Despite a tough opening season record of 4-12, Tom Coughlin's men showed they would only get better from there. And get better was exactly what they did, as they went on to stun the NFL by making the playoffs in their second year of existence, thanks to a brilliant stretch drive that saw them win six of their final seven games.
What was to come in the postseason in 1996 is something that all die-hard Jaguars fans will never forget.
Following a dramatic win over the Atlanta Falcons to clinch a playoff spot, the Jags opened the postseason on the road against the vaunted Buffalo Bills. Having made four consecutive Super Bowl appearances from 1990-93, the Bills were heavily favored and hungry to finally win a Super Bowl.
The Jaguars were young, inexperienced and expected to get taught a serious lesson. However, in this memorable encounter, the young Jags would show how quickly they could catch on and make some noise in the postseason.
Trailing the Bills on four separate occasions, the Jaguars showed how resilient they were and found a way to pull it out thanks to a game-winning 45-yard field goal by Mike Hollis.
That day, the Jaguars showed how much character they had and showed no matter what the conditions that they were ready. Coming into a blustery Ralph Wilson Stadium in late December, few thought the Jaguars could adjust to the snowy conditions in a hostile environment in Buffalo. Not only did they adjust, but they showed that rain or shine, they were here to win.
That dramatic upset was just the beginning of what the Jaguars had in store for the AFC.
Their next victims would be John Elway and the Denver Broncos. Once again the Jags were underdogs and expected to go down to the vastly experienced Broncos, who had some unfinished business. Their business would remain unfinished, as the Jaguars showed once again they were for real.
Trailing early on thanks to two Denver touchdowns, the Jaguars stormed back to take the lead in the second quarter and never looked back. Jimmy Smith put it out of reach in the fourth quarter with a 16-yard touchdown catch to put the Jags up by 10. Ed McCaffrey's late touchdown ultimately was in vain, as the Jaguars upset the Broncos 30-27 to advance to the AFC Championship.
Who would have guessed it? Only its second season in the league and Jacksonville was on the verge of a berth in the Super Bowl.
While the Jags' Cinderella run came to an end against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship, Coughlin's men sent a message to the rest of the league that they were serious contenders who deserved some respect.
More than halfway through the 1996 season, the Jaguars were a dismal 3-6 and virtually out of the playoff picture. They were down but they were far from out, winning their final five games (many in dramatic fashion) to make the playoffs for the first time in team history.
It was that season when I, along with many people in Jacksonville, became a huge fan of the Jaguars. They showed a resiliency and a fight that I have never seen before in the NFL.
Their determination and never-say-die attitude was something that drew me to the team and has made me excited to watch this team succeed. The Jaguars showed they came here to win and that they were never out of a ball game.
They would go on to make the playoffs the following three seasons, proving 1996 was no fluke.
While the team in 1999 would again make the AFC Championship, it was 1996 that was really special for the Jaguars and the City of Jacksonville.
Their march on the brink of a Super Bowl was something of a Cinderella story that the Jags couldn't have scripted any better. That season made you want to stand up and cheer as they were without a doubt the feel-good story of the NFL in 1996.
From that moment on, the Jaguars have shown they can be entertaining and that they are never out of ball game.
As a sports fan, that's all you can ask for is a chance, a chance to dream and a chance to believe that you can always win no matter the circumstances.
The Jaguars have given me and the rest of their fans a reason to dream and believe that they can and will triumph some day.