In 1995, the Jacksonvile Jaguars joined the Carolina Panthers as the NFL’s first expansion teams since the 1976 Seahawks and Buccaneers. Both teams struggled during their inaugural season, but the Jaguars and Panthers had unprecedented success for second-year expansion teams in 1996. Carolina went 12-4 and lost in the NFC Championship while Jacksonville squeaked into the playoffs at 9-7. They also fell in the Conference Championship.
Although the Panthers spiraled for several years following their early success, Jacksonville turned the momentum into four consecutive playoff appearances. The turn of the century, however, was not kind to Jacksonville. Their first coach, Tom Coughlin, and quarterback Mark Brunell suffered three losing seasons between 2000 and 2002. The front office fired Coughlin and Brunell lost his grip on his starting job the following year.
The Jaguars have managed three winning seasons since 2003, making the playoffs twice with one loss each in the wild card and divisional round. The team hasn’t finished at .500 since 2010. They have gone through five different head coaches and 16 starting quarterbacks, although only six signal callers have led the team in passing over 22 years of existence.
Fans can count the franchise’s noteworthy quarterbacks on one hand. The other Jaguars starters have mostly originated from a junk drawer of career backups and failed draft picks. The organization’s woes at the NFL’s most important position by no means reach the positional despair affiliated with the Cleveland Browns, but there’s little to cheer about.
Keep reading for the definitive rankings of every starting quarterback in Jacksonville Jaguars history:
16 Steve Matthews (1997)
Drafted by Kansas City as the 199th pick in the 1994 draft, Matthews’ career hardly resembles the one of fellow 199er, Tom Brady. He never saw the field for the Chiefs and joined the Jaguars in 1997. Mark Brunel’s preseason knee injury and Rob Johnson’s ankle pressed the third string Matthews into service for Jacksonville’s week two home opener. Matthews and Jacksonville started off slow against the Giants. He bounced his first pass off an opponent’s helmet and lost a fumble a few series later. Matthews eventually turned it around. He finished with a harmless stat line on the way to a 40-13 victory: 23/35, 252 yards, 0 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. It was Matthews’ only career start. Jacksonville waived him before the 1998 season, which he spent with Tennessee. Matthews retired with 43 pass attempts, 299 yards and 0 touchdowns.
15 Jonathan Quinn (1998-2001)
The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Jonathan Quinn out of Middle Tennessee State in the third round of the 1998 Draft. He appeared in four games and started two as a rookie, completing 53.1% of his passes for 387 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. He also fumbled three times. Quinn did not start for the Jaguars again until week 10 of the 2001 season. He lost three fumbles and threw 0 touchdowns in a 20-7 loss. He joined the Berlin Thunder (NFL Europe) between seasons, leading the Thunder to victory in World Bowl IX. Quinn was named to the All-League team and earned World Bowl MVP honors. In 2002, it was back to the NFL. He joined the Chiefs. Over two years, his only statistic was a run for -1 yards. Quinn’s spent his final year in the NFL as a Chicago Bear. He went winless in three starts. Quinn retired with a 1-5 career record, four touchdowns and seven interceptions.
14 Luke McCown (2009-2011)
Luke’s older brother Josh has played for seven NFL teams. He will likely finish his career with the Cleveland Browns. Before joining Cleveland, Josh spent one year with his second to last team, Tampa Bay. Luke, meanwhile, has donned five different NFL uniforms. His career began inversely to Josh’s. The Browns drafted Luke in 2004. He spent one season there before joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. How does this affect his ranking as a starting quarterback for Jacksonville? It doesn’t. There’s simply not a lot going on in Luke’s 13-year NFL career. He joined Jacksonville in 2009 and earned his first pair of starts to open the 2011 season. It was a disastrous experiment. McCown threw for a combined 234 yards and four interceptions. The Jaguars replaced McCown with Blaine Gabbert mid-game in week two and decided to stick with the rookie. Luke McCown now provides quarterback depth for the Saints. He has thrown for nine touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his career.
13 Trent Edwards (2010)
Known as Buffalo’s Captain Checkdown because of his aversion toward the deep ball, Trent Edwards wore out his welcome with the Bills. Head Coach Chan Gailey released the quarterback after 2010’s week three. Jacksonville scooped him off waivers because of their disappointment with David Garrard’s performance. Sadly, Trent was never the answer. His solitary start didn’t impress – 140 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Edwards never started in the NFL again. He threw two passes for the Eagles in 2012 and failed to survive the league’s preseason cuts in 2013 and 2014. His overall body of work, although mediocre, elevates him above the list’s first three players. Edwards threw for 6,033 yards, 26 touchdowns and 30 interceptions over six seasons. Others below posted smaller career numbers, but Trent had higher expectations.
12 Todd Bouman (2007, 2010)
Todd Bouman lived the journeyman’s life. He went undrafted in 1997 after a stellar college career at St. Cloud State. The Vikings signed Bouman and constantly shifted him between the active roster and practice squad. He eventually received an opportunity due to injury in 2001. Bouman started three games for Minnesota, throwing for 795 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. He earned the right to become a mainstay on the roster. Fast forward to 2007: Bouman and the Jaguars entered a four year period with more on-again, off-again’s than a high school relationship. The team signed him following a David Garrard injury. They released Bouman in the 2008 preseason. Jacksonville again signed and released him during the 2009 preseason. After Luke McCown’s season-ending injury in 2010, Bouman became a Jaguar again. The Jaguars claimed Trent Edwards off waivers weeks later and bid farewell to Bouman. Finally, after Garrard and Edwards both suffered injuries that same season, the team signed Bouman and tabbed him as a starter for one game. He threw for 222 yards, two touchdowns and two picks in a loss to Kansas City. It may come as a shock, but the Jaguars released Bouman after the 2011 preseason. He retired with 13 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and 1,905 passing yards.
11 Jamie Martin (1998, 2000)
Jamie Martin followed a similar journeyman road. Martin played for eight different NFL franchises over 16 seasons. The Los Angeles Rams signed Martin in 1993 after he went undrafted. He showed glimpses of talent, but failed to evolve beyond a benchwarmer role. He ended up in Jacksonville in 1998 and relieved Brunell due to injury in week 16, defeating the Lions in a division-clinching game. His first pass of the day went for a 67-yard score. Martin started the next week but tore his ACL near the end of the second quarter. He returned to the Jaguars in 2000 after spending most of the year on the Browns’ inactive list. Jacksonville used Martin sparingly and in blowouts. Then, somewhat out of nowhere, Martin went 4-1 in five games for the Rams in 2005. Despite the record, he threw five touchdowns to seven interceptions. He retired after 2008 with 20 touchdowns, 21 interceptions and 3,814 career yards.
10 Quinn Gray (2003-2007)
If Jaguars quarterbacks played as well in Jacksonville as they did in NFL Europe, maybe the organization wouldn’t be in an 8-year playoff drought. The Jaguars gave undrafted Florida A&M quarterback, Quinn Gray, a look during the 2002 preseason. He then spent a year with the Frankfurt Galaxy, winning World Bowl XI. Jacksonville signed Gray and kept him on the roster for several years. The only four starts of his career came in weeks 8-10 and week 17 of the 2007 season. Gray kept the ship steady with a 2-2 record during Garrard’s injuries. If Gray had not performed, the Jaguars’ most recent playoff run may have fallen apart. He even lit up the scoreboard with a 300-yard, four-touchdown loss to Houston in the season finale before Garrard returned for postseason play. Gray bounced between Houston, Indianapolis and Kansas City during the 2008 season, his last in the NFL. Gray could not sustain a long career in the league, but he delivered for the Jags. He threw for 986 yards, 10 touchdowns and 5 interceptions during his peak 2007 season.
9 Blaine Gabbert (2011-2013)
Blaine Gabbert is one of the top ten quarterbacks in Jacksonville history, which has nothing to do with his skill and everything to do with the lack of options. After several years of futility, the Jaguars envisioned a brighter future with Gabbert at the helm. They selected him with the tenth overall pick in the 2011 Draft. The future remained dim. Gabbert’s stranglehold on the starting job after Luke McCown’s benching was based on draft investment rather than results. He led the league in both fumbles (14) and times sacked (40) during his rookie year. Gabbert finished the season with 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Injuries cost him six games of his sophomore campaign, but he hadn’t shown improvement. Gabbert finally lost his job after a hamstring injury and an underwhelming start to 2013. He threw one touchdown and seven interceptions in three losses. Despite his struggles, he ranks 6th in franchise history in both yards (4,357) and touchdowns (22).
8 Jay Fiedler (1999)
Jay Fiedler contributed far more to the Dolphins franchise than he ever did to the Jaguars. Still, his career numbers exhibit that he was serviceable. Fiedler made limited appearances during the 1999 season. His only start with the team occurred in week 17 against the Cincinnati Bengals. He completed 71.8% of his passes for 317 yards and one touchdown on the way to a 24-7 victory. Jacksonville remained Brunell territory, so Fiedler used his week 17 audition to take his talents to South Beach. He brought Miami to the playoffs for two consecutive seasons and sits fourth on Miami’s all-time list for passing yards (11,040) and touchdowns (66). It would have been interesting to see how Jay Fiedler fared if he had started for Jacksonville during their lull in the early 2000s.
7 Chad Henne (2012-Present)
Chad Henne never lived up to his second round price tag in the 2008 Draft, but at least he bridged the gap between Gabbert and Bortles with first-rate facial hair. He came to Jacksonville in 2012 and filled in for Gabbert during the last six games of the season. He then took over the starting job in 2013 and passed for over 3,000 yards. Henne’s biggest issues involved a 60.6 completion percentage, 13 touchdowns to 14 interceptions and a 4-9 record. Just as Henne took over for Gabbert early in the 2013 season, Bortles assumed the starting role early in 2014. The Jaguars clearly appreciate Henne’s ability to step in and contribute. The team signed him to a two-year, $8 million contract in the 2016 offseason. Henne’s touchdown and yardage totals rank just ahead of Gabbert in Jacksonville history.
6 Steve Beuerlein (1995)
The Arizona Cardinals made Steve Beuerlein available in the expansion draft after benching him for half of the 1994 season. The Jaguars jumped on the opportunity and selected Beuerlein with the first overall pick. He became the franchise’s first starting quarterback, but Beuerlein’s inability to hold a job throughout his career came back to haunt him. Tom Coughlin favored Brunell as the starting quarterback after two weeks. By the end of the season, Coughlin had had demoted Beuerlein to third string. Beuerlein moved onto Carolina the following season and played a pivotal role by filling in for four games during Kerry Collins’ injury. Beuerlein finally found the starting position and trust he coveted in Carolina between 1998 and 2000. His best season as a starter was 1999. He threw for 4,436 yards, 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He retired after a backup role with Denver in 2003. Beuerlein is the first Jaguar on the list to post impressive career statistics: 147 touchdowns, 112 interceptions and 24,046 yards.
5 Rob Johnson (1995-1997)
Rob Johnson is most well known for his quarterback competition with Doug Flutie in Buffalo. The trade that sent him there is the main reason he reaches number five on the list. Johnson only started once for Jacksonville. Brunell missed week one of the 1997 season. Johnson filled in and went 20 for 24 for 294 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson’s impressive performance helped Jacksonville trade him to the Bills for the ninth overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. That selection turned into Fred Taylor, perhaps the greatest Jaguar of all time. Players like Beuerlein dwarf his career stats (5,795 yards, 30 touchdowns and 23 interceptions), but the impact Johnson made with his departure set up the franchise’s greatest QB/RB tandem.
4 Byron Leftwich (2003-2006)
No one can dispute the fact that Byron Leftwich was a gridiron warrior. He had one of the most bizarre, inspiring performances in college football history after breaking his tibia in a game against Akron. He returned to the game but couldn’t walk. His offensive lineman carried him between snaps. Leftwitch lost the game, but the Jaguars hoped his grit would turn their franchise around after taking him with the 7th overall pick. Leftwich became injury prone despite his toughness. He was developing into a solid passer by the 2005 season. Through 11 games, he had 15 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. An injury knocked him out of the final five contests. Backup David Garrard kept Jacksonville churning into the playoffs. Leftwich returned to lose the wild card matchup against New England. He suffered an injury once again six games into 2006. Garrard was far from perfect down the stretch, but he initially impressed both coaches and fans. Jack Del Rio named Garrard starter and cut Leftwich after the 2007 preseason. The former first round pick spent time with Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh before retiring in 2013. He threw 10,532 yards, 58 touchdowns and 42 interceptions in his career.
3 Blake Bortles (2014-Present)
The book is still out on Blake Bortles. He is without a doubt the most impressive Jaguar quarterback since Mark Brunell. Bortles set Jacksonville’s single season records in touchdowns (35) and yards (4,428) last season. He also struggled with accuracy in 2015 and his touchdowns have regressed so far this year. Many detractors argue that chasing games has inflated Bortles’ stats. There is validity to this argument. Only four of his 54 career touchdown passes have come in the first quarter. For Bortles to leap frog into second place, he needs to curb his interceptions and show balance through four quarters. Just five games into his third season, Bortles already sits fourth in franchise passing yards (8,657) and third in touchdowns (54). Jacksonville fans have a reason to be optimistic for the first time in years.
2 David Garrard (2002-2010)
David Garrard’s pure passing ability does not match Blake Bortles’. He has a lower career interception rate, but he proved just as inconsistent. Garrard has one major accomplishment that keeps Bortles in the rearview mirror. He won a playoff game for the city of Jacksonville. Once Jack Del Rio gave him full reigns of the team in 2007, Garrard tossed 18 touchdowns and only three interceptions in 12 games. Although Garrard had a lackluster playoff performance, he made a crucial 4th down conversion in the waning moments of the team’s wild card game. The play set up a go-ahead field goal over the Steelers. It was the Jacksonville’s first (and only) playoff victory since the turn of the century. Garrard eventually lost his job the same way he took it. Del Rio released him after the 2011 preseason in favor of another signal caller. Garrard played one season with the Jets before officially retiring in 2015. He finished his career with 16,003 yards and 89 touchdowns.
1 Mark Brunell (1995-2003)
Was there ever any doubt? Mark Brunell is the gold standard for Jacksonville Jaguars quarterbacks. If you combine David Garrard and Byron Leftwich’s passing yard totals, the second and third highest in team history, their efforts still comes up more than 600 yards short of Brunell’s 25,698. He also threw 144 touchdowns with the team. He added 6,344 yards and 40 touchdowns in other uniforms for a total of 32,072 yards and 184 touchdowns. The left-hander helped the franchise start with a roar, leading the team into the playoffs and upsetting the Broncos in a 1996 divisional round game. It was Brunell’s finest playoff performance. He threw for 245 yards and two touchdowns. The Jaguars lost in the Conference Championship, but Brunell established them as a steady playoff presence for the latter half of the 90s. Jacksonville reached and lost a second Conference Championship to Tennessee in 1999. The Jaguars traded their franchise quarterback to Washington for a third round pick in 2004. Brunell finished his career in 2012 after two years apiece with the Jets and Saints. In 2013, Jacksonville inducted him into the Pride of the Jaguars, the franchise’s hall of fame.