January 13, 2023 7:00am

Jacksonville civic and business leaders shocked to see Jaguars in NFL Playoffs, rally around Coach Pederson

Jacksonville movers and shakers are savoring post-season playoffs for the Jaguars because they simply didn't expect it

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By Drew Dixon
Jacksonville, FL Correspondent

January’s Power Poll finds Jacksonville’s power players pleasantly dumbfounded by the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL franchise’s ability to go from worst to first this year. But those movers and shakers are rallying around the team as they head into the NFL playoffs while embracing Doug Pederson, the new head coach, more than anyone else with the team.

It was only a year ago the team appeared to be in the ashes of disaster following one of the most troubling years in franchise history when the 2021 head coach Urban Meyer was fired mid-season. The team went 3-14 on the season and the franchise was a true laughingstock of the league.

But Pederson quickly nurtured the team after being hired in 2022 and convinced the players, especially 2021 first overall draft pick, quarterback Trevor Lawrence, to buy into the new culture of trust, respect and relying on each other. The Jags finished 9-8 in the regular season and won the AFC South Division, securing a home playoff game in the Wildcard round against the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday, Jan. 14 at TIAA Bank Field.

Civic and business leaders are nearly giddy at the stunning reversal of performance this year by the Jags and, while they wanted to, most acknowledge they didn’t dare dream the team would get into the post-season tournament. Of those who participated in the Power Poll, 54% said they are totally surprised the Jags made the playoffs and they didn’t think it would happen. Another 38% said they thought it was possible, but didn’t think it would happen while 2% said they were not surprised at all because they knew the Jags had talent all along. Another 5% had no opinion or don’t know.

When it comes to who gets the credit for the unexpected turnaround, anyone and everyone besides Pederson might as well just sit down. Among those answering poll questions, a whopping 74% said Pederson alone is responsible for restoring faith in the Jaguars. The entire team was favored by 17% of the respondents, 2% said Lawrence deserves credit, 1% said team owner Shad Khan deserves the kudos and 5% had no opinion or didn’t know.

Now that Jacksonville made it to the playoffs, most respondents to this month’s Power Poll say they don’t see the team making it all the way to the Super Bowl after entering the post-season for the first time in half a decade. Only 6% said the team would advance to the big game while 63% said there was maybe a 50% chance of reaching the Super Bowl and 19% said the Jags won’t make it past the first round of the playoffs. Another 12% said they had no opinion or didn’t know.

The fact the Jags made the playoffs at all truly stunned power players in Jacksonville. Among the respondents to the poll, 83% acknowledged they thought the Jags might win a few more games this season but would not have a winning record while 10% said they thought the team would win fewer than four games and 1% said they knew the team was going to turn the franchise around and make the playoffs this season. Another 6% said they had no opinion or didn’t know.

The amazing reversal of fortune has most respondents satisfied with the team this year, even if they don’t advance very far in the post-season. Asked if they would be disappointed if the Jags don’t reach the title game this year, 89% said they’re just happy the team had a winning season. Another 6% said they’d be only mildly disappointed because last season was so terrible while no one said they’d be disappointed because the Jags should reach the Super Bowl. Another 5% said they don’t know or had no opinion.

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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