JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville Jaguars have settled on a London itinerary, quite possibly for the foreseeable future.
After three years of experimenting with the schedule, the Jaguars (0-3) are flying across the pond the same day they did a year ago. It’s no coincidence they’re repeating the routine that ended with a 34-31 victory against Buffalo at Wembley Stadium.
Jacksonville, which will leave Thursday afternoon and arrive Friday morning, is looking for similar results Sunday against AFC South rival Indianapolis (1-2).
“All we have in the back of our mind is that this is a business trip and it doesn’t matter how long we’re there,” defensive end Tyson Alualu said. “We just have to make sure we come back with a win.”
That could be paramount for coach Gus Bradley, who is 12-39 in four seasons, has dropped six consecutive games and would like nothing more than to quell speculation about his job security heading into the team’s bye week.
The Jaguars believe they have the found the best way to prepare for the 4,200-mile flight and five-hour time difference. It took some trial and error to figure it out, though.
They traveled early in the week following a home game in 2013 and lost badly. They flew across the pond right after a road game in 2014 and got blown out again. Then, instead of spending nearly an entire week in London, they went three days ahead of the game last season. History shows teams with shorter stays tend to win more often.
“Going over a week early is good the first time because it gives you a chance to really see everything over there,” safety Johnathan Cyprien said. “But now that we’ve been there a couple times, I like the idea of getting there on Friday. I think your body adjusts pretty quickly.”
Playing in London for the fourth straight year, Jacksonville requested a division game in hopes of taking advantage of having been there before. The Colts are making the trip for the first time.
Jacksonville lost its first two games at Wembley by a combined score of 73-27. Now, the team feels like there’s little, if any, potential for players and coaches to be shell-shocked or awe-struck by London.
“We know we’re going to go there every year, so let’s take advantage of this,” linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “It’s important for our organization, so let’s do the job on the field and make it that way.”
Jaguars owner Shad Khan hopes to play annually in London at least until 2030. The NFL extended its agreement with Wembley last year, and Jacksonville is scheduled to play there once a year through 2020.
Khan calls playing in London the “No. 1 element to stabilizing” the small-market franchise. The annual trip, one of Jacksonville’s 10 home games including exhibitions, accounts for 15 percent of the team’s local revenue. So there are financial implications for playing there. The Jaguars just need to make it competitively advantageous.
Sticking with the same schedule could help.
The Jags are essentially treating it like a West Coast trip. They’re leaving after practice Thursday and will arrive the following morning. They’ll check into the hotel and then get on the field for some light jogging. The team mandates that players sleep during the eight-hour flight, even offering sleeping pills and suggesting eye shades and noise-canceling headphones.
“We feel like we’ve been there enough times before that we know what we need to do,” said defensive tackle Roy Miller, who will be playing his sixth game in London. “It’s business as usual now.”