I remember the day of the big announcement. Jacksonville had been awarded an NFL franchise. I was happy to hear the news but overly giddy? I would say not.
I had always been a fan of the Chicago Bears, and my first and only thoughts regarding the new Jacksonville team were:
- Would they be in the NFC?
- Will they play the Bears every year so I can see my hometown team?
When it was announced that they would be an AFC team, my enthusiasm waned and I continued to follow the Bears.
The Jaguars’ first season, in 1995, went as I thought it would: a few victories, some hard-fought games, many losses, and a 4-12 record.
However, one game that season definitely caught my attention—their first home victory, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in October 2005.
The Steelers would eventually go on to win the AFC Championship, so the fact that the Jaguars defeated them in their inaugural season was quite remarkable.
I found myself beginning to follow the team and not just watching games on television.
The 1996 Jaguars season kicked off with a victory over the defending AFC Champion Steelers. That compelled me to become an official fan. But the last game of the regular season, against the Atlanta Falcons, turned me into a die-hard.
The Jaguars had won five straight leading up to the season finale. With one more win they would reach playoffs in just their second season.
They were up 19-17 in the fourth quarter, but with five seconds left the Falcons sent in Morten Andersen to kick a 30-yard field goal and steal the victory.
Fate was on the side of the Jaguars that day. Andersen’s kick sailed wide-left.
The Jaguars were on their way to Buffalo as a wild-card.
I remember running out to buy my first Jaguars jersey. Since the game was in Buffalo, I planned a party at my place so all my friends and I could watch the game together.
Frankly, we weren’t expecting a victory, especially since no road team had ever won in the postseason. Then again, it seemed that the Jaguars were on a mission from God.
They went on to defeat the Bills 30-27.
The next road game was against the Denver Broncos, Surely the Jaguars’ season would end in the Mile High Stadium. The media in Denver didn’t take the Jaguars seriously. One thought the Jaguars were from Jackson, Mississippi!
However, the game was exciting, and after recovering an on-side kick in the fourth quarter the Jaguars stunned the NFL with a 30-27 victory.
Unfortunately, the following week they traveled to New England, and their Cinderella season came to an end.
All the same, the Jacksonville Jaguars had captured my heart. Tom Coughlin, Mark Brunell, Tony Boselli, and Jimmy Smith would become household names here in Jacksonville.
It's time to remember that 1996 team. Coach Jack Del Rio should try to steal what Coughlin mustered up that season and get the 2009 Jaguars back in the limelight.
I will always be a Jacksonville Jaguars fan, but I miss having them in the playoffs. After 2007 I thought the Jags had returned and were poised to make a Super Bowl run. But my heart was dealt a serious blow with the 2008 team’s performance.
Del Rio has an opportunity to turn the team around, but he may have to employ new strategies and tactics. I’m not sure that making wholesale changes to his coaching staff is the answer.
I do like what Gene Smith has done in the draft and his conservative approach to free agency. However, will it be enough? Is Coach Del Rio’s job in jeopardy?
I’m having flashbacks to Coach Coughlin’s demise and departure from Jacksonville. I’m beginning to see the same thing happening to Del Rio. I hope I’m wrong.
I hope the Jaguars once again shock the NFL world.
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