The Jaguars aren’t exactly known for their receiving game, right? It is hard not to think of a Jaguars team that doesn’t work Maurice Jones-Drew, Fred Taylor and occasionally Greg Jones like work horses.
That isn’t how it always was, though. Mark Brunell threw bombs to Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell. Fans cheered as they made huge play after huge play after touchdown. Seriously. It was crazy. Crazy awesome. The fans called them thunder and lightning. Keenan was ‘thunder’ because of his ability to run routes in the middle of the field with no fear of being hit hard by defenders. Jimmy was ‘lightning’ because, Jesus, he just took off.
Personally, I love Jimmy Smith’s story. He, like Fred Taylor, was prone to the injury bug. Drafted by Dallas in 1992 out of Jackson State University, he spent most of his time recovering from some nasty injuries. He broke his leg in 92 which knocked him out for the season. In 93 he went in for an emergency surgery which then got infected and almost killed the man. Jerry Jones argued that he could put Smith on the injured reserved list for all of the 93 season because the injury wasn’t football related. And that is exactly what he did. The Cowboys cut him in time for the 94 season.
What was he supposed to do? He was never given a chance to prove himself. He was just some nobody receiver. His mom helped out a little here. She sent Tom Coughlin (the then head coach of the new Jacksonville Jaguars) press clippings of all of Jimmy’s accomplishments. Coughlin saw the potential and picked him up.
And woaaah boy did that work out. He finished seventh in NFL history for career catches with 862 catches and he finished eleventh in total yards with 12,287 yards. He got the Jaguars 67 touchdowns (402 points) in his career with them. He even had seven seasons where he got over 1000 yards, third only to Jerry Rice and Tim Brown.
Keenan McCardell is a little bit of a different story. For instance, he is the only player to make the playoffs with five different teams: the Redskins, the Browns, the Jaguars, the Buccaneers and the Chargers. And it isn’t because he got traded around every year. He is just that old. He entered the league at the same time Jimmy did. And he is still playing!
Keenan did a lot for the Jaguars. In his first year, he caught 85 passes, went 1,129 yards and got three touchdowns. His best season was in 2000, when he caught 94 passes for 1,207 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Keenan was waived due to salary cap issues in 2000. He continued to do well with his other teams. He even has two Super Bowl rings.
A receiving dou like that has not been seen in Jacksonville in quite a long time. The Jaguars have been chasing the ghost of Jimmy’s past since he retired in 2006. With hope, the Jaguars took on both Jerry Porter and Troy Williamson, looking to give them a second chance. With luck, their second chance will go just as well as Jimmy Smith’s.