The 1999 season was a very memorable one for the city of Jacksonville as the Jags were a force to be reckoned with and captured the imagination of the city. The team was so exciting and seemed destined to win the Super Bowl. Entering their fifth season as an NFL franchise, Tom Coughlin's team looked poised and ready to go where no Jaguars team had gone before, the Super Bowl.
How They Stacked Up
After three straight seasons of playoff appearances the Jaguars made it clear to the rest of the league that they were for real. On paper they now boasted a solid team of pro-bowlers and all around strong players in all three facets of the game. Look up and down that lineup and try to find a weak spot.
At quarterback Mark Brunell was in the prime of his career having thrown a career high 20 touchdowns in '98 and had been selected to the Pro Bowl the past two seasons. Should Brunell not be healthy they could count on backup Jay Fiedler who in relief of Brunell in '99 was very effective completing over 64 percent of his passes. Two soon-to-be starting quarterbacks on the same team—not bad for an expansion team that was supposed to be weak.
In the backfield they boasted two explosive running back in youngster Fred Taylor and the big horse in James Stewart. Together they rushed for a combined 1,663 yards that season.
At receiver they could count on three very sure-handed and impressive receivers in the league. Starting with probably the greatest Jag receiver of all-time, Jimmy Smith came into the '99 season after two straight Pro Bowl appearances and his expectation was high. Smith did not disappoint as he caught 116 passes for 1,636 yards a career best.
The Jags could also count on veteran Keenan McCardell who that season caught 78 passes for 891 yards and 5 touchdowns. Then completing the trio there was tight end Kyle Brady who was extremely durable and dependable missing only nine games his whole career and catching 32 passes that season for 346 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively they could count on future franchise player Tony Brackens who made 12 sacks in '99 and forced two interceptions. His partners, Kevin Hardy and Gary Walker, made them a formidable front four as they each had 10 quarterback sacks that season. In the secondary, cornerback Aaron Beasley and safety Donovan Darius made them an aggressive and tough team to pass against.
Flying out of the Gate
The Jaguars came out blazing in 1999 opening the season with a very impressive 41-3 victory over the San Fransisco 49ers. That was a sign of things to come as they dominated halfway through the season with their only blemish coming in week three with a narrow one point loss to the Tennessee Titans. They continued to dominate late into the season finding a way to win the nail biters, and also finding a way to blow teams out.
When the season was complete the Jaguars had the NFL's best record at 14-2 and for the first time had home field advantage throughout the playoffs. It was clear midway through the '99 campaign that the Jaguars were the team to beat as they boasted a potent offence that could burn you in so many ways. But more than that they had a formidable defence that rarely gave up the big play and could also create alot of turnovers.
In total the Jaguars had a point differential of plus 162 in terms of points scored and points allowed all season. The Jaguars team looked destined to make it to the Super Bowl for the first time in their history.
Super Bowl Dreamin'
For the first time in team history the Jaguars could enjoy the luxury of a first round bye and some much needed rest going into the postseason. First up was the Dan Marino and their state rivals, the Miami Dolphins.
Marino, the future hall of famer, was expected to come out with a purpose desperate to finally win a Super Bowl and to go out on top. This game however was no contest from start to finish as less than four and a half minutes into the game the Jaguars were ahead when Mark Brunell found Jimmy Smith for an eight yard touchdown.
Things would get alot worse for the Dolphins as just over 11 minutes into the quarter Fred Taylor broke away for a 90 yard touchdown run, still the longest in NFL playoff history. By halftime it was 41-7 in favour of the Jaguars. Even in the second half with most of Jacksonville's backups in the game the Dolphins still had no answer.
Jay Fiedler, (who would become the heir to Dan Marino in Miami) came in and picked up where Brunell left off, hitting Jimmy Smith for a 70 yard touchdown pass and later findind Alvis Witted for a 38 yard score. This was a dominating a performance as any the Jags had all season as they racked up 257 combined rushing yards in a 62-7 drubbing of the Miami Dolphins.
This was sadly the last game of Dolphin great Dan Marino who definitely did not envision his career to end on such a note as this. The Jags were moving on to the AFC Championship for the second time in team history and appeared to have everything going for them in the quest for a Super Bowl.
Remembering the Titans
Going into Jacksonville for the AFC Championship game, the team and the fans were jacked up expecting nothing less than a berth in the Super Bowl in Atlanta in a weeks time. Their opponents, the Tennessee Titans—the only team to beat them all season and a team riding high after an improbable last second touchdown against the Bills to open the playoffs. Surely this was the Jags year and they could not lose three times to these Titans.
Well early on the Jags appeared to be clicking as less than four minutes into the game Brunell found tight end Kyle Brady for a seven yard touchdown catch. Jeff Fisher and the Titans though were more resilient than the Dolphins and answered back with a nine yard pass from McNair to Yancey Thigpen.
The Jaguars did not looked rattled though and regained the lead in the second quarter when James Stewart broke away for a 30 yard touchdown run. Al Del Greco hit a field goal late in the half to cut the deficit to 14-10 Jaguars at halftime.
What was to come in the second half is something all Jaguar fans would rather forget. The Titans lit up the Jaguars in the third quarter for 16 points with the dagger coming off a Derrick Mason 80 yard punt return touchdown. Steve McNair put the icing on the cake in the fourth with his second touchdown of the game to crush the Jaguars dream of a first Super Bowl appearance. McNair was probably the deciding factor as he ran at will on the Jags defence totalling 91 yards on only nine carries.
The final was 33-14 and the Jaguars were left to wonder what might have been. This Jaguars team would never be the same as salary cap issues would put them into a tailspin for a number of years.
A Memorable Year with Hopes of More to Come
The Jaguars may have come up short in '99, but the way they captured the imagination of the fans and the league that year was truly special. They gave fans like myself and others a reason to hope and believe that it could be done, and though what was to follow was not pretty, there are a lot of great things to take out of that year.
Looking at the team now there is no reason to believe that this team cannot do what the '99 team did and maybe even out-do them. They have the potential to make history and win the Super Bowl like this team nearly did. What a year—something that will always stay with me and many players and fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars.