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Salary cap, attendance, Super Bowl critical issues


VK: What would a winning record mean to you?

WW: At this point, Vic, it would be huge, because it would just give us tremendous confidence and morale heading into the offseason and getting ready to prepare for the 2001 season. We've talked a lot about the things we have to do to keep this team together, and I think we're going to be able to keep the core of this football team together and I think it's huge momentum going into next year.

VK: Would it be a true indicator of what this team could've done, or is this late-season run tainted by the competition?

WW: I'll go back to the old cliché, that on any given Sunday any team in this league can beat another team. If we can win out and end up with a winning record, having won seven out of our last eight games, it just tells you that you're a very competitive football team. All you have to do is go back and look at the early season when we weren't playing very well, it's four or five plays in two or three games; those are games we should've won. Seattle and Baltimore are the two games that stick out in my mind, that we absolutely just blew.

VK: You talked a few weeks ago about going into a rebuilding phase. Does this late-season success change that?

WW: No, I still think we've got to try to keep the core of this team together, and fortunately, because so many of our young players have been able to play this year, we've been able to identify younger people who are going to step in and play major roles in the coming seasons. We still have to identify areas where we need to help this team, mostly through the draft, but maybe, again, through free agency.

VK: All things considered, what are the three major issues confronting the Jaguars franchise?

WW: On the football side, I would just tell you that it's making thoughtful, good decisions on our salary cap; how we handle that going forward, and don't put ourselves back in the position that we've put ourselves in for the 2001 season. That's critical. Secondly, we've got to do a better marketing job of selling out this stadium. I've really been disappointed, though we haven't blacked out this year, that we've been very close on a number of occasions, and we've had to have the television stations come in and pull our bacon from the fire. We've got to do a better marketing job; we've got to do a better outreach program, going to markets like Daytona, Orlando, Palm Coast, Valdosta, Savannah, Gainesville and on and on and on, and energize those communities to bring people to our games. I think we can do that, and I think we've done a better job this year than we've done in past years, but it's still not enough, so, we've got to do that. And we've got a huge opportunity with the Super Bowl coming, to do some huge enhancements to this building that will make it more fan-friendly and will help in those efforts to do a better marketing job of filling this stadium. We've got some tools to work with that should allow us to accomplish those goals.

VK: What franchise do you believe is currently doing the best job, in terms of total operation?

WW: Clearly, the model we've looked at more than anybody is Kansas City. Kansas City has just done a magnificent job, in terms of their back-room operations in the marketing of their team. One of the reasons I admire them is that they are a small market, bigger than Jacksonville, but similar. They have 20,000 people on their waiting list. They cut off their season ticket list at 72,000 and they sell another 6,000 or 7,000 in group sales. They, clearly, are the standard of the league, in my judgement, in terms of the way they have marketed their team in their back-room operations. They're the ones I look at as much as anybody, in terms of things we can learn from and how we can do things better here.

VK: What will be the major battleground for NFL teams in the future?

WW: I think you've seen over the last few years that stadiums have been the highest priority in the NFL, and we've done a good job over the last few years of getting new stadiums. I think we'll have by 2002 21 of the 32 teams with either significantly remodeled or new stadiums, and you'll see another four or five on the drawing board for the years after 2002. The challenge is going to be for people like us, who are going to have in 2005 a 10-year-old building that doesn't have all of the amenities of the new stadiums. We've constantly got to upgrade and make sure we keep our building competitive. In my mind, the single-biggest issue is the salary cap, and how we manage that as a league and not just as a team. It's going to be very hard to get a hard-cash cap, when the union has had the ability to have the accrual system with the big signing bonuses. And that gets exacerbated by what took place yesterday with Alex Rodriguez, when he was signed to a $252 million contract. To me, it is absolutely ruining baseball and it is to the point of almost no return. How do the fans look at that when they see that here's one team paying one player more than probably half a dozen teams' in the league total salary? To me, it's ridiculous, but when that happens in another league, it just creates an expectation in all sports leagues; that there's no end to how much money owners are willing to pay. Ultimately, it turns the fan off because ultimately the fan is the one who has to pay.

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