Maybe you’ve noticed that amid all the coverage of the Jaguars in recent weeks, the stories about the team and the fans, there are two people you haven’t seen.
Wayne and Delores Weaver.
You can find former players popping up all over the place. (Not that they’re just jumping on the bandwagon. I remember hearing Tony Boselli say months ago that this team could win 10 games in the regular season. I think I’m still cleaning up the coffee I sprayed all over my windshield.)
You can find stories about a former coach who’s now in the front office. (Considering Tom Coughlin’s success against the Patriots, expect to see a lot of that story line this week.)
Of course, you can find longtime Jaguars fans everywhere. If you’re still boycotting all things Jags, you might want to avoid turning on the TV, opening the newspaper, checking social media, leaving your house …
But you probably haven’t seen or heard much from the former owners.
They’re still involved in the community, still rooting for the NFL team they owned for 18 years. But when the Times-Union contacted the Weavers about being interviewed, they’ve declined.
They’ve basically said this is Shad Khan’s party, and they don’t want to intrude on it.
We told Khan this a few weeks ago, before the Jaguars’ first home playoff game since 2000 and his first as an NFL owner. He laughed and shook his head, saying he’d be happy to see the Weavers involved in the hoopla.
“They’re a class act,” he said. “They really are a class act. I think whatever they want to do is great.”
He added that there could come a time when he’d make sure they’re involved.
“I think when we get to a stage where the team has not been, whether they want it or not we’re going to force them to be a part of it,” he said. “Because I know the team wouldn’t be here without them.”
Two victories later, the Jaguars are back in the AFC Championship Game for the third time in franchise history, one huge upset away from that stage where the team has not been: the Super Bowl.
Whether or not they make it there, the Weavers deserve some of the credit for where the team is today.
Still in Jacksonville.
Or, if you prefer, still in Duuuuvaaalll …
Wayne Weaver’s most important decision as an NFL owner — more than any hiring or firing of a coach or general manager — was his last one.
It was announced Nov. 29, 2011, leading to a headline in the next morning’s paper that said: “DAY OF CHANGE.”
Weaver fired Jack Del Rio as coach, then in a much bigger surprise sold the franchise.
He was about to turn 77. And in an emotional press conference, he said that he had been working on an “exit strategy,” trying to find someone who had the same passion about the NFL — specifically about the NFL in Jacksonville — that he and Delores did.
“And I found that person,” he said.
Some were skeptical about the businessman from Illinois. A few were bigoted in their comments about his Pakistani roots. But six years later, the Weavers’ decision to sell the team to Khan has been validated.
Not because the Jaguars are one game from the Super Bowl. Not because of the sellouts, the tarp coming off for a playoff game, the thousands of fans showing up for a post-Pittsburgh celebration.
Not because of anything that happened this season.
Because of what didn’t happen in the previous five seasons.
When Weaver sold the team, he admitted that during his time as owner people had been interested in buying the team and moving it, especially to Los Angeles.
It’s a safe bet that interest didn’t suddenly end with a change in owners. But four years later, when three NFL franchises filed to relocate to Los Angeles, none was from Jacksonville.
Khan did some things — giant scoreboards, swimming pools, road games in London — that became easy fodder for out-of-town columnists (and, OK, some of us in town). But I believe the genuine goal was to keep fans in seats and the Jaguars in Jacksonville.
Winning, of course, goes a long way.
The morning after Weaver sold the team, the Times-Union ran a collection of fan comments about his legacy on the front page of the Metro section. One was in larger, bold type.
“I hope Wayne lives long enough for the Jags to win the Super Bowl. Then I’d like to see Khan get him to the field and accept the Lombardi Trophy. Thanks Wayne. Go Jags!”
For a decade, it seemed far-fetched to picture the Jags in the Super Bowl in anyone’s lifetime. But now they’re one game away, suddenly beloved by a nation tired of Patriots’ haters. (“We Should All Be Rooting for America’s Team, the Jacksonville Jaguars,” a Vice Sports headline said.)
And if the Jaguars somehow win in New England, extending this moment all the way to Minneapolis, the Weavers deserve to be a part of it.