No. 9 biggest "What If" in Jaguars history: The 2003 Minnesota Vikings' NFL Draft
"I wanted Leftwich"- Art Model, Owner of the Baltimore Ravens
It's crazy to think an NFL team might mismanage the first round of the NFL draft so badly that they fail to execute a trade or make a pick within their allotted time. But, that's exactly what happened to the Minnesota Vikings in 2003.
According to people who were there, the Vikings were attempting to trade the eighth overall selection to the Baltimore Ravens, who were reportedly going to take Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich. Apparently, it was an open secret as Leftwich himself expected the move, stating, "I remember having talks with [Ravens general manager] Ozzie and it was pretty much set in stone."
Jacksonville had the pick directly after the Vikings, and when Minnesota failed to make a pick, the Jaguars found themselves in an unbelievable position. With the sudden availability of a highly touted quarterback on the board, Jacksonville wasted no time, rushing their card to the podium and selecting the gunslinger from West Virginia.
It seemed like luck on an intergalactic scale in the moment. But in retrospect, things could have been much better for Jacksonville if the Vikings could have just gotten their stuff together.
According to reports, head coach Jack Del Rio coveted future All-Pro Terrell Suggs. Mark Brunell was still on the team, and although the Jaguars were going through a soft rebuild, Brunell would later prove to still have some gas left in the tank.
Had Leftwich turned out to be an excellent quarterback, it would have been worth moving on from Brunell. But, as it turned out, Leftwich was mediocre at best, and the team would have been well-served to stick with Brunell and add a player who would have become the greatest pass rusher in team history.
It's difficult to project what the Jaguars' record would have been in 2003 with Mark Brunell at the helm along with Terrell Suggs wreaking havoc (he had 12 sacks as a rookie with the Ravens). But, the Jags could have been a much better team, drastically altering the course of the franchise.
But, here's the kicker: even if they did the same as they did under Leftwich, the team could have moved on from Brunell in 2004. Having just invested in Leftwich, the team wasn't interested in a quarterback in the 2004 draft. But, had they taken Suggs instead, they would have been in position to take Ben Roethlisberger instead of Reggie Williams. Oof.