JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Send in the clowns.
There wasn’t a large number of fans wearing clown attire — around 200 when you factor in the parking lots, tailgates and inside the stadium — but they were noticeable. Rainbow wigs, red noses and, in a few instances, face paint do tend to stand out from the normal Jaguars colors.
It wasn’t because the circus was in town (though you could argue that former coach Urban Meyer’s 11-month tenure certainly qualifies as one), but rather, part of a Jaguars fan movement that began on social media to voice their displeasure over owner Shad Khan’s reported decision to retain general manager Trent Baalke — as well as the past decade of mismanagement, poor hiring decisions and losses.
A lot of losses.
“I don’t really know what the expectation was,” said John Caputo, the president of the Jaguars fan club Bold City Brigade. “It’s one thing to change your avatar, it’s another to show up in clown stuff.
“Some people are legit angry [at Khan]. I’m not happy. This is sort of what we do. We’re invested in making fun of ourselves and our team.”
The clown movement began several days after a Dec. 27 report by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that Khan had decided to retain Baalke and have him assist in the search for a new head coach. After noticing a tweet by Jaguars fan Joshua Ford, in which Ford added a mustache to the clown emoji (a shot at Khan, who has a black handlebar mustache) and made it his avatar, fellow fan Stephen Solliday did the same and thought it would be funny to ask people on Twitter to do the same.
It quickly caught on, as did the hashtag #FireBaalke. Jaguars fans flooded the team’s live internet broadcasts of interviews with coaches and players, as well as the team’s weekly internet shows, with both clown emojis and #FireBaalke.
And that, eventually, led to a small group of people talking about wearing clown attire to Sunday’s game.
The largest concentration of fans in garb was at the Bold City Brigade’s regular pregame tailgate spot roughly a half-mile from the stadium. Red clown noses were handed out — one fan said he bought 120 and another said he purchased 50 — and several other fans were in face paint.
Blake Zona went with a one-piece full-body clown suit and wig, and the 10-year season-ticket holder said he hoped that Khan got the message the fans were sending: They’re angry, exasperated and hurting at the current state of the franchise.
“If he doesn’t, there’s a problem, because hundreds of fans are walking into TIAA [Bank Field] in clown attire,” Zona said. “That’s not a good look for the franchise.”
Zona wanted to emphasize that the clown movement is not directed at the players in any way. It’s strictly about Khan’s decision-making and about the retention of Baalke, who joined the franchise in February 2020 as the director of player personnel and was promoted to GM after Khan hired Meyer in January 2021.
“We can’t agree on what we had for breakfast,” Solliday said. “We agree on this. … We hate Blaine Gabbert [the team’s first-round pick in 2011] and we want Baalke fired.”
While the clown movement might not have had as big of a turnout as it seemed it would on social media all week — participants represented just a small percentage of the 60,516 tickets distributed — it certainly garnered a lot of national publicity. Jaguars fan Eric Dillard said he considers it a success anyway because of that attention and the spread on social media via photos and video.
That, and the Jaguars’ surprising 26-11 upset of the Colts, helped make the final game of another miserable season a little more bearable.
“The craziest part of it is if he [Khan] does fire him [Baalke] this goes down in sports history forever,” Dillard said.
As the most successful clown show.
Denver Broncos to hire Nathaniel Hackett as new head coach, sources say
Hackett was scheduled to interview with the Jaguars on Thursday, but the Broncos stepped in Wednesday night to get a deal done to prevent him from going to Jacksonville.
NFL Network first reported the news.
GM Brandon Beane says Buffalo Bills will learn from ‘painful’ season-ending loss to Kansas City Chiefs
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y — Brandon Beane said he hasn’t been able to watch the full tape of the Buffalo Bills‘ 42-36 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, outside of the final plays. It’s just too soon, according to the Bills’ general manager.
“It’s painful and still going through it,” Beane said during his 71-minute end-of-season news conference Wednesday. “I’m not in a good spot. But I will review it and we’ll learn from it, I promise you that. There’s a lot of pain in this city and there’s a lot of pain in that building over there, and we’re gonna do everything in our power to not let that happen again.”
The divisional-round loss marked a second straight year in which the Bills’ season ended against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium; last year it was in the AFC Championship Game.
Making it even more painful this time around is that Buffalo — after allowing Kansas City to drive down in the final 13 seconds of regulation and kick a game-tying field goal — didn’t get a chance to get the ball in overtime.
The current rules allow for the game to end with only one team having possession in OT if it scores a touchdown on the opening drive. The Chiefs got possession after winning the coin toss, and walked off with the win when Patrick Mahomes hit tight end Travis Kelce with a touchdown pass.
Since the current overtime rules in the playoffs were adopted in 2010, the team that won the coin toss has now scored a touchdown on the opening possession in seven of 11 games, per ESPN Stats & Information.
Beane said Wednesday that he would be in favor of seeing the rules revisited.
“At the end of the day, we lost the game the other night. But of course we would’ve loved to, I think the TV audience would’ve loved to have seen Josh (Allen) and our offense get it back,” Beane said. “I would definitely love to see it brought back to the table.
“I’m not saying I have the exact idea, but I think there’s some ways to do it. Without getting into detail, I think there’s a way you can do it in the regular season that handles that, but let’s do something in the postseason when it’s all on the line.”
Beane said he has not yet had his end-of-season meeting with coach Sean McDermott and team owners Kim and Terry Pegula, where the topic likely will come up.
Games going on for long periods of overtime in the regular season isn’t necessarily practical due to the wear and tear on players’ bodies, but the playoffs are different. Beane noted how in the 2018 AFC Championship Game, the current overtime rule hurt the Chiefs in their loss to the New England Patriots, and that Kansas City tried to get the rule changed that offseason.
“So maybe there ends up being more ties in the regular season, but let’s make sure we give both offenses a chance when the season’s on the line,” Beane said.
“I’m sure even though it benefited (the Chiefs) the other night, I’m sure they would be in favor. If you’ve got Pat Mahomes, you’re always going to want to make sure he gets the ball, and we feel the same about Josh.”
With the game as close as it was and the teams seemingly more evenly matched than last year, Beane thinks the Bills are right there with the Chiefs, whom they beat in Kansas City during the regular season.
“I truly believe if we played them 10 times, it’s probably 5-5. And that’s my heart of hearts,” Beane said. “They may think different, that’s how I see it. If we had just finished that game the way we know how, we’re not sitting here right now, we’re preparing for another one. I think we took some steps in the right direction.”
The Bills finished 11-6 in the regular season and won back-to-back AFC East titles for the first time since winning four straight from 1988-91. They were led by another strong season from Allen and had the league’s No. 1 defense, which helped demolish the Patriots, 47-17, in the opening round of the playoffs.
The general manager did point out the other most painful loss of the season — a 9-6 defeat to the Jaguars in Jacksonville — and apologized to the fans, while thanking them for staying and showing them love, instead of booing them.
“I mean, I would have been booing us. I was booing myself,” he said.
Beane and McDermott often talk about game management, and they’ll need to learn from Sunday’s ending — specifically Kansas City’s game-tying drive with just 13 seconds left in regulation. Beane said he would “fix it” if he could, having thought about the ending “a million times,” but instead will focus on what they can take from it for the future.
“I’ve learned the most in my life and the most in the five years I’ve been the GM about the things I did wrong,” Beane said. “And so we have to learn from not only this game, we got to learn from some of the games we lost in the year. Because as I said, I want to play every playoff game (at home). And you always ask yourself, ‘What if Kansas City would have had to come here? What would that have been like?’ The advantage to playing at home in January, coming up here in the cold, the elements, whatever it is.
“We’re definitely going to look at everything that went right this year, but we’re going to look hard at everything that went wrong, including the last 13 seconds.”
Kansas City Chiefs fans, in nod to Bills Mafia, donate $255,017 to Buffalo children’s hospital
Chiefs fans, inspired by the fundraising spirit of Bills Mafia, have decided to turn their team’s big overtime win Sunday into a positive for the Buffalo community, raising $255,017 for Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo as of late Wednesday afternoon, per the hospital.
Beginning Tuesday, donations in increments of $13 began being sent to the hospital from Chiefs fans in honor of the 13 seconds it took for the Kansas City offense to drive down the field to tie the divisional-round playoff game at the end of regulation. The Chiefs went on to win 42-36 on the first drive of overtime.
The original idea from a Chiefs Kingdom Facebook group was to donate in $13 increments to quarterback Patrick Mahomes‘ charitable organization, the 15 and the Mahomies Foundation. That changed when Chiefs fans heard more about the Bills fans’ tradition of giving back to other teams; they instead direct their efforts to their opponent’s charity of choice.
The Oishei Children’s Hospital became closely connected with Bills quarterback Josh Allen after fans donated in $17 increments, totaling $1.1 million, in honor of Allen’s grandmother, Patricia Allen, who died last year. There is now a Patricia Allen Pediatric Recovery Wing in the hospital and the Patricia Allen Fund to benefit the critical care team and provide support for equipment, training, education and programs.
One of the most noteworthy examples of the Bills fans’ tradition came in 2017 when Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver Tyler Boyd connected for a game-winning touchdown over the Baltimore Ravens that led to the Bills clinching a playoff berth for the first time in 17 years.
In $17 increments, fans raised $442,000 for the Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation. This year, Bills fans have led donation efforts in honor of cornerback Tre’Davious White tearing an ACL, giving back to the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana in his hometown, among others.
While 13 seconds likely will never again have a positive association in Buffalo, fan bases turning a tough ending into a positive for a different community is an uplifting tradition.
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