Jacksonville Jaguars general manager David Caldwell has said there is no timeline on the team’s rebuild. Head coach Gus Bradley has said he isn’t worried about the record and that he just wants the guys to come out and compete and keep getting better.
But as fans it’s nice to figure out when our team may finally make it to the Super Bowl.
Some teams, like the 2011 San Francisco 49ers, are able to turn it around in a season. Some teams, like the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers, are only a quarterback away from becoming competitive. Yet these are the success stories. How would it happen for any other team? Fortunately the Jags are such a young team with a history of success that we can jump back to the founding and see what it takes.
So, let’s look at the Jags’ history to see how long it takes until the Jags are built up enough to truly compete.
- The Jags are in their inaugural season. They finish the season just 4-12 but their are signs of success. Mark Brunell, Tony Boselli, Jimmy Smith, and James Stewart are all on the team and begin the bond to create an offensive force.
1996 – The Cinderella Season
- The Jags have an amazing end to the season, winning their final five regular season games to finish 9-7 and sneak into the playoffs. They continue the run and ultimately lose to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship. The 1996 Jags outplayed their talent at every level. But they put some key pieces in place. Kevin Hardy, Tony Brackens, and Aaron Beasley all come in to help make the defense much more of a presence to match it’s offense.
- In 1997 the Jags start to put it together. Their talent level and wins are beginning to align more and the 11-5 record in just their third season is more than deserved. The biggest personnel gain for the Jags is Keenan McCardell who balances Jimmy Smith at wide receiver.
- The 1998 team composition is what makes Jacksonville a threat in their best season: 1999. Fred Taylor and Donovin Darius both comes to the Jags through the draft and immediately have an impact. The team finishes 11-5 again but flames out in the divisional playoffs.
1999 – The Ultimate Jags Team
- Finally the Jaguars have “their year.” The 1999 season is the season the Jaguars are best built. They finish 14-2, stomp the Miami Dolphins in the divisional playoffs, and lose to the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship. The Titans are the only team to beat them the entire season (three times). Fernando Bryant is the biggest impact new acquisition but can’t control the Jags losing.
From 1999, the Jags fall apart. They just aren’t the same anymore. The run from 1995-1999 resulted in an impressive 49-31 record with most of their losses in their inaugural season. The Jaguars hit on a number of draft picks, including Boselli, Stewart, Hardy, Brackens, Taylor, and Darius. They also did well in free agency and trades with by acquiring key pieces like McCardell, Smith, and Brunell. Role players and decent starters were also acquired in the draft. They had very few busts.
The 2013 Jaguars are year one. They are the 1995 Jags. Don’t expect 8+ wins in year one. It may take a few years, but you have to trust in the talent evaluation. If the Jags are to emulate their success from before they will need to hit on draft picks, find key free agents to sign, and not be afraid to move past “mistakes.” The 1997 draft did little to help the Jaguars and they moved past it rather than trying to fit their coveted picks into the lineup.
The Gene Smith era was the opposite of what happened in the Jaguars’ early history. The Dave Caldwell era could take less or more time than the four year build-up the Jags took before reaching 14-2 in 1999, but like all good things it is important to understand that it takes time for something special to come.
- Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims