Coach Doug Pederson, General Manager Trent Baalke and quarterback Trevor Lawrence."
"The vibe I get [around this week's meetings] is I think we've cracked the code," he said. "We have a great head coach, we have a great general manager, and we have a great quarterback.
“That's the trifecta for success in the NFL.”
Khan laughingly called Pederson "a media darling," noting that he saw the reason for the head coach's success "up close and personal." He also lauded Pederson's "self-belief, belief in the team and belief in the process."
"He's a guy who's very even-keeled," Khan said. "He really doesn't get too high, doesn't get too low. He really demands winning – from himself, the players and the team."
Khan also praised Baalke, noting that while some fans and observers initially criticized Khan for retaining the general manager last offseason, "My belief in him never wavered no matter what the outside noise was."
"I've known Trent now for three years," Khan said. "I believe in him. Whether he was popular with the fans or not, that's for the fans to decide. He proved what I sure thought he was going to do."
The team's success in 2022 not only led to the division title, it came in dramatic – and memorable – fashion. The Jaguars won seven of their final nine regular-season games, clinching the AFC South title with a come-from-behind victory over the Tennessee Titans in which outside linebacker Josh Allen returned a fumble for the game-winning touchdown in the final three minutes.
That was the first prime-time home game on a weekend night in Khan's ownership. The second came the following week when the Jaguars rallied from a 27-0 deficit for a 31-30 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers in an AFC Wild Card Playoff game at TIAA Bank Field.
"It's a great memory that lives with you," he said. "Certainly it's going to live with me forever."
The victories mattered to Khan. The fans' reaction in two sold-out, nationally televised victories perhaps mattered just as much.
"We hadn't had a primetime game in my ownership," Khan said. "We hadn't earned it. We didn't deserve it. Here, we earned it. We deserve it. So, we get two in a row. Both of them are packed, including standing-room only tickets. Then to see the fans at both of the games hanging in. We're down 27-0 and no one leaves …
"That shows really the enthusiasm, the belief the fans had. I know it made a huge difference for Trevor. He looked up and saw no one had left. There was a huge vote of confidence in him."