Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are one win away from going to the Super Bowl for the fourth time in seven years and the eighth time in the last 17 years. The only team standing between them is the Jacksonville Jaguars.
So obviously you should root for the Jaguars.
It’s nothing against the Patriots (OK, maybe it is a little bit), but some fresh blood in the big game would be nice.
The Jaguars are one of only four teams in the NFL — along with the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and Houston Texans — who have never been to the Super Bowl. Established in 1995, it’s still one of the league’s youngest franchises. It’s also one near the bottom of the league in all-time winning percentages.
Jacksonville enters the AFC Championship as close to a touchdown underdog against the perennial contenders. And who doesn’t love a good David vs. Goliath story? They’ll have the support of every NFL fan who is sick and tired of the Patriots.
If that’s you, here’s all you need to know about being a Jaguars fan:
The Jaguars sucked for a long time, but there were fans all along
It’s no secret the Jaguars are a surprising inclusion in the AFC Championship after a decade of struggles that preceded their 2017 run.
Once upon a time, this was a relatively successful franchise with a six trips to the postseason in its first 13 seasons, including two appearances in the AFC Championship. But between 2008 and 2016, the Jaguars didn’t have any winning seasons. They couldn’t even top five wins in the six years before they finally broke the spell in 2017 with a 10-6 record.
Now for the part you might not know: there were Jaguars fans the whole time.
Yes, Jacksonville struggled to sell tickets at one point. In 2009 — at the height of the recession and fresh off the Jaguars’ playoff window slamming shut with a 5-11 season — the team averaged just under 50,000 fans per game. Seven of eight games were blacked out on local TV that year and, wham bam boom, just like that the Jaguars became the poster child for poor attendance and the subject of every relocation rumor.
Never mind the fact that the Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions had worse attendance in 2009 and the Jaguars quickly rebounded to average 63,032 fans in 2010.
The Jaguars are unpopular on a national scale, in one of the league’s smallest markets, and weren’t good for nine consecutive seasons. Of course, that means they aren’t the hottest ticket. But go ahead and pump the brakes before you make jokes about there finally being Jaguars fans.
Jaguars fans coped with jokes and memes
Diehard Jaguars fans suffered through six consecutive seasons with at least 11 losses and 10 consecutive top-10 draft selections — including wasted picks on players like Derrick Harvey, Blaine Gabbert and Justin Blackmon — so it’s no wonder they turned to jokes.
Even NBC’s The Good Place took lighthearted jabs at the team with one character written as a hapless Jaguars fan who loves Blake Bortles.
You have to laugh to keep from crying, right?
“Jaguars Twitter” developed a reputation for roasting anyone with jokes about relocation or fan reputation. And a few moments became memes that served as litmus tests for the current mood of the franchise’s fans.
There was actually a reason to be hopeful about the Jaguars after a 3-2 start in 2010. But a 30-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football in Week 6 brought the team crashing back down to Earth.
With the fourth quarter winding down and Trent Edwards (yes, the Jaguars’ quarterback at the time was Bills bust Trent Edwards) unable to get the team in the end zone, one Jaguars fan perfectly summed up the moment.
It’s a mixture of disbelief, confusion and frustration that encapsulated exactly what it meant to be a Jaguars fan for the last decade.
Steal the show
Jacksonville really started turning things around when draft picks stopped getting spoiled on players like Blackmon and Gabbert, and were actually used to find future stars like Allen Robinson and Telvin Smith.
But the breakthrough moment was the 2016 NFL Draft when the Jaguars nabbed Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue with the first three picks. Optimism was through the roof in Jacksonville and one resident gave the greatest interview ever recorded on television.
At the end of her rant — which it included random tangents like telling the world about her beach house in Miami — she concluded the reason the Jaguars hadn’t won much lately was that they were “playing by the rules.” And she alluded to a league conspiracy that was keeping the young franchise from rising to the top.
“You can’t have a newcomer come in and ... steal the show.”
Gold. Plain and simple, folks.
Jaguars fans sold “Steal The Show” T-shirts in 2016 and the team even put her in one of the promo videos that played on the gigantic scoreboard at EverBank Field before a game.
The 2017 Jaguars are a decade’s worth of pent-up sass
The hatin’ ass Jaguars aim to win in the most disrespectful way possible, so if you’re jumping aboard the bangwagon, embrace being the heel.
When Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney called Blake Bortles “trash,” Jaguars fans sent him trash cans.
When Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger couldn’t lead the Steelers to a win last week, a Jacksonville bakery sent him seven turnovers — one for each of his giveaways to the Jaguars defense in two losses this season. Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey loved it.
Ramsey is the team’s most brash player, and told reporters Friday that compliments from the Patriots couldn’t push the Jaguars’ self-belief any higher than it already is.
Jalen Ramsey on the Patriots trying to flatter the competition by saying nice things about his ability: “You can’t really gas somebody up who’s already gassed.”— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) January 19, 2018
A loss to the Jaguars comes with a strong chance of hurt feelings. Just last week, Telvin Smith picked up a 15-yard taunting penalty and a $10,000 fine when he pointed at Le’Veon Bell on his way to the end zone on a fumble recovery touchdown.
A couple hours later, the Jaguars talked all kinds of shit in the locker room.
More from Jackson--..."They received an ass kicking and acted like they didn't get their asses kicked so we did it again. Now they are gonna have a long offseason & worry abt how the Jags kicked their ass."— Tim Benz (@TimBenzPGH) January 14, 2018
The team on the field reflects the sauciness of Duval County, and vice versa. Don’t be surprised if you hear chants of “Duuuuuuuuuval” in New England like you did in Pittsburgh.
Maybe it’s not your style, but if you want to see anyone but the Patriots in the Super Bowl, the Jaguars have a fresh attitude and there’s still plenty of room on the bandwagon. Hop on.