Smith is my No. 1 Jag
With just a few weeks to go until there's something real to talk about, the AFC South Time Machine is taking its final journeys of the summer.
The Jacksonville Jaguars haven't had a long history, but there have been plenty of great players suit up in black and teal.
Here are the 10 best, starting with a clear top five and working back.
1. Jimmy Smith
Smith is one of the most underrated players of all time. I suspect many Jaguars fans will think this is a spot or two too high, but Smith is a legitimate Hall of Fame threat, or would be if the voters knew what to do with wideouts.
His overall numbers stack up very well with the best wideouts of his era, and his domination of the Jaguars record book is without question.
He ranks second in games played as a Jaguar, but is first in Pro Bowls, yards receiving and catches. He is third in touchdowns and second in yards from scrimmage. He ranks in the top 15 all-time of NFL wideouts in catches and yards.
Smith never seems to get the attention that he deserves for a dominant stretch in which he went over 1,000 yards nine times in 10 years.
2. Tony Boselli
Boselli is the symbolic heart of the Jaguars franchise. He was the first Jaguar, selected with the franchise's first pick.
He was a dominant tackle, and embodied the team's tough-minded, physical approach to football. He's a five-time Pro Bowl player who also had three All-Pro selections.
Boselli's career was cut short by injuries, or he would have become the first Jaguar enshrined in Canton. Unfortunately, with just 91 career games played, he won't ever be considered. Given his considerable technical skills, it's a shame.
Ultimately, it is the truncated nature of his career that keeps him out of my top spot. I will admit, however, that I can't possibly argue with anyone who ranks him first overall, because of his emotional and symbolic importance to and support of the franchise.
3. Fred Taylor
Taylor is another strong candidate for "Best Jaguar ever," and it's hard to argue with the franchise's leading rusher. He's second in franchise history in touchdowns, third in receptions and sixth in receiving yards.
Taylor garnered an unfair reputation for being oft-injured, but his actual on-field production was impressive. He averaged over 4.5 yards a carry eight times with the Jaguars, and rushed for 1,000 yards seven times.
For his career, he's 15th all-time in rushing and 25th in yards from scrimmage. Despite a couple of tack-on years at the end of his career in New England, almost all of his production came as a Jaguar.
If Boselli represents the heart of the Jaguars, Taylor is the team's soul. His bruising power and speed were often overlooked nationally, as he never got the attention other top running backs did.
Jaguars fans will probably remember Taylor as better than he was, but that's only because he meant so much to them and to the city.
4. Mark Brunell
Brunell is the franchise leader in all major passing stats and twice took the team within a game of the Super Bowl.
The Jaguars made the playoffs in four of their first five seasons in existence, and Brunell's play was a big reason why. He won the passing title in 1996 and went to three Pro Bowls. He had the ability to make plays with his legs and arm, and did a good job protecting the football.
Brunnell was a good quarterback surrounded by a great team, and that was almost enough to bring a title to Jacksonville.
5. Maurice Jones-Drew
Jones-Drew should probably be at least one spot higher on this list, but I suspect time will remedy that. He already holds the franchise lead in touchdowns and will likely finish on top of virtually statistical categories for which he is eligible.
He's already landed three Pro Bowl spots and a rushing title and is only just now hitting his prime. It's too early to put his career in context yet, so I'm listing him fifth with the caveat that he could easily shoot to the top of this list in a few years.
For now, he marks the dividing line between the clear top five and everyone else.
6. John Henderson
Big John was an occasionally dominant tackle who combined with Marcus Stroud to make it impossible to run up the middle on the Jaguars for most of the 2000s.
He's third on the franchise's sack list and sixth in total tackles, but coming from the tackle position, that's remarkable production. He was selected for two Pro Bowls in his career.
7. Marcus Stroud
You can't adequately discuss Henderson without mentioning Stroud in the same breath. He recently signed a one-day contract to retire as a Jaguar.
I already covered his career last week, so I'm not going to repeat myself here, but the fact that Stroud came back to Jacksonville for a retirement ceremony says everything about how much the player and city meant to one another.
8. Keenan McCardell
This is where the list gets dicey. The top five, and even the top seven, are open for internal debate only, but after Stroud and Henderson, the competition is murkier.
McCardell is the second-best wideout in franchise history, but the gap between him and Smith is considerable. Still, he piled up four 1,000-yard seasons in just six years with the Jags.
He was always more of boundary receiver than a burner, but he worked with Brunell as the perfect complement to Smith, and for the best years in franchise history, McCardell was there right in the middle of them.
9. Tony Brackens
Brackens is the franchise leader in sacks and played his entire career in Jacksonville. His career was cut short by leg injuries, and he retired at the relative young age of 29.
His 1999 season was incredible as he piled eight forced fumbles on his 12 sacks. That was the season he made his only Pro Bowl as the Jaguars finished with the best record in the AFC.
Had he stayed healthy, he could have threatened the 100-sack mark for his career.
10. Daryl Smith
Smith has been quietly effective for the Jaguars for a long time. He'll likely finish this season ranking in the top five all time for games played as a Jaguar. He's currently the franchise's all-time leading tackler as well.
He's never been to a Pro Bowl or garnered much national attention, but he's been a steel rod at middle linebacker anchoring the Jaguars defense for years. I love the video above as an encapsulation of his career. It's impossible to figure out exactly what Smith did that was so great on the play, but it's easy to see the end result.
The Jaguars won.