The strategy seems to be working. Lamping says that a portion of the team’s ad dollars now comes from international companies. (Just how much? He won’t say.) The NFL’s UK office says the Jaguars are the eighth-most popular team in London, as measured by jersey sales, as of June 2017. There seems to be a growing pool of British NFL fans to draw from, too: 40,000 people bought ticket packages to attend all four games here this year.
Mark Waller, the NFL’s vice president for international, says the next step in the NFL’s London experiment is expanding to playing eight games a year in London—simulating an NFL regular season—and having one team play in two of those games, in back-to-back weeks.
The general feeling among club owners and executives seems to be this, voiced by one strong ownership influencer: “The players have to buy into something as a group, or else we’re going to be stuck in this muck and mire. That will be awful for the game.”
Fifteen of the CPS’s 96 varsity football programs cancelled their 2017 seasons, mainly because of low participation numbers, and a 16th program combined players with another school to save its season. Rood has built program from the ground up—the team now has 54 players—and posted winning seasons in each of its first two years. For a Chicago public school, that’s a remarkable feat.
At the start, Rood’s job more closely resembled a youth football coach. In the first season only two players out of some 50 who signed on had any experience playing organized football. “It was like coaching 8- and 9-year-olds,” he says. “As a football coach, getting guys just understanding plays—that was the hardest challenge.”
McVay is scary precocious. It showed in his post-game scrum with the team Sunday, after the Rams walked into Jerry World and beat the Cowboys 35-30. He sounded like a veteran head coach, not one who 11 years ago this week was walking across the Miami campus in Oxford, Ohio, scurrying to class as a senior.