Jaguars owner Shad Khan sees hope, optimism for his franchise heading into NFL Draft

Jaguars have five picks among the top 65 selections in the 2021 NFL Draft

John Reid
Florida Times-Union
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After nine losing seasons in 10 years, quarterback mishaps and other glaring setbacks that sidetracked the progress of his franchise, Jaguars owner Shad Khan finally sees a bright future ahead for his franchise.

Finally, a talented franchise quarterback is on the way.

And let Khan tell it, Jaguars coach Urban Meyer has been nothing less than remarkable from what he's seen so far from his organizational skills, meticulous preparation and desire to learn as a first-time NFL coach.

''When we announced, obviously, his hiring, oh, you know, no NFL experience, whatever,'' Khan said Tuesday during a virtual Zoom call. ''He has more than made up with attributes he’s had, which is intelligence, sense of curiosity, desire to learn. These are all attributes I think that you want to have. When it comes to football I think he’s really zeroed in on all those.''

How to watch:The 2021 NFL Draft — all three days of it — on TV, live stream

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New era ahead with Trevor Lawrence

When the Jaguars select former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday night's NFL Draft, it's going to bring forth the start of a new era to what Khan hopefully will result in sustained success and relevancy for his franchise.  

''We're looking at hope, optimism,'' Khan said. ''I mean Jacksonville, obviously, our psyche is wrapped up in where we are. If this isn’t a moment to enjoy for me to enjoy and for all the Jags fans, you need more coffee. Or you need something else. This is a great-to-be-alive kind of moment, frankly." 

What's ahead now is upgrading the roster with young talent, hitting on all 10 picks, including five among the top 65 selections, in this week's draft. Meyer wants speed, instant-impact ability from particularly the team's first four picks.

Khan wants to see the good vibes continue for his franchise from increased season-ticket sales to nationwide interest regarding Lawrence and his potential impact.  

In terms of excitement, Khan said in some ways, it compares to when he purchased the Jaguars from Wayne Weaver for $770 million in 2012.

“Yeah, you know, I think it’s different,'' Khan said. ''But, yes, absolutely. Nine years ago, buying the team, was like the great journey, the first step on a 1,000-mile journey and looking to the horizon. And what it is now, we’ve been through ups and downs, mostly downs. Now you’re looking at a great upside.”

Jaguars owner Shad Khan expressed optimism about the franchise's course ahead of the projected addition of Trevor Lawrence in the NFL Draft.

A great upside spearheaded by having two faces of the franchise — Meyer and Lawrence. Earlier this month, Jaguars fan Eric Dillard started a fundraising effort on Twitter to get enough donations from fans to purchase a $300 toaster listed on the online wedding registry for Lawrence and his bride, Marissa. In less than 10 hours, Jaguars fans donated $5,000. And within a week, $11,088 had been raised.

Following their April 11 private wedding in Bluffton, S.C., Lawrence responded via Twitter with a gesture of his own: a donation of $20,000 of the newlywed couple's own money to charities in Jacksonville.

''I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer by any means, I want to enjoy the moment,'' Khan said. ''I want all the fans, all of us in Jacksonville, to enjoy this moment and our time in the national spotlight. If we have hope and we’re winning, obviously, that’s a lot better for the city and it’s a lot better for the Jags.”

Urban Meyer knows how to win

With that, the Jaguars fan base is already on board with Lawrence. And Meyer is regarded highly, even though the Jaguars job is his first NFL coaching job. However, Meyer never experienced a losing season in 17 years as a college coach, winning two national championships at Florida and one at Ohio State. 

''The great thing about Urban is that he’s built programs, okay,'' Khan said. ''Whether it was Bowling Green or Utah, they weren’t exactly powerhouses, let’s be honest. We have put a lot of emphasis on talent (in previous years). His point is that talent is important, but the psyche of the player is probably more important. And then coaching is paramount.''

In January before hiring Meyer after the Jaguars finished 1-15, Khan said that they had to clean house.

''But the people who created the mess need to be part of cleaning up the house and that included me,'' Khan said. ''Much credit to Doug (Marrone) and Dave (Caldwell), we sat down and had a heart-to-heart. Really, we started rebuilding at that point.''

Khan ready to take training wheels off

As Khan said Tuesday that he's ready to take his training wheels on how to run an effective franchise. Khan has been part of the draft process with Meyer and Baalke, sitting in a couple of Zoom calls with prospects, though he wouldn't share specific names.

But Khan said having the opportunity to speak with draft prospects during virtual calls is a more thorough process than the formal interviews granted for teams at the NFL Combine. For the first time in 34 years, NFL coaches, general managers and scouts did not convene in Indianapolis in February at the NFL Scouting Combine because it was canceled due to COVID-19 precautions. 

“We’ve been rounding up the usual suspects and those are the ones I’ve been on,'' Khan said. ''Because of Zoom, you’re able to talk to, I think, some of the players and you’re able to go through a lot of different scenarios. 

"I think this is frankly a much more thorough process than the combine, where you have a player in those rooms for 15 minutes, 20 minutes, and you really don’t get to know each other. That’s where I kind of focused on.” 

But they apparently have their minds made up about Lawrence after speaking to him from several Zoom calls and Meyer getting a closeup evaluation from his Pro Day in February at Clemson. 

''I mean, the work that’s been done and the engagement really by all of the people has been quite amazing,” Khan said.

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