The Jacksonville Jaguars have had one hell of a 2017 NFL season. I mean, really, one of the best seasons you could possible imagine them having. And, no, I’m not being sarcastic. Seemingly overnight, the Jags have gone from laughingstock of the NFL to a legitimate contender in the American Football Conference. Can you believe it?
At 10-5, the Jaguars have won the AFC South for the first time since…well, ever. Last time the Jaguars won their division was back in 1999, when they were still part of the AFC Central before the league switched things up in 2002. And, as expected, the fans are loving it.
“The response from Jaguars fans to this week’s playoff game ticket sales has been tremendous,” read the Jaguars’ team statement. “We’ve watched firsthand as the community rallied behind the Jaguars during our last few home games, but the demand over the last 48 hours has exceeded expectations.”
The Jaguars’ best decision was bringing in former New York Giants head coach and two-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Coughlin. The man still has a lot of football knowledge to spread, and he was able to utilize the Jags’ ample cap room to bring in a number of top-tier free agents. Additionally, the team has been drafting great recently, including the addition of running back Leonard Fournette with the No. 3 overall pick this past NFL Draft.
Now, the team has completely turned things around. Going from 3-13 in 2016 to 10-5 in 2017 is quite the feat, and it marks the Jags first winning season since 2007 when they made it all the way to the Divisional Round of the playoffs before falling to the then-perfect New England Patriots.
Of course, such a turnaround has sparked quite a renewed interest from their fans. In the past, the Jags had issues selling out their stadium, so they found a pair of sponsors for some big tarps to drape over a number of seats in the stadium (you know, so they could “sell out the stadium” without actually having to sell out the stadium). The league prohibits teams from changing the number of tickets available for any given game during the season (I don’t know why either), but the Jaguars were able to get the special permission required from both the league and their sponsors to remove those tarps and sell those tickets to the revived fans after quickly selling out their initial ticket offering.
“During the regular season, NFL policy prohibits a change in seating capacity, and sponsorships for our tarps are sold on a season-long basis,” continued the Jags’ statement. “Following yesterday’s rapid sellout, this morning the Jaguars sought and received permission from the League and our sponsors—Navy Mutual and FDOT’s ‘Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow’ campaign—to remove the tarps and sell those seats for our home playoff game next weekend. The Jaguars are grateful to the league and our gracious sponsors for allowing even more fans to be there to experience the Jaguars’ first home playoff game in nearly two decades.”
You can’t blame Jags fans for getting excited. It’s been a while since the team has done well, and they are doing really, really well right now, including big wins this season over the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks.
Now, the Jaguars will need to prove they’re for real in the AFC Wild Card round against (most likely) the Baltimore Ravens or Tennessee Titans. The Titans have knocked the Jags off once this season already, but the Jags can keep their division rivals out of the playoffs with a win over them this weekend.
The second question is, can the Jags continue this hot streak into 2018? Let’s face it, the Jaguars have a shot at a Wild Card victory, but a Super Bowl LII trip seems unlikely with the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers standing in their way (although, they did hand the Steelers an embarrassing 30-9 defeat earlier in the season).
I’m just speculating here, but I believe this is where Tom Coughlin will earn his money. The man knows how to find free agents, and a certain New York Giants quarterback just might be on that free agency list this offseason. Blake Bortles still doesn’t strike me as a franchise quarterback (though I am willing to give him a chance to prove himself in the playoffs). If the team decides that Bortles is expendable, maybe Eli Manning would be willing to call Jacksonville his home for a few seasons (similar to what his brother, Peyton Manning, did with the Denver Broncos, bringing them to two Super Bowls and winning one after everyone said he was washed up).
Is Eli in the Jags’ future? Do the Jags have a future? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. But, hey, I’ll cheer for anyone over the Pats in the AFC.