ORLANDO – He likes the plan and the direction.
That was true a year ago, and Jaguars Owner Shad Khan said if he has learned anything working with Head Coach Gus Bradley and General Manager David Caldwell for 14 months, it’s this:
That confidence he had a year ago? He has even more now.
“Dave and Gus, I think we’re truly blessed with two of the best people,” Khan said Monday during a break at the NFL Annual Meetings at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes in Orlando. “I felt that way a little over a year ago as we went through the process, and as we have progressed over the year, I feel that more.
“You listen to what people say, but more important, you see what they do.”
The Jaguars since the hiring of Caldwell and Bradley have showed signs of improvement, particularly in the second half of last season. The Jaguars, after a 2-14 season in 2012, finished 4-12 last season, starting the season 0-8 but winning four of five games after a Week 9 bye.
“We want to get to the point where when we win, the others are saying, ‘Today they were the better team,’’’ Khan said. "Last year, people thought we had no talent and it was a shock to people that we could win a game. And in the first eight games, we proved them right. You have to pick up the talent, and you have to pick up the right talent.”
Caldwell and Bradley laid out a plan upon being hired last offseason of building through the draft, using free agency as a supplement. The team was more active in free agency this offseason than last offseason, signing free agents such as defensive ends
“We have to get the best free agents that fit in,” he said. “It’s not a question of making a splash. It’s a question of who’s going to help us win on a long-term basis. We have 11 drafts picks. We have to pick and draft wisely and supplement them.”
That process – planning with an eye on the long-term – is about patience, and Bradley this offseason has spoken several times about the support Khan showed last season, even when the team began 0-8.
“Winning is a habit and losing is a habit – Vince Lombardi said that,” Khan said. “But for me, I don’t want to confuse the final score with winning and losing. I wanted to focus on, ‘Did we come together as a team?’ So, if I saw that they were feeling a little bummed out, you have to kind of remind them what the mission is and what we’re trying to do.
“So, yes, supporting them and being an acid test – I can do that.”
Khan used the Jaguars’ early-season loss to Denver, the eventual AFC Champion, as an example of the team playing well and improving – and of a case where a young, learning team could use a loss to build.
“Some of the teams that beat them (the Broncos) talked about following the Jacksonville plan,” Khan said. “We obviously don’t have their talent, but there were a lot of things like that where strategically, coaching-wise, we did good things.
“You can’t get down on yourself. You can’t just humiliate people because we lost. The yelling and screaming, I don’t think it does any good. Frankly, if it did, I’d be yelling and screaming all the time, and Gus is a big believer that that’s not the way.”
And while Khan said without question there is a more positive energy around the organization and its fans than this time a year ago, his focus remains on the plan he, Caldwell and Bradley laid out last offseason – that is, to build a team that not only can win, but sustain that winning.
“The one thing I want to make sure is the buzz we have is a great fan experience, and that the team is moving in a positive direction,” Khan said. “The free agents we sign, they need to help us, but we want to build a core through the draft. It might take a little longer.
“Fans have been very patient, but we want to build a long-term sustainable plan. We want to have the buzz, but we want to sustain it.”
Khan on Monday also addressed:
*The state-of-the-art Video Boards being installed at EverBank Field, boards that are expected to be in place for next season. ”Things are on track, and I think it’s going to be spectacular,” Khan said. “I think it enhances EverBank Field and will really enhance the game-day experience.”…
*The team’s commitment to playing yearly in London. 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 a home game there in 2015 and 2016. “It’s been even more successful” than expected, Khan said. Khan cited a statistic that shows the Jaguars are now the ninth-most popular team in London compared to 31st a year ago. “There is a significant amount of Jacksonville Jaguars merchandise on the streets of London and Europe,” he said. “We are definitely moving the needle of awareness and recognition elsewhere.”…