London’s American sister city is New York but in a football sense, it’s been Jacksonville for the past three years during the NFL’s International Series, something Jaguars owner Shad Khan wants to continue for many years by creating the first, so-called dual citizenship NFL team.
Khan, a Pakistan-born billionaire, who became a US citizen in 1991, has plenty of ties to London and is also the owner of Fulham F.C., which is currently attempting to climb back into England’s storied Premier League.
“I’m from the colonies, so I remember when the sun never set on the British Empire,” he recently told the BBC. “I have a huge affinity with London and I have a lot of relatives here, now and before I was born. I pretty much look at London as the center of the universe.”
For a struggling franchise like Jacksonville you would think a win, any win, would be cause for celebration these days but Sunday’s 34-31 victory across the pond over a Buffalo team in a giving mood was as unsatisfying as it gets for an organization that’s tasted victory just 11 times since Jack Del Rio left the Sunshine State after the 2011 season.
The Jaguars are not a serious postseason contender two-plus years into the Dave Caldwell/Gus Bradley regime and the honeymoon is over with most, including Khan, who is expecting signs to at least point in the right direction.
On paper it was the first win in three tries for the Jaguars in their home away from home, London’s Wembley Stadium, but they needed a late Blake Bortles touchdown pass to a diving Allen Hurns with 2:16 remaining to do it, despite the fact E.J. Manuel was offering up more turnovers than the local bakery during the first half of the contest.
And Bortles, the face of the franchise who was the No. 3 overall pick in 2014, was egregious for most of the game, finishing 13-of-29 for 182 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, a 44-yard Corey Graham pick six in the fourth quarter that actually out the Bills in front.
The often ugly affair started at 9:30 a.m. ET in the States, and was streamed live on YAHOO! outside the local Buffalo and Jacksonville television markets, the first live streaming attempt ever by the NFL.
And if it did reach any kind of new audience that group likely wasn’t impressed with the product. Buffalo was starting its backup QB, Manuel, and without its top two receivers and two starting offensive lineman, something Jacksonville took advantage of, racing out to a 27-3 advantage before imploding and then rallying late.
Manuel, playing in place of the injured Tyrod Taylor, was picked off by Telvin Smith and Paul Posluszny early as the Jags turned both miscues into TDs. He also fumbled inside his own 10, as Chris Clemons scooped up that faux pass for a score.
A three-possession game should be enough against the Super Bowl champions never mind reeling Buffalo, but Manuel stopped throwing it to the other side and the Bills chipped away until Graham gave them a 31-27 lead with just over five minutes remaining.
Give Bortles, the Jags and especially Hurns credit for responding but a diving catch to save you from blowing a 24-point lead against a mediocre team is not exactly the way to begin the resume.
Jacksonville is now 75 percent of the way through its initial four-year deal to play one home game a season at Wembley, an agreement that was extended through 2020 last week as part of a larger five-year deal to play two games a season at Wembley, with an option to extend that to 2025.
Khan has already confirmed he wants to play at least one Jaguars game a year in London through 2030 but if the NFL was like the Premier League, the Jaguars under Khan’s ownership would have already suffered the same fate as his soccer team, relegated to an inferior league.
For the Jaguars to remain relevant in this dual citizenship plan, the worm has to turn on the field.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.
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