I grew up a Jaguars fan. I lived in New Jersey, 30 minutes from the Meadowlands, yet no one in my family was a Giants or Jets fan. When I was young we visited Florida (it was around 1995), and I became attached to this new franchise, the Jacksonville Jaguars. I have been a fan ever since.
Fred Taylor is arguably the greatest Jaguar of all time, and along with Mark Brunell, Jimmy Smith, Keenan McCardell, Kyle Brady, Tony Boselli, Tony Brackens, and Donovan Darius, brought the Jaguars to the elite of the league only a few years after expansion.
None of those players remain with the Jaguars, but they are all held in the highest regard by Jaguars fans. Taylor should be remembered the same way, following his release by the Jaguars.
It doesn't matter whether or not it is true, as reported, that he would have taken a pay cut and yet they still released him. It was a move by an organization that is rebuilding.
It is hard for me and every Jaguars fan to have to watch Freddy T run the ball for another team, but as Vic Ketchman, the Jaguars.com Blogger, writes, "I'ts a young man's game."
I will always appreciate everything that Fred did for this team and will never forget him. It is tough to see him go, but it was neccessary to become younger and rebuild.
But first I would like to thank Freddy T for everything—for bringing this franchise from nothing to something.
There were always times when fans got on you for being injured, but you kept getting healthy and coming back. And you finished off in your last few years being healthy and contributing in the 2007-2008 season to a team that was one of the best Jaguars teams in history.
Fred rushed for 11,271 yards and 63 touchdowns on 2,428 carries. All this was accomplished over 11 seasons with the franchise.
His 11,271 yards are 16th all-time, yet he has made only one Pro Bowl, which last year when he replaced an injured Willie Parker. His 4.6 yards-per-carry average are fifth all-time behind greats Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, O.J. Simpson, and Tiki Barber.
Nothing would make me happier than to see him go to a team in a big city with a bigger fanbase, have a huge year, and make his first fan voted Pro Bowl. But thank you Fred for everything.
It is tough to move on and you are a class-act for understanding what needed to be done to rebuild this franchise to what is was when you were drafted by it.
Now onto why the Jaguars need to rebuild.
They don't need to go and overspend in free agency; they need to use the draft.
First, Gene Smith made an awesome move last week in releasing cornerback Drayton Florence and wide receiver Jerry Porter. Both were rush decisions last offseason in order to try to add two veteran presences to a team that almost made the Super Bowl the year before.
Then he made the hardest decision: letting go of fan favorite Fred Taylor. It was necessary because Maurice Jones-Drew is the future and needs to be the feature back.
Greg Jones should also get some carries, as well as the second year back out of USC, Chauncey Washington. But the Jaguars need to rebuild.
They let Reggie Williams walk in free agency: smart move. Now they need to let Khalif Barnes and Mike Peterson walk.
Barnes doesn't want to be in Jacksonville and when you are rebuilding you can't have guys that don't want to be here. Peterson had a feud with Coach Jack Del Rio and when trying to rebuild with young players the last thing you need is a veteran leader disagreeing with the coach.
This team has a solid core that performed as well as they could have this past year. That core consists of David Garrard, Maurice Jones-Drew, Matt Jones, John Henderson, Darryl Smith, Rashean Mathis, Brian Williams, and Josh Scobee. That is a solid core of players, all of whom had their off years stemming from the poor performance of the other guys around them.
Guys like Greg Jones, Mike Walker, Marcedes Lewis, Derrick Harvey, Quentin Groves, Justin Durant, and Reggie Nelson have the potential to help the Jags next season.
Durant had a very good year, but even more will be expected with Peterson gone. Nelson regressed and part of that was due to the lack of a pass rush. Harvey and Groves should benefit from an offseason of NFL Conditioning. Lewis had a solid year but still needs to improve. Jones didn't rush much last year and will be counted on this year.
Then there is Walker, who has all the talent but can't stay healthy. If he stays healthy, he could be the receiver the Jaguars have lacked.
Offensive guards Vince Manuwai and Maurice Williams were both were injured last year, which hurt the team. However, they should be back to help support a poor line. Hopefully their presence will help out right tackle Tony Pashos.
With the draft upcoming, the No. 8 pick has many options. The team can trade back and get more draft picks, which could be good in a rebuilding stage, or they could stay and pick.
If they stay the Jags have options like tackles Eugene Monroe, Michael Oher, Andre Smith, and Jason Smith; linebackers Rey Maualuga, Aaron Curry, and James Laurinaitis; cornerback Malcolm Jenkins; or wide receiver Michael Crabtree.
There may be more options, but all those guys could help the Jaguars.
As you can see, the Jags have a solid core and some players that, if they progress correctly, could make this team an interesting one next season.
No doubt it should be interesting to see how the offseason and draft play out. But thank you, Fred. Fans shouldn't be discouraged by his release. Sometimes things like this are necessary for the good of the team, like it or not.