Welcome back to NFL Thursday as we continue to with our examination of every franchise’s best teams, in order from worst winning percentage to best, historically. The Jacksonville Jaguars (.420) are one of a few teams to have never played in a Super Bowl, although they have the disadvantage of only being founded in 1995. In the 29 seasons since, they have just an 8-8 postseason record, with just a few deep postseason runs in them (1996, 1999, 2017). Here’s our list … enjoy!
No. 5: 1997 Jacksonville Jaguars
With an 11-5 record, these Jags finished second in the tough AFC Central Division in just the team’s third year of existence. Jacksonville ended up No. 3 in scoring offense and No. 15 in scoring defense, combining for a No. 4 overall SRS rating. After making it to the AFC title game in 1996 via a shocking road upset of the Denver Broncos, this squad returned to Mile High Stadium—and got the living daylights beaten out of it by a 42-17 score at the hands of the eventual champs.
Six players hit double figures for Approximate Value (AV), and they were all on the offense—including three linemen. The top skill-position players were quarterback Mark Brunell (15) and his wide receivers: Jimmy Smith (14) and Keenan McCardell (13). Denver took advantage of the poor Jags defense, though, holding the ball for over 40 minutes in the playoff game and running for over 300 yard as the Jacksonville offense managed just 237 total yards and 10 points.
No. 4: 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars
In setting a team record for wins (14), these Jags won the AFC Central and secured the top seed in the playoffs. They had the No. 6 scoring offense and the No. 1 scoring defense, amounting to a No. 5 SRS finish. Things looked very bright for Jacksonville as it topped Miami, 62-7, in a divisional playoff game, ending the career of Dolphins great Dan Marino in the process. But the Jags were upset in the AFC title game by the Tennessee Titans, 33-14, to end their Super Bowl hopes.
Eight players reached 10-plus AV on this team, led by two defensive stars: defensive end Tony Brackens (17) and linebacker Kevin Hardy (17). Also, Smith (15) and Brunell (12) figured prominently in the talent roll call here once again. The Titans had beaten the Jags twice in the regular season by a combined score of 61-33, but the third time was not the charm for Jacksonville—and the best regular season in team history to this point went down in flames against Tennessee.
No. 3: 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars
This is one of those teams that few outside of Florida will remember: a 10-6 record won the AFC South Division, and two narrow playoff wins over the Buffalo Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers got the Jags to the AFC title game. This squad was No. 5 in scoring offense and No. 2 in scoring defense, surprisingly, adding up to a No. 6 SRS finish. Downing the Bills and Steelers by a combined 10 points was impressive, but the cheatin’ New England Patriots beat the Jags, 24-20, to end it all.
Seven players stood out with double-digit AV marks, and six of them were defensive players. The one offensive standout? QB Blake Bortles (13). It’s impressive this team finished fifth in scoring offense, for sure, therefore. The defense beat the Bills, 10-3, by forcing 2 turnovers and holding Buffalo to 263 total yards, while the offense won a 45-42 shootout on the road against the Steelers. Against the Pats, though, the Jags lost a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead to cheatin’ Tom Brady.
No. 2: 2007 Jacksonville Jaguars
An 11-5 record netted these Jags a second place finish in the AFC South, and the team’s No. 6 SRS rating was based on the No. 6 scoring offense and the No. 10 scoring defense. In the playoffs, Jacksonville built a 28-10 lead in the second half on the road against Pittsburgh before hanging on to win, 31-29. Then, the Jags went to New England to play the Spygate Patriots, losing 31-20. All in all, you can see some of the best Jacksonville teams were shafted by the NFL and its cheaters.
Only six players cracked 10 AV on this roster, all on the offense. QB David Garrard (13) and running backs Maurice Jones-Drew (13) and Fred Taylor (12) were the best of the bunch. The other three were OLs, again. In the playoff game against the Steelers, it was Jones-Drew scoring twice for the big lead, as Garrard led the offense to the game-winning field goal at the end. Facing the Patriots, the Jags offense committed two turnovers, and that was the death knell there.
No. 1: 2006 Jacksonville Jaguars
For our sabermetric surprise of the day, the best team in Jacksonville franchise history finished just 8-8 and didn’t make the postseason. You read that right: No. 9 scoring offense, No. 4 scoring defense, No. 5 SRS rating. Seven of the team’s eight losses came by a total of 34 points, and the Jags lost their last three games, specifically, by a combined 15 points to fall into third place in the AFC South—and miss the playoffs in a year where 7 AFC teams won between 7-9 games.
Eight players stood out on this team with 10 AV or more, led by cornerback Rashean Mathis (18). So how did this team miss the postseason? A lot of close losses, obviously, as the Jags outscored their opponents, 371-274, on the season. Jacksonville lost to Tennessee when it held the Titans to 98 total yards; the Jags also lost to the cheatin’ Patriots by just 3 points. Finally, a blocked punt returned for a TD doomed the team in its final loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Ouch.