It was just a coincidence that team president Mark Lamping conducted the Jacksonville Jaguars’ annual “State of the Franchise” news conference last Thursday on the same day the NFL announced the 2018 schedule.
Many Jaguars fans were upset that the team only got two primetime appearances despite reaching the AFC title game last year. They got a Sunday night home game against Pittsburgh on Nov. 18 and a Thursday night game at Tennessee on Dec. 6.
Two AFC South rivals (Houston and Tennessee) got three primetime appearances, and 10 teams got five primetime spots, including the two Super Bowl teams, Philadelphia and New England, while Minnesota, the loser of the NFC title game, got four.
Lamping’s presentation showed the NFL’s decision probably wasn’t a surprise as he talked about the challenges a small-market team faces.
He didn’t address the schedule because it hadn’t been released, but here’s a look at some of the factors that probably influenced the NFL.
— The Jaguars lack national buzz. Lamping pointed out that, while no team grew faster on social media last year, the Jags were still 32rd and last in the NFL on Facebook and Twitter, 29th on Instagram and their website, jaguars.com, ranked 31 in the league.
— Although the Jaguars’ TV rating in Jacksonville last year were slightly above the league average, they trail in the ratings behind small-market teams like Green Bay, New Orleans and Buffalo, although I don’t consider Green Bay a real small market because the Packers are a statewide team in Wisconsin with a national following. Still, the NFL obviously isn’t convinced the Jaguars will attract a big national audience.
— The Jaguars lack offensive star power. Their quarterback, Blake Bortles, is inconsistent and running back Leonard Fournette still needs to establish himself as a star. And they don’t have a standout receiver. They don’t have offensive players national fans want to tune in to see.
— After winning one playoff game in 17 years before winning two last year, the Jaguars need another good season or two to convince NFL schedulemakers they are for real and that last year wasn’t a one-off. If they keep going to the playoffs, they will get more prime time games in the future. The NFL showed the Jaguars still have to prove themselves when they didn’t give them an early Sunday night game. Their game in November with the Pittsburgh Steelers could also be flexed if the Jaguars don’t have a good record.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars can take advantage of the fact that 14 of their 16 games will be played on Sunday afternoons, although the Miami game late in the year could be flexed to Saturday. The annual London game is a change of routine, with the Jaguars now accustomed to the trip.
And the Jaguars have a shot at a fast start with home games in the second, third and fourth games of the year.
Now it’s up to the Jaguars to prove they are ready for primetime in the future.