Khan, "I'm very, very bullish on Jacksonville."
by Sam Kouvaris
Posted January 05, 2018
In his five years as an owner in the NFL, Shad Khan has been surprised more than once. On and off the field he's seen things he didn't expect. But the business as a whole is different than the one he saw from the outside.
"It's much bigger than I expected," Khan said on Thursday afternoon at the stadium. "I looked at it as a sports, as a fan. It's a business. It reflects the psyche of the community much more than I thought it would. And it's hard."
Despite early efforts to change the Jaguars fortunes on the field, the franchise floundered, finishing near the bottom of the division each year.
"Winning on the field is hard, especially if you don't have a fundamental core to build on," he explained.
So building a core, a culture that would change the results on the field started with hiring Tom Coughlin to run the football operation.
"You've got to remember, the structure we have has been tried before, unsuccessfully I might add. I didn't know Tom Coughlin well, but I felt very strongly about it from day one. We have a guy who basically bleeds Jaguars. Having this structure and it's unique and it's going to work for us. What I felt like we were missing was football IQ. By having people with more experience and with them to work together. And very simply winning."
And after five years of losing, the Jaguars made a giant leap forward, winning 10 games and taking the AFC South title for the first time in their history. No surprise, it's energized the fans, a whole new generation experiencing what it's like to have a winning football team in their hometown.
"I think we have a fan base I have a lot in common with," Khan added with a laugh. "As an owner I haven't seen the winning we deserve. The key thing was to have a great game day experience. Then when we started winning, people are coming back. I would hear that a lot. The ultimate thing is winning."
As a passionate fan, Khan admits the business was different for him from the inside. His passion as a fan hasn't abated, but he makes sure to separate the owner from the fan when he can.
"You have to know where the lines are. You can't be impetuous obviously."
"You can't fire everybody after a loss," I said with a laugh.
"Yeah," Khan replied. "I've had failures in business but it was nothing like Thursday night was in Tennessee for us last year. That might be the most humiliating moment of my life. You just can't do what emotionally you might want to do because you know it's not the right thing. You know, like the medial professionals in Jacksonville, "Do no harm."
Using the Jaguars and the NFL as an entertainment venue for his businesses in North America has been very successful. Khan creates a weekend for his guests that culminate with the Jaguars game on Sunday. Has it met his expectations?
"I think it's much more so. There are not that many NFL club owners who have a day job so to speak. For me, we have 30,000 employees around the world making auto parts. They get exposed to a different element, most are sports fans. To be able to experience this in a different way that money can't buy is special."
His first experiences in Jacksonville convinced Khan that North Florida wasn't reaching it's potential. With the natural resources, the river, the people and the weather (most of the time!) Shad saw real potential that wasn't being realized. That's changed in the last six year, somewhat thanks to him.
"I've seen a difference. We realize everything we've got going for us. People's expectations are higher. We've been engaged in a lot of different efforts, not just development here, but the trip to London, we had the trip to Toronto with the chamber of commerce. Really just talking to people on the streets. The expectations are higher and we're going to have more success."
"I'm very, very bullish on Jacksonville," he added.
And as far as the long term impact he might have on Jacksonville and the people who will live here, 20, 50, 100 years from now?
"You want to leave things a little bit better than you found them. That's human nature. If you're a parent that's what you want to do with a child. If you have a product, I mean I'd like it to be a shade better than it was. If so, everybody's better off."