This is the latest post in Kurt’s continuing series to identify the NFL’s Ultimate Franchise Player of All-Time. For an explanation of his methodology for choosing each franchise’s ultimate franchise player, and then how you and he will choose the NFL’s Ultimate Franchise Player from that list, click here.
To see all the category page for this series, of which there will be one for every franchise, click here.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are coming off an absolutely horrific season in 2012.
But don’t let that fool you, the Jaguars are an organization with some pretty decent history.
The Jaguars’ Pretty Decent History
The first order of business the franchise took that paid enormous dividends was hiring Tom Coughlin as the team’s first head coach. In the first year+ after the Jaguars first took the field in 1995, the team was 8-19 in its first 27 games.
Not bad – for an expansion franchise.
It turned out they were just getting warmed up. Starting with the final five games of the 1996 season through the end of the 1999 campaign, the Jaguars went 42-11 in the regular season, including a pair of AFC Championship Game appearances.
Jacksonville’s best chance at getting to the Super Bowl was after that ’99 season, when the team went 14-2 and earned the top seed for that year’s playoffs. But after losing the conference championship at home that year, the Jags suddenly found their potential championship window slammed shut.
Things have not been the same on Florida’s First Coast since.
You will see a lot of late-‘90s and early 2000s players on my top-ten list for Jaguars Ultimate Franchise Player.
This 15th installment of UFP may be my toughest decision yet, as there are several options to choose from and a unique case for each candidate.
I also know from past experiences that the Jaguars fan base is actually one of the most passionate that I run across. I have a feeling that I am going to touch some nerves with my final selection.
The Top 10 Players in Jaguars History
10. Rashean Mathis (CB 2003-present)
Mathis has missed significant time with injuries in recent seasons, but ten years tenure with the club gets Mathis on the list.
He started from day one as a second-round draft pick in ’03 and made his lone Pro Bowl appearance after intercepting eight passes in the 2006 season.
9. Marcus Stroud (DT 2001-07)
If you ever had your running back go up against the Jags defense for most of the 2000s, you knew how tough an assignment it was. Stroud was the 13th overall pick of the 2001 Draft, which was loaded with interior defensive linemen.
Stroud was a three-time All-Pro selection following the 2003-’05 seasons. One blemish on his record was a four-game PED suspension in 2007. He left Jacksonville not long after that.
8. John Henderson (DT 2002-09)
The Jaguars did not miss picking a defensive tackle the following year either, as Henderson was the eighth overall pick in 2002, and like Stroud a SEC product.
In his rookie campaign Henderson recorded 6 ½ sacks. In all, the Stroud/Henderson tag-team played together for six seasons.
7. Tony Brackens (DE 1996-2003)
By far the best pass-rusher in club history, recording 55 sacks in his eight years, including 30.5 between 1999-2001. Brackens also holds franchise marks in fumble recoveries, forced fumbles, and tackles by a defensive end.
6. Keenan McCardell (WR 1996-2001)
In fantasy football McCardell was always that safe fifth-sixth round pick you could rely on.
McCardell lasted an amazing 17 years in the league (1991-2007), with the peak of his career coming with the Jaguars. In his six years in Jacksonville, McCardell caught 499 passes for nearly 6,400 yards and 30 TDs. He ranks in the NFL’s top-25 all-time in receptions and receiving yards.
5. Maurice Jones-Drew (RB 2006-present)
The current face of the franchise, MJD has been one of the few heavy-duty backs in the league in recent years, rushing for over 1,300 yards on three occasions, including a league-high 1,606 yards in 2011.
How he comes back from this past year’s foot injury will be key in regards to MJD potentially rising any higher on this list in the future.
AND THE FINAL FOUR…
There is no doubt about who is on the Jaguars’ Mt. Rushmore. The debate is the order in which Jacksonville’s Fab Four should be ranked…
Mark Brunell (@M_Brunell8, QB 1995-2003)
Acquired from the Green Bay Packers before the team’s inaugural year, Brunell threw for over 25,000 yards while wearing teal and led the league in passing yards in 1996. Brunell’s time ended as he was eventually pushed aside to make way for first-round pick Byron Leftwich.
In all, Brunell played 18 years in the league, but his years in Jacksonville were by far his most memorable.
Jimmy Smith (WR 1995-2005)
Smith began his career with a couple of tough luck seasons on injured reserve with the Dallas Cowboys, first suffering a broken leg and later undergoing an appendectomy that nearly proved fatal.
All that was in the rear view mirror by the time Smith arrived in time for the Jaguars’ first season. Smith would end up compiling over 12,000 receiving yards over his career, and he led the league with 116 receptions in 1999. The only blemish on Smith’s statistical resume is that he never caught more than eight TD passes in a single season.
Fred Taylor (@FredTaylorMade RB 1998-2008)
The ‘Fragile Fred’ moniker, which he was derisively called early in his career, was a bit unfair and mainly came from frustrated fantasy owners in the early 2000s.
His most prolific touchdown year was his rookie campaign of 1998, when he scored 14 touchdowns after starter James Stewart went down in Week 3. In all, Taylor started 136 games for Jacksonville, and he accounted for over 13,600 yards from scrimmage by the time he was through.
Tony Boselli (@TonyBoselli OT 1995-2001)
The franchise’s first-ever draft pick (number two overall) off of the perennial offensive tackle assembly-line of USC, Boselli was every bit as good as advertised, and then some.
Had Boselli’s career had not been cut short due to injury after a mere seven years, we would be talking about a sure-fire first round Hall Of Famer and possibly a lineman with a resume up there with Anthony Munoz.
It was not coincidence that the franchise’s fortunes began to go south around the same time as Boselli’s departure in 2001.
AND MY SELECTION…
At his peak, which was too short, Tony Boselli was the best player ever for the franchise. The lack of an extended body of work is the only negative.
You can never really go wrong with a quarterback when in doubt. But though Mark Brunell was very good, he was never considered great.
Fred Taylor and Jimmy Smith merit equal consideration for both having decade-plus long staying power. But who would you choose between those two, and should that player be considered over Boselli??
Out of the four, I begrudgingly eliminate Brunell first, leaving me with Boselli/Fred Taylor/Jimmy Smith.
A huge part of me wants to say Boselli. With five Pro Bowl appearances/three All-Pro selections, he is the most decorated player in franchise history.
But longevity counts too. As always, feel free to chime in the comments section below and tell me why I’m right or wrong.
The Jacksonville Jaguars Ultimate Franchise Player is…