History and League Success
The Jaguars (along with the Carolina Panthers) entered the league in 1995 as the first two expansion teams in nearly two decades.
Five cities competed for the two franchises: Baltimore, Charlotte, Jacksonville, Memphis, and St. Louis. Charlotte was awarded the Carolina Panthers franchise in October 1993; surprisingly the second franchise announcement was delayed a month (believed to allow St. Louis -- the most-likely to be awarded a franchise, as they had previously had a team which relocated to Arizona in 1988 -- time to improve its bid). Baltimore had three bids as well which were all considered strong.
Jacksonville, on the other hand, though making the final round, was considered the least likely candidate for two reasons:
- Though the city was then the 15th-largest city in the United States, larger in population than both Miami and Tampa (locations of the NFL's other two Florida franchises), as it is consolidated with Duval County it has relatively few suburbs making it only the then 54th largest media market (smaller than every then-existing market outside of Green Bay).
- Its stadium (the venerable Gator Bowl) was outdated, and the ownership group -- after being unable to work out a lease with the city -- actually withdrew from bidding a few months earlier. (At the NFL Commissioner's urging, the group re-entered bidding and ultimately worked out a deal for a new stadium.)
It was then a surprise that Jacksonville was awarded the franchise, but likely won due to 1) threatened litigation against the league by an original group bidding for the St. Louis franchise, were the league to have awarded the team to a newer bidding group, 2) likely behind-the-scenes lobbying by Washington Redskins then-owner Jack Kent Cooke against a Baltimore franchise (given the cities are a mere 60 miles apart), and 3) Memphis also facing issues with an outdated stadium (the Liberty Bowl).
Jacksonville has never participated in the Super Bowl (one of four NFL teams to have never appeared, and one of only two expansion teams not to do so) nor even in its conference championship. With the team owned by London-based Shahid Khan, repeated rumors of potential NFL expansion to Europe have Jacksonville as a likely relocation candidate to London should that happen (reinforcing the rumors even further, Jacksonville hosts one game in London each NFL season).
AFC South Rivals
- Subsequently, Jacksonville has grown to be the 11th largest city, and the area the 42nd-largest media market, surpassing Buffalo and New Orleans in the process.