The Jacksonville Jaguars are one of thirteen teams to never win the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy. Even worse, the Jaguars join the Browns, Texans, and Lions as the only teams to never compete in the Super Bowl. Although the Jaguar franchise is relatively new to the NFL, It is hard to imagine being a fan of that city and experiencing such little success.
The Jacksonville Jaguars joined the National Football League along with the Carolina Panthers as an expansion franchise in 1995. Unlike most expansion teams, The Jaguars reached the playoffs in their second season of existence and even made it to the Conference Championship game. They went on to make the playoffs from 1996-1999 under head coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Mark Brunell.
Unfortunately, that was the end of the Jaguars’ extended success as a franchise. Tom Coughlin was fired in 2002 with a record of 68-60 and missing the playoffs three consecutive seasons. The team hired Jack Del Rio who coached the team from 2003-2011 and made the playoffs twice during his tenure. Even though they had standouts at running back, like Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, they never had enough talent on offense and defense to get over the hump.
Without a playoff appearance since 2007, the Jaguars have been on downward spiral as a franchise. Many of their mistakes have come through offseason acquisitions, especially the NFL Draft. In hindsight, Jacksonville could’ve been a football powerhouse in the 2000’s had they drafted correctly in the 1st round.
Here is a look at what the Jaguars could have done differently in the first round of their last 15 drafts.
2002 – Ed Reed
Like most seasons in the 2000’s, the Jaguars struggled heavily even with their franchise quarterback and running back Mark Brunell and Fred Taylor. The Jaguars finished with a disappointing 6-10 record and the 9th overall pick in the draft. With that pick, they selected defensive tackle John Henderson out of the University of Tennessee. Henderson started every game in his first five seasons with Jacksonville and played a total of eight seasons with the team. Although he was a consistent anchor on the defensive side of the ball, there were more explosive players left on the board.
Safety Ed Reed was taken 24th overall by the Baltimore Ravens and was the anchor of their secondary for eleven years. He finished his career with 64 career interceptions which ranked 7th all time. He could have made an ordinary defense look explosive and take the edge off the team’s run heavy offense.
2003 – Terrell Suggs
For the second consecutive season, the Jaguars finished with a record of 6-10 marking the last time Mark Brunell would finish the season as Jacksonville’s starting quarterback. With the 7th pick in the 2003 draft, the Jaguars attempted to bring in the quarterback of the future with Byron Leftwich out of Marshall University. He never started all sixteen games during his four-year stint with the Jaguars and eventually lost the job to backup David Garrard.
Instead of reaching to solve the quarterback position, the Jaguars could have continued to build a stellar defense with one of the few players still in the league from this draft class. Terrell Suggs was selected 10th overall by the Baltimore Ravens out of Arizona State. Suggs has been a Baltimore Raven for his entire career and enters his 15th season with the team. Suggs even won the AP Defensive Player of the Year award in 2011. With Suggs holding down the outside linebacker position for more than a decade, the Jaguars would’ve been able to focus on other holes in their team.
2004 – Ben Roethlisberger
The Jaguars were now picking inside the top ten for the third year in a row. After witnessing Leftwich struggle as a rookie, the front office decided to give him some help on the outside by drafting wide receiver Reggie Williams out of the University of Washington. Williams could be labeled a flat-out bust by many at the receiver position, lasting only five years in the league all with the Jaguars. During his tenure with the team, he averaged 37 catches a season and only caught 18 career touchdown receptions.
Although there weren’t any standout receivers after Larry Fitzgerald in this draft, there was a future Hall of Fame quarterback still on the board when the Jaguars picked Williams. With the 11th pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out of Miami (Ohio) University. Roethlisberger went on to lead the Steelers to three Super Bowls, winning two of them. He will eventually go down as the second greatest quarterback in the history of the franchise behind only Terry Bradshaw, a four-time Super Bowl champion.
2005 – Roddy White
With their first winning season since 1999, the Jaguars found themselves picking 21st in the draft after finishing the season 9-7. After realizing Reggie Williams might not be the standout receiver they once thought, they attempted to once again upgrade the position by drafting receiver Matt Jones from the University of Arkansas. Jones had an even shorter career than Williams lasting only four seasons with the tea, totaling a mere 2,153 yards and 15 touchdowns. While Jones was another bust receiver taken by the Jaguars, one of the best receivers in Atlanta Falcons history was still on the board.
With the 27th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons filled their need for a receiver taking Roddy White out of Alabama Birmingham. White owns eight receiving records for the Atlanta Falcons, including most career receiving yards of 10,863, as well as most receiving touchdowns in a career with 63. He was the type of receiver who a young quarterback could rely on in the most crucial moments of a game. He would’ve been able to make life much easier for any quarterback the Jaguars had.
2006 – Marcedes Lewis
The 2005 season brought the Jaguars a promising 12-4 season, but still finishing second in the division behind Peyton Manning’s Colts. This seemed to be a recurring theme for any team in the AFC South during the 2000’s. The Colts finished with an NFL best 14-2 record that year but were bounced out of the playoffs in their first game against the sixth seeded Steelers. During wild card weekend, the Jaguars never stood a chance after the opening kickoff and were embarrassed by a score of 28-3.
In the 2006 draft, the team established their longest tenured Jaguar still on the team today. With the 28th pick in the draft, the team selected tight end Marcedes Lewis out of UCLA. This 1st round class did not leave a memorable mark on the league with only a handful of guys still playing in the NFL. Lewis has spent eleven years with the team and even had a Pro Bowl season in 2010 with 700 receiving yards and ten touchdowns.