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The Jacksonville fanbase is accustomed to frustration. As fans of a team that hasn’t found consistent success since the late 1990s, they’re used to being disappointed by the result on the field. But the last two seasons have been especially abysmal.
The team is just 3-29 since the start of 2020, and it’s staring down the barrel of a second-straight No. 1 pick in the draft after never finishing as the league’s worst team in its first 25 years of existence. Those frustrations boiled over when reports dropped that owner Shad Khan intends to keep general manager Trent Baalke in 2022.
Jacksonville’s on-field struggles can be (at least partially) attributed to Baalke’s approach during the offseason, and many feel that he didn’t do enough to address the shortcomings on a roster that finished 1-15 last season. They want a fresh start, and to try to pressure Khan to see eye-to-eye, some have embraced the #KhlownOut movement, where fans have changed their Twitter avatars to the clown emoji with a Khan-esque mustache.
It’s unclear how the movement has impacted Khan’s thinking, but it seems to have found a sympathetic audience in rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who was asked about the fans planning to show up to Sunday’s season finale against Indianapolis wearing clown costumes.
“I guess I’ll start by saying I understand how the fans that have been Jacksonville fans for a long time (feel),” Lawrence said on Wednesday, per ESPN’s Mike DiRocco. “I’m sure that hasn’t been easy. (There’s) a lot of diehard fans that this is, I wouldn’t say everything for them, but this is something that’s very important to them, and they’ve been a fan since the Jags started. You see that passion, and you definitely respect that.
“As players, I know the feeling. We want to do everything we can to win for this city, for these fans and obviously we haven’t had much success this year. That’s frustrating for us as well, so I understand from a fan’s perspective. Would I (wear clown attire) personally? No, I wouldn’t do that. But fans feel how they feel, and it’s hard. Like I said, this year’s been disappointing for all of us. We wanted to win a lot more games, so I get the frustration. But for us, we’re just focusing on going and finishing with a win this season.”
If you were expecting Lawrence to call for his general manager to be fired, you may be disappointed, but this is still a telling quote in several ways. You can tell from reading it that Lawrence understands the fans’ frustrations, which certainly pale in comparison to his own over a rookie season that hasn’t gone to plan.
Developing Lawrence is the franchise’s top priority right now, and the team needs to make it clear to him that his concerns will be taken into account and he will have at least some say in the direction the franchise takes moving forward. Whether that means retaining Baalke or moving on, Lawrence’s opinion should be a factor.
And the rookie quarterback didn’t exactly jump to defend his boss from a mob of angry fans dressed as clowns.