- Rallying cry of Jaguar fans
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a professional football team, who play in the National Football league, and are located in Jacksonville, Florida. They started play in the 1995 football season along with the Carolina Panthers.
Before the JagsEdit
Jacksonville was often cited as being a hospitable city towards football, and indeed it was. Every year the city would host the Gator Bowl, a traditional rivalry game between the University of Florida and University of Georgia teams.
Hosting the game was the stadium of the same name and the site briefly welcomed the Jacksonville Sharks of the World Football League and the Jacksonville Bulls of the United States Football leagues; however eventually both teams folded as did their respective leagues.
In accordance with their desire for an NFL team, Jacksonville briefly attempted to lure the Baltimore Colts to the city, and later the Houston Oilers in the late 1980s. Both failed unfortunately, but events would soon favor professional football in Jacksonville.
The Jags Come to TownEdit
In 1991 it was announced by the NFL that they intended to expand the league by two more franchises, as the sport was growing more in popularity and teams hadn't been added since 1976 (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Seattle Seahawks). Five cities were chosen as finalists:
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- St. Louis, Missouri
- Baltimore, Maryland
- Memphis Tennessee
- Jacksonville, Florida
At the start, Jacksonville was considered a minute possibility; the reasoning was that college football already gripped much of the fanbase there, there were already two NFL teams in Florida, and Jacksonville's television market was the smallest of the group.
Even before the announcement, a potential ownership group called Touchdown Jacksonville had formed two years earlier in 1989. Notable members of the original group included future Governor Jeb Bush and Tom Petway. Eventually the group came to be led by local shoe magnate Wayne Weaver, and after filing their application with the NFL, also revealed they intended to call the team the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In April of 1993, the NFL noted that renovations would have to be made to the Gator Bowl if an expansion team were to be granted. After weeks of negotiation, a proposal for such was sent to City Council, but it was rejected. Dissapointed, many assumed they'd lose yet another chance for an NFL team.
However, the other prospective cities were underwhelming also, and the NFL encouraged interests in Jacksonville to revisit the proposal and bid. About a month later, negotiations resumed and City Council approved a slightly different plan. Jacksonville was back in the race for an NFL team.
Charlotte was unanimously granted the first of two expansion teams on November 1, 1993, and the NFL stated the other city chosen would be announced before or on November 30. At the time, most assumed by reasoning that St. Louis would gain the other team; but on 2:12 P.M. Eastern Time on November 30, Jacksonville was announced as the winning city. The next evening 25,000 fans celebrated at the Gator Bowl.
The old Gator Bowl underwent heavy renovation starting in 1994, and opened on August 18, 1995 in the Jaguars first preseason game versus the St. Louis Rams (who had moved from Los Angeles awhile prior).
The Early YearsEdit
1995 Season: Starting Off
The 1995 season marked the year the Jaguars began play in the AFC Central division, and they finished with a record of 4-12, setting the new record for most wins by an expansion franchise. Many soon-to-be prominent players began playing in the inaugural season, including quarterback Mark Brunell, offensive lineman Tony Boselli, running back James Stewart, and wide reciever Jimmy Smith. The team was coached by Tom Coughlin.
1996 Season: To the Playoffs
The second season of play in 1996 was a shocking success; the Jaguars finished the season with a 9-7 record due to a five game win streak. Winning the tiebreaker with the Indianapolis Colts, the team flew to Buffalo for their first playoff game, which they won in a tight fashion, 30-27. The win was made even noteworthy by that fact that the Jagaurs became the first opponent to ever defeat the Bills at their stadium in the playoffs.
The next game proved to daunting; the Jaguars were lined up to face the Denver Broncos, a dominant team led by legendary quarterback John Elway, and they had finished 13-3. However, the Jaguars did not let themselves be intimidated, and went to Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado, and upset the Broncos 30-27. In celebration, 40,000 fans went to Jacksonville Municipal Stadium and greeted the team's return in the early hours of the morning.
The Jaguars went onto the AFC Championship game where they lost to the New England Patriots 20-6 in what was often described as a defensive battle.
1997 Season: Back To the Playoffs
In their third season of play, the Jaguars finished 11-5 and once again entered the playoffs as a wild-card selection. Hoping to strike lightning twice, the team flew to Mile High Stadium a second time, only to lose to the Broncos 42-17.
1998 Season: Division Champions
The 1998 season saw improvement, as the Jaguars won the AFC Central division, and became the first expansion NFL team to make the playoffs three times in their first four seasons. The first round was fought at home against the New England Patriots, who would lose this time to the Jaguars, 25-10. However, the Jaguars would lose in the divisional round to the New York Jets, 34-24.
1999 Season: On Top of the NFL
The 1999 season would prove to be the peak of the Jaguar's success. They once again won their division, this time with the best record in the NFL, 14-2, and therefore clinched a first round bye and homefield advantage. In the divisional round of the playoffs, the Jaguars annihilated the Miami Dolphins, 62-7, in what proved to be legend Dan Marino's final NFL game.
However, in what proved to be the franchise's darkest hour, the Jaguars lost at home to the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship game, being denied a chance to play in the Super Bowl.
Harder Times For the JaguarsEdit
Hopes were high following the successful 1999 season, but the Jaguars would finish with their first losing record since 1995, 7-9. The next two seasons would see the team finishing 6-10 each year, and after the 2002 season, Tom Coughlin was fired. Defensive Coordinator Jack del Rio of the Carolina Panthers was hired to fill the void of head coach, and he led the Jaguars on a rough start, finishing his inaugural season with a 5-11 record.
2001 also saw the realignment of NFL divisions, and the Jaguars would begin play in the 2002 season as part of the newly formed AFC South Division, along with the Indianapolis Colts, the Tennessee Titans, and the Houston Texans.
The Modern EraEdit
2004 Season: A Winning Season
In the 2004 season, the 10th season of play for the Jaguars, Jack del Rio rallied the team to a 9-7 finish; the season was defined by prominent victories against the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts. The defense improved greatly and two defensive players, Marcus Stroud and John Henderson went to the NFL Pro Bowl. However, the Jaguars just barely missed out of the playoffs.
2005 Season: Back to the Playoffs (Briefly)
In 2005, the Jaguars continued their improvement, grinding out a 12-4 record with quality wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals; however 9 of of their 10 final games were against opponents with losing records; many have concluded that such a weak schedule, in combination with a rash of injuries to quarterback Byron Leftwich, linebacker Mike Peterson, and defensive tackle Marcus Stroud among others, led to their defeat in the first round of the playoffs against the New England Patriots, 28-3.
2006 Season: Failure or Success?
The 2006 season was a mixed bag. Another plague of injuries to key players, coupled with a three game lose streak that would see the Jaguars plummet from an 8-5 record to a final of 8-8, defined much of the season; however positives were duly noted; the Jaguars second round NFL draft pick, Maurice Jones-Drew proved to be a rookie sensation, averaging 5.7 per carry as one of the team's primary running backs, with 16 touchdowns to boot. Also, quality wins including a shutout of defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh, along with a home-trampling of the Indianapolis Colts 44-17, showcased the teams potential.
2007 Season: One For the Ages
After the mixed results of the 2006 season, many did not think the Jaguars would be able to rebound well; Byron Leftwich, although reaffirmed the starting quarterback by Jack del Rio emphatically, was being challenged by the secondary QB David Garrard, and even the third stringer, Quinn Gray. Leftwich continued to be plagued by a recurring ankle injury also; Many also questioned Garrard's bid as he was villified as the reason for the Jaguar's late season collapse, and Gray barely had any playing time to prove himself. The controversy continued to divide fans.
The preseason of the 2007 regular season proved to be the battle grounds for the quarterbacks. While Leftwich turned in an overall poorer performance, many noticed Garrard's marked improvement. As a result, eight days before the regular season, on August 31, it was announced David Garrard would be the starter, and Byron Leftwich was cut. Quinn Gray assumed the role of backup QB.
The decision led to much criticism of Jack del Rio, many feeling he made an awful decision. However, the regular season would vindicate del Rio and Garrard in what would be a peak performance for the Jaguars as a whole.
The offense proved to be the highlight of the season, led by a highly effective Garrard and the running back tandem of Maurice Jones-Drew and resurgent Fred Taylor. David Garrard finished the season with 2509 yards passing, 18 touchdowns, and an astounding 3 interceptions all season out of 325 pass attempts. His percentage of completions was 64%, and he proved to be highly effective on third down situations. He finished the season with a 102.2 QB passer rating, ranking high among the league's elite quarterbacks.
Fred Taylor, overshadowed by Maurice Jones-Drew's wonderful rookie season the year before, broke the 10,000 yards rushing mark, and broke 1,000 yards for the season, the seventh time he's done so in his NFL career. He averaged 5.4 yards a carry, and acquired 5 touchdowns. Although Fred Taylor was not voted to go to the Pro Bowl, he accumulated enough votes to be first alternate behind the winner Willie Parker; however, Parker broke his leg near the end of the season, and now Fred Taylor will be starting at the Pro Bowl.
Jones-Drew continued to prove a valuable asset, rushing for 768 yards, 9 touchdowns, and averaged 4.6 yards a carry.
The receiving corps proved to grow stronger. Reggie Williams, a rookie on the Jaguars roster, had a respectable season, finishing with 38 receptions, 629 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Other recievers who proved effective included Dennis Northcutt, Ernest Wilford, Greg Esfandia, George Wrightster.
The offense in total peaked near the end of thse season; the Jaguars scored 24 or more points in 8 straight games for the first time in their history, gained at least four consecutive games with 400 yards of offense or more, had nine plays of 50+ yards, had 7 touchdowns of 50+ yards, and had 12 games of 100+ yards rushing.
However the once vaunted defense was reduced to a more mediocre ranking, especially after being torched for over 500 yards passing against the New Orleans Saints in Week 9. All though the run defense improved after a shaky start (Tennessee ran for 280 yards in a Week 1 13-10 victory against the Jaguars), the pass rush of the defensive line and the average performance of the secondary proved to be the Jaguar's Achilles heel.
All of this culminated in a 11-5 finish, easily securing the Jacksonville Jaguars a no. 5 seed in the playoffs as a wild card team. The Jaguars then flew to Pittsburgh, whom they had defeated there in the regular season 29-22, for a Saturday night prime-time matchup. In what proved to be a heated defensive battle, the Jaguars forced three interceptions and one fumble on route to a nail-biting finale. Here the Jaguars inched out the Steelers with a last minute Josh Scobee field goal that produced the final score of 31-29. The play was made possible by David Garrard scrambling for 32 yards on a 4th down and 2 play, bringing them to the 11 yard line and well into field goal range. The final drive of the Steelers was evaporated when Ben Roethlisberger fumbled and it was recovered by the Jaguars, who took the kneel for their first playoff victory in almost seven years. The Jaguars were now in line to face the undefeated New England Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Flying to Gillete Stadium for a Saturday night matchup once again, the Jaguar team took the field against the Patriots. The Jaguars received the ball first and made good use of the gift, going 80 yards in nine plays, capping it off with an amazing touchdown pass by David Garrard; in the midst of being sacked, Garrard threw the ball the Matt Jones for a 9 yard touchdown pass right before his knees hit the turf. New England, led by Tom Brady, responded with a 3 yard touchdown pass to Benjamin Watson.
On the next possession, David Garrard was strip sacked and New England recovered, leading to a another New England touchdown and a 14-7 lead. Making amends for his mistake, Garrard drove the Jaguar's offense from their 5 yard line 95 yards in 11 plays to score with a six yard strike to Ernest Wilford, tieing the game. The offense never even faced a third down. With the first half drawing to a close, New England drove to the 17 yard line, but their kicker Steve Gostkowski missed a field goal, leaving the game tied at the half.
New England would recieve the ball at the beginning of the third quarter, and drove down the field and scored with a Tom Brady pass to Wes Welker. Garrard once again led his offense to respond, but a drop by Dennis Northcutt on third down froced the Jaguars to settle for a Josh Scobee field goal, cutting the deficit to 21-17. Tom Brady then scored with another touchdown pass to Benjamin Watson on their next drive, giving them a 28-17 lead.
Jacksonville then drove down the field, but was forced once again (after a dropped TD pass by Matt Jones) to settle for a Josh Scobee field goal, making the score 28-20. After a New England field goal, Garrard tried to lead the team back, but Patriot's safety Rodney Harrison intercepted a pass during desperation time, sealing their 31-20 victory.
Although the offense did well, barring Northcutt's crucial mistake, the defense was mainly to blame, letting Tom Brady go 26 for 28 for a 92.9% pass completion percentage (which set a new NFL postseason record).
In the offseason, Greg Jones has been signed to a new contract, Gregg Williams has been hired as a new defensive coordinator (Mike Smith left to coach the Atlanta Falcons), and it is expected Garrard's contract will be extended.
Main Artice: 2008 Season
As the 2007 offseason settled in, the 2008 season has begun to take shape. When free agency started on Febuary 28, the Jaguars immediately made a splash. Intent on improving a relatively fair wide receiver set, the Jacksonville front office traded a 6th round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft to the Minnesota Vikings for WR Troy Williamson, and also signed Jerry Porter from the Oakland Raiders. To build the secondary, Drayton Florence, who had 2 INTs with the San Diego Chargers during the 2007 playoffs, was also signed. Finally, Cleo Lemon, who served as both a backup and starter for the Miami Dolphins, was signed.
In the 2008 NFL Draft, the Jaguars orchastrated a trade in which they drafted DE Derrick Harvey from the University of Florida with the 7th overall pick, obtained from Baltimore. Another defensive end was drafted in the second round, Quentin Groves. During the offseason, Matt Jones was arrested for felony drug possession, but was not released.
On the July 26 training camp began, and overall was solid.
The preseason kicked off on August 9, with a 20-17 defeat of the Altanta Falcons. However, next week would see the Jaguars fakter to the Dolphins 19-4, with a bad outing for the first string offense and defense. They'd respond with two more victories to close out the preseason.
On September 7 the Jagaurs opened their season at Tennessee against their division rivals the Titans. The game would be close, but Tennessee's defense managed to sack David Garrard seven times, force a fumble, and intercept him twice. Much of this was due to the offensive line being decimated with injuries. However, some criticized Garrard for holding on to the ball for a bit too long and not throwing it away.
The Jaguars would start 0-2 after a home loss to the Buffalo Bills, where neither the offense nor defense were playing well. The Jaguars would then narrowly defeat the Indianapolis Colts 23-21 in Indianapolis, the victory coming after a Garrard led drive led to a Josh Scobee field goal to win it in the final seconds. Taking advantage of avoiding an 0-3 start, the Jaguars flew home and defeated the Houston Texans 30-27 in overtime.
Week 5 saw the Jaguars playing on national television on Sunday Night Football against their rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although they kept it close, the Steelers grinded out a 26-21 victory, notching the Jaguars to 2-3. The Jaguars responded however by beating the high powered Denver Broncos in Denver 24-17.
After the bye, however, the Jaguars would suffer immensely. Despite the offense's efforts, the Jaguars fell at home to the Cleveland Browns 23-17. The next week would see the Jaguars fall even farther, losing in Cincinnatti to the winless Bengals 21-19. The game would be unfortunately characterized by an unsportsmanlike outburst from John Henderson in where he attacked a Bengal's offensive lineman. Many would see Henderson's actions as an expression as a whole of the team's frustration with the downward spiral of the season.
At 3-6, the Jagaurs have faced injuries to the offensive line, which has led to poor protection in passing downs and little to no running lanes and thus a less effective offense. The defense has been ineffective allowing quarterbacks to pass with abandon and allowing gashing plays by running backs.