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The newest Florida-based football franchise added to the National Football League is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Joining the ranks of the NFL in 1995, the Jags quickly found their footing amongst stiff competition in the AFC.
Starting off in 1995 with a record of 4-12, the team earned their first winning record the next season and kept improving each year until 1999 where they posted a record of 14-2. Along the way, Jacksonville managed to win their division twice (1998 & 1999), make the playoffs four times, and advance to the AFC title game twice. All of this success came under the regime of no-nonsense coach Tom Coughlin. Following a period of regression after the 1999 season, Coughlin was eventually replaced by Jack Del Rio.
Del Rio coached the team from 2003 to 2011, making the playoffs twice in that time frame. His last playoff game, a 31-20 loss to the New England Patriots in 2007, marks the last time the Jaguars saw postseason action. Though popular with his players, Del Rio was let go following the 2011 season. Replacing him would be Gus Bradley. A team in the middle of a crisis, Jacksonville’s woes were too much for Bradley. He could never get his team to perform well enough to earn more than five wins in a season.
The same could not be said for Bradley’s replacement, Doug Marrone. A former player and longtime coach around the NFL and NCAA, Marrone was determined to turn this franchise around and made huge impact last year. In his first season at the helm, Jacksonville leapfrogged to a first place finish in the AFC South and advanced all the way to the AFC Championship game before being eliminated by the Patriots in a hard-fought game.
Taking a step back in their second year under the Marrone regime, Jacksonville finished in 4th place in the division and was out of post season contention. Additionally, starting quarterback Blake Bortles was been benched in favor of Cody Kessler, prompting many to think that the Jags would be in the market for a new QB at the draft. However, Jags fans would not have to wait that long as the Jacksonville front office locked up former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles in free agency with a monster four year deal worth $88 million. Bortles has been released and Kessler is slated to serve as the backup.
Running back Leonard Fournette, who eclipsed 1,000 yards in his rookie season, had a very difficult sophomore campaign. Between and early season injury and a fight resulting in a suspension later in the year, he has not seen much action. TJ Yeldon has shouldered the load in his absence.
As long as the offensive line holds up, the Jaguars have some strong targets downfield to catch the ball. Wide receiver Dede Westbrook provide major threats in the passing game. Tight End Austin Seferian-Jenkins is on injured reserve, limiting the role of this position in the offense. Additionally, star receiver Marqise Lee suffered a major knee injury in the pre-season and has missed the entire 2018 season.
The defense for the Jaguars, thought of as questionable in recent years, underwent a resurgence last season and was a big part of their success. They gave up the second fewest yards in the NFL. The Jags have added a lot of talent to this side of the ball last year. Most notable among the additions were defensive end Calais Campbell (coming from the Arizona Cardinals) and safety Barry Church (from the Dallas Cowboys). These pieces, along with the 2016 number five overall draft pick, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, add up to a legitimate contender in the AFC.
The Jaguars also brought back their first head coach, Tom Coughlin, as executive vice president of football operations last season. This front office job has reunited the Jaguars with the most successful coach they ever had and, undoubtedly, had a trickle-down effect to the team, bringing about a higher level of competition that is synonymous with Coughlin and his legendary work ethic.
Though still a young franchise, the Jaguars have had a number of great players on their teams over the years. Some of the most loved players in Jaguars history include Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew, Jimmy Smith, Tony Boselli, Mark Brunell, and David Garrard. Click here for additional information about the Jacksonville Jaguars.