Jacksonville, FL — At age 13, Shad Khan hitch-hiked from Pakistan through Iran and Iraq with a group of Boy Scouts. At age 16, Khan arrived in the United States without knowing anyone or the direction his life might lead. Now 71, Khan has made himself into one of the richest men in the world and for the last decade, the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In Jacksonville, most know his story of success. Also in Jacksonville, die-hard Jaguars fans wonder if sustainable success will ever happen for the franchise Khan owns.
On Monday night, the eve of Khan’s 10 year anniversary of owning the Jaguars, Khan reflected on the last decade in Jacksonville. He reiterated his hope to help elevate the city to new heights and bring a Super Bowl to Jags fans.
Khan met with a group of local media aboard his almost $200 million yacht, The Kismet, in an informal question and answer session. While there is a frustration over the football losses, Khan’s excitement for the City of Jacksonville and its potential continues to be palpable. “There’s a vacuum here, there’s a football team here and as an owner I can move the needle,” said Khan. “How many times do you get a chance to move a needle in a good way in a great American city, very rarely. That’s the power here.”
Khan defines his greatest success in the last ten years as supporting the passing of a Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) in Jacksonville. “If we had won the Super Bowl, I told the players that, it would still be the number two thing for me,” said Khan. “Because of what the team and players did to put us in a position to get enough votes to get HRO passed.”
Khan has been the catalyst for downtown development. The St. Johns River, northeast Florida, an international airport and other features of Jacksonville make the River City into a canvas ready to be redefined for a visionary. Khan believes in the picture Jacksonville can paint. “I think the city needs aspiration,” said Khan. “You are defined by the best experience in town and the worst experience in town and we need to elevate the best experience in town.”
In October, the Jacksonville Shipyards project was approved. Phase I will include a marina, a Four Seasons Hotel, a restored Met Park and office building space.
The momentum of downtown and investments of Khan into the stadium and surrounding areas have squashed national narratives of the franchise moving. “I never started that rumor,” said Khan. When asked if he’s proud of helping stop the narrative, Khan sternly said, “It’s not important to me at all. You believe what you’re going to believe.”
The next step in stability for the Jaguars franchise will be a renovation of the stadium they have called home since the birth of the team in 1995. While a new stadium renovation is not imminent, communications with the city have started. “Don’t think for a moment the path to keeping a team in the city is team performance,” said Jaguars President Mark Lamping, also in attendance Monday night. “Winning is the most important thing but it’s not the only thing. Shad is not behaving like an owner that is moving, we’ve seen people behave that way and Shad is not.”
Since Khan bought the Jaguars in 2011, the Rams, Raiders and Chargers have all relocated to new cities due to stadium issues. “We have to have a stadium that not only keeps Florida-Georgia (annual college game in Jacksonville),” said Khan. “The college playoff is going to be expanding. We need to have a stadium that qualifies for that.”
The team currently playing inside the stadium is struggling again with Khan as owner. In the last decade, the Jaguars record is 41-116. Notably, the Jaguars did reach the AFC Championship during the 2017 season, but the other seasons have been dismal including this 2-11 campaign under Urban Meyer.
Khan has been known for his patience as an owner in the last decade. He is more involved than most know including attending Saturday night team meetings, communicating with coaches, and has an open line with players. “I want to do the right thing for the team. I want to do the right thing for the city,” said Khan on Monday. “That, to me, is way more important than acting helter-skelter on emotion.”
Meyer is a polarizing figure. The head coach has come under fire for much of his entire first season in the NFL and most recently over the weekend amid reports of dysfunction inside the building. “What concerns me is wins and losses,” said Khan. “What’s different about this thing is - you have losses and you have drama. “In the past, it was like you were, quote, the lowly jaguars and everyone left you alone,” Khan said. “Now, the scrutiny we have is really something different and how much of that is we’re bringing it upon ourselves, how much of that is deserved, and how much of that is he won wherever he was and this is something he’s never dealt with. “When you win in football, you create enemies. The only way you can really deal with that is you have to win again.”
Khan likes to win. He wants to win. He knows the fans in Jacksonville have endured a lot over the last decade. “I feel the (fans) pain, you know,” Khan said. “I know it because I’m living it. We’re going to do better.”
The next decade for the Jaguars owner starts on Sunday in Jacksonville as the Jaguars play the Houston Texans at 1pm on CBS47.
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