Monday, January 13, 2020

The Franchise 9: Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are one of the younger teams in the NFL. They have played in 3 AFC Championship games, but have yet to get over the hump into the Super Bowl, first in their second year of existence and most recently following the 2017 season. There are still no Jaguar Hall of Famers, but two players did make the semifinalist list this year. Both made this list.

1. Mark Brunell, QB (1996 Fleer)

The Jags didn't begin their history with Mark Brunell under center, but by the time their inaugural season ended, he was firmly entrenched as the franchise quarterback. It was Brunell who led the startup team to the Conference Championship in Year 2. And the team has never had another surpass him. His 25,698 passing yards and 103 TDs are still #1 in team history, and it's not even really close. Plus, he was pretty good on his feet, posting seasons of 396 and 480 yards rushing en route to becoming the team's third-leading rusher.

2. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB (2012 Panini Crown Royale)

With 8,061 yards, Maurice Jones-Drew is second on the all-time Jaguars list. His 68 rushing touchdowns are tops. He made three Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team, when he led the league in rushing in 2011. One crazy thing about MJD is that he started a mere 4 games over his first three seasons--and still managed 2,533 yards on a 4.8 yards per carry average. Had he not been in a timeshare early in his career, his numbers would probably top other Jaguars by a wide margin.

3. Fred Taylor, RB (1998 UD Choice)

Of course, there was a good reason for MJD to split time in the backfield. Jacksonville still had its all-time leading rusher on the roster. Fred Taylor paces all Jaguar rushers with 11,695 yards. And while we're playing the game of "ifs," imagine what Taylor could have produced if he had managed to stay healthy. He managed only 2 full seasons in his career, but still retired with 7 1,000 yard seasons. His career average of 4.6 yards per carry shows his explosiveness and explains how he achieved so many yards, even while missing time due to injury. Taylor is a Hall of Fame semi-finalist this year. I don't think he'll make it, but he definitely qualifies as one Jacksonville's greatest.

4. Keenan McCardell, WR (1999 Score)

McCardell joined the team in 1996, after three years of little playing time in Cleveland. He proceeded to post back-to-back seasons of 85 receptions and 1,100+ yards. In his first year in Jacksonville, McCardell was named to the Pro Bowl. Right now he still ranks 2nd on the team's all-time stat sheet in receptions and yards and 3rd in touchdown catches.

5. Jimmy Smith, WR (1999 Collector's Edge First Place)

McCardell is 2nd place in those categories. The Jags' leader in all three? Jimmy Smith, McCardell's running mate from 1996-2001. Smith was drafted in 1992 by the Cowboys, and then was out of the league for two years. Jacksonville signed him in 1995, and he never played for another team. For the next 11 years, Smith caught 862 passes for 12,287 yards and 67 TDs. He made 5 straight Pro Bowls, from 1997-2001. He is the franchise leader in Pro-Football Reference's Approximate Value ranking and was an easy choice for this list.

6. Tony Boselli, T (1995 Classic NFL Draft)

The other Jacksonville semi-finalist for the Hall of Fame this year (and with a far better chance to be enshrined), Boselli was the franchise's first ever draft pick. Like Taylor, he was among the league's finest when healthy, but his career was ultimately cut short after injury just a handful of games into his seventh season. He made the most of his six seasons, however, earning five trips to the Pro Bowl and an All-Pro nod. Boselli was so dominant while on the field that he was named to the 1990s All-Decade team. Five of the first six players on this list played on offense for the Jags from 1998-2001, making it easy to understand how the team made the Conference Championship game in 1999.

7. John Henderson, DT (2009 SP Authentic)

At 6'7 and 335 pounds, John Henderson was your prototypical run-stuffer in the middle of the field. He did his job well. Stats rarely tell the story of a defensive tackle's impact, but Henderson does rank seventh in team history in AV. He made two Pro Bowls, recorded 60 tackles for a loss, forced 8 fumbles, and recovered 5 of them.

8. Marcus Stroud, DT (2001 Topps)

In 2001 and 2002, the Jags used consecutive top 15 draft picks on defensive tackles. 2002 was Henderson. Marcus Stroud had joined the team in 2001. Like Henderson, Stroud was an enormous (6'6, 330) run-stopper. The Jags finished as a Top 10 defense in 5 of the 6 seasons Stroud and Henderson played alongside each other. That had only happened once in the Jaguars' first six years of existence before Stroud was drafted.

9. Rashean Mathis, CB (2007 Ultra)

It's worth noting that those Top 10 defenses also included the cornerback the team picked up in the 2003 draft, Rashean Mathis. Like so many other Jags, Mathis was solid, but little-noticed. He made only one Pro Bowl, but received 1st-Team All-Pro recognition for that same year. His 30 career interceptions are twice as much as the next player on the list. In recent years, Jalen Ramsey started to make a name for himself as a lockdown corner in Jacksonville. Had he continued at the same interception rate as he was during his stint with the Jaguars, he would have had six fewer picks than Mathis after the same number of games. In my book, Mathis was underappreciated.

For a season or two in recent years, it looked like the Jaguars were going to start making themselves into a perennial contender. Now it seems more like a flash in the pan. And as much as Jason Mendoza loved Blake Bortles on The Good Place, Bortles never stood a chance to make the cut here. A couple of players, like Leonard Fournette, could be considered here someday. Sooner than Fournette, linebacker Telvin Smith is starting to have the experience and success that could lead him to this list. Of course, he decided to take the year off from football this year, so who knows what his future holds. And that seems to be the story with this franchise: there are very few candidates who were able to sustain productivity for long periods of time with this team. Even some of their all-time greats, like Boselli and Taylor, are almost as well-known for their injuries as their performance. Nevertheless, this team still boasts some explosive playmakers.

Some notes on this series:
  1. This includes Super Bowl Era players only.
  2. The "nine" in Franchise 9 is to fill a page in a binder. There is no intent to fill a roster or even a starting lineup.
  3.  A player can represent multiple teams.
  4. I tried to find a balance between steady producers with longevity and explosive players with shorter careers. Time with the team does count for something, as does impact with the team.
  5. For a link to Franchise 9 lists that I have already posted, click here.
  6. This is all subjective, so I'd love to hear whom you would choose!


  1. The Jags have had some good teams and good players but no real greats, considering Brunell is their #1 guy. I kind of thought Fournette would be their first true superstar but he hasn't really turned that corner yet. It will be interesting to see how Boselli and Taylor rank in this year's HOF vote.

  2. This past weekend I just stumbled across a box of autographs I hadn't looked at in years. It contained a few Jaguars like Jimmy Smith, Fred Taylor, Keenan McCardell, and Mark Brunell.

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