Win most of your home games and break even on the road. It used to be a recipe for the playoffs in the NFL. For the Jaguars first 13 years of existence, the home field advantage was just that: an advantage. That hasn’t been the case lately.
From the Jaguars inaugural season through 2007, the Jaguars were 30 games over .500 at home, a record of 67-37. Clearly, better teams win more games, at home or on the road. But even when the Jaguars were mediocre, they could rely on the home field to help them out. In an injury-riddled 7-9 season in 2000, four of the Jaguars wins came at home. In Jack Del Rio’s first season as head coach in 2003, all of the Jaguars five victories came in Jacksonville.
But after 2007, things have fallen off. Over the last 10 seasons, the Jaguars are just 25-44 at home. That’s the third-worst home record in the league over the past decade–only the Rams and Browns have been worse at home.
Why? There is no consensus, but there are no shortage of theories.
“We’ve had a problem in the past not winning at home,” Jaguars nickleback Aaron Colvin said. “We know that playoff teams win at home. You have to be able to win a majority of them if you are going to make a run at the playoffs and hopefully the Super Bowl. We have to know what has been the issues and we have to attack them.”
The defense should, in theory, be able to feed off of the crowd. Teams that excel at the pass rush and forcing turnovers can benefit from a loud environment. The offense simply has to reduce the mistakes.
“We haven’t been doing too good at home. The main thing for us is we have to take it one game at a time and be a more consistent team,” wide receiver Allen Hurns said. “If you want to be a good team, you have to win at home. This week, hopefully, we get things rolling.”
Regardless of the “Why?” the larger question is “How?” As in “How to reverse the trend?”
The simple answer is, play better. When discussing the home field advantage factor, some players think its all about the fans. I can tell you from past observations, it is not. The fans can create some of the environment, but teams who make big plays feed into to the home crowd, which in turn can become even more energized. Without big plays being made by the players on the field, the home field advantage falls flat.
“We have to earn that right to have home field advantage,” head coach Doug Marrone said. “I don’t think you can put it all on the fans. They’re coming out and paying good money to see a good product on the field and see someone win. You have to earn that first. That’s why we have to do a better job of playing at home.”
Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said that he doesn’t script plays any differently at home compared with road games, even considering the difference in crowd noise, but he acknowledged that the offense has to do its part.
“It’s one of the elephants in the room right now, how the offense has played at home,” Hackett said. “Last year, we had a few good performances at the end. Losing sucks. None of us want to lose. Losing weighed on me. Anytime you lose it’s hard. You live game-by-game in this league.”
If the Jaguars are going to develop the home field advantage at EverBank Field again, there is no better time to start than Sunday against the Rams.