5 Biggest Busts in Jacksonville Jaguars History
The Jacksonville Jaguars are one of the youngest teams in the NFL, having been founded in 1995. In the nearly 20 years of their existence, the Jaguars have had more than their fair share of busts. They have been plagued by terrible management throughout the 2000s, making questionable picks that have ultimately doomed the franchise despite its strong start.
The Jaguars hope to change their fortune under new general manager David Caldwell. He made a number of seemingly good picks in the draft (Blake Bortles, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson), as well as some good moves in free agency (Toby Gerhart and Zane Beadles). Only time will tell if these players can live up to their expectations or wind up as busts like the players on this list.
This list includes both free agent and draft busts. They were ranked based on how large their expectations were and on how spectacularly they failed to live up to them. It was also taken into account what their failure meant to the team as a whole. Some players' individual failures were felt more by the team than others.
So what say you, B/R fans? Who is the biggest bust in Jaguars history? Was there someone I forgot? Was there someone I should have ranked higher or lower?
Laurent Robinson, WR: Robinson cashed in with the Jaguars as a free agent with a five-year, $32.5 million contract following one year of really good production in Dallas as the No. 3 receiver. He only played in seven games (four starts) and logged 24 receptions for 252 yards with no touchdowns. He was waived almost exactly one year after signing his deal. Robinson is a painful reminder of a player who will appear later on this list.
Quentin Groves, DE: Groves was a second-round selection in the 2008 draft and was expected to be a running mate for first-round pick Derrick Harvey. He never came close to living up to the expectations of a top-flight pass-rusher for the Jaguars, totaling just 2.5 sacks in two years.
Tyson Alualu, DT: Alualu was the 10th overall selection in the 2010 draft, having been picked much higher than expected. He has had a tough time living up to expectations, totaling 11 sacks in four years so far. This year marks his last shot to impress, as the final year of his contract is voidable.
Byron Leftwich, QB: Leftwich was the seventh overall pick for the Jaguars in the 2003 draft. He was expected to be the successor to Mark Brunell and to be the Jaguars new franchise quarterback. As then-owner Wayne Weaver said, "We've got our quarterback position fixed now for the next 10 years." Well it has been 10 years and Leftwich has been long gone. He didn't have a bad career (over 9,000 yards and 51 touchdowns), but just never became the QB he was expected to be.
Matt Jones, WR: Jones was one of the most gifted athletes to ever step foot on an NFL field. He was a standout QB at Arkansas, setting numerous school records. He switched to wide receiver for the draft due to his size (6'6") and athletic ability. He was selected 21st overall in 2005 but only lasted four years with minimal impact. His promising career was derailed by multiple arrests and violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
5. Justin Blackmon, Wide Receiver
Justin Blackmon was drafted fifth overall in the 2012 draft after the Jaguars traded up two spots to select him. He was expected to be the No. 1 receiver for Blaine Gabbert and help Gabbert reach his potential. Things haven't quite worked out that way so far.
When Blackmon was drafted out of Oklahoma State, there were a number of comparisons made to his former teammate Dez Bryant. Blackmon was supposed to be the anti-Bryant, as Bryant gained a reputation in the league for getting into trouble. Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon even said of Blackmon during a radio interview on KIRO-AM 710 in Seattle:
He's a beast, isn't he? He's like Dez Bryant with all of his brain cells. He's a guy that has all those skills that Dez Bryant has, but he's not the knucklehead that Dez Bryant has turned out to be with Dallas. And a much better route runner than Dez Bryant is, but a very tremendous talent.
All of this praise led the Jaguars to believe they had found their franchise receiver to go with their franchise quarterback. Instead, they ended up with a player that makes them wish he was more like Bryant.
Blackmon had a very good rookie season, leading all rookies in receptions (64) and yards (865). Since then, it has been all downhill. Blackmon was suspended for the first four games of the 2013 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Blackmon issued the following statement after the suspension was announced:
I’ve made a mistake and I have no excuse. I am truly sorry and disappointed in myself for putting the Jaguars in this situation, and I look forward to putting this behind me and maturing and growing as a person...I have chosen to be accountable for my poor decision, and I sincerely apologize to my teammates, coaches, the front office and Jaguars fans for the impact of my mistake on the team.
Despite everything he said and everything that happened, he was suspended again just one month after his previous suspension was lifted. This time around he was suspended indefinitely, having to wait and see if the league would reinstate him.
It may seem a bit extreme to put a player who has only played two seasons into the Top Five of this list. However, he is included here (and beats out Matt Jones) because of how highly regarded he was coming out of college.
When a Hall of Fame quarterback goes on the air to compare you to one of the most talented receivers in the league, saying you are better than him and more mature, and you end up getting suspended indefinitely from the league, you deserve to be labeled a bust. Fortunately, the Jaguars are open to him playing again, so he may find himself off this list soon.
4. Jerry Porter, Wide Receiver
The Jaguars' experience with Porter should have been a warning for the team when they gave Laurent Robinson his contract. The Jaguars rewarded Porter with a six-year, $30 million deal after he spent eight years in Oakland. Porter had his best years playing third fiddle to Jerry Rice and Tim Brown.
In his last three legitimate seasons with the Raiders (he missed most of 2006), he totaled 184 receptions for 2,645 yards and 20 touchdowns. While those numbers are good, especially for the No. 3 receiver, 2006 should have been a warning, as he missed most of the season due to team suspensions.
Nevertheless, the Jaguars gave him a big contract to be the dynamic receiver they lost when Jimmy Smith retired. Head coach Jack Del Rio was excited about the prospect of bringing a veteran player like Porter in, saying:
I’m very excited about adding Jerry. I think he’s an outstanding football player. There were a couple guys that we thought we would take an opportunity at in free agency and he was at the top of the list for us. I really think it was a great fit for us. He’s an explosive player. He’s had some big years. We think his best football is still ahead of him and we’re very excited to have him.
What they got instead was a gigantic headache and a lot of wasted effort and money. Porter wound up playing only one year in Jacksonville, appearing in 10 games with six starts. He managed only 11 receptions for 181 yards and one touchdown. Porter, once again, became an issue in the locker room, with many teammates blaming him for chemistry issues. He was cut less than a year after signing with the team.
Porter is the only free agent in the top five, which bodes well for him in this ranking. He doesn't rank higher on this list because the Jaguars didn't spend high draft picks on him, unlike the last three on this list. He ranks ahead of Laurent Robinson specifically because, while both had similarly underwhelming careers in Jacksonville, Robinson at least was a model player.
3. R. Jay Soward, Wide Receiver
The Jaguars have not had much luck when it comes to drafting wide receivers. They have spent four first-round picks on receivers, all of whom have been busts. So far though, R. Jay Soward has been the worst selection of them all.
Soward wasn't the most heralded receiver in the 2000 draft, but he was one of the most intriguing. He had limited college production in terms of first-round picks. His best season, in fact, came in his sophomore year, hauling in 48 catches for 831 yards and eight touchdowns.
Going into the draft, he was a raw player who had a lot of talent (think Cordarrelle Patterson in 2013). It was enough that the Jaguars selected him 29th overall. They were hoping he would be an explosive complement to Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell, who combined for 2,527 yards and 11 touchdowns in 1999, and finally propel them to the Super Bowl.
Instead, they ended up with a player whose questionable work ethic got the better of him. Soward was already in hot water for skipping summer workouts prior to his senior season in order to record a rap album. After he was drafted, head coach Tom Coughlin famously had to use a team limo to pick him up for training camp to make sure he would be there.
Soward's career went downhill after that. He managed only 14 receptions for 108 yards in 13 games. His career was derailed by alcoholism, leading to several suspensions, including the entire 2001 and 2002 seasons. He was out of the league in 2005, having never played a snap after his rookie year.
He definitely is the biggest receiver bust for the Jaguars, but fails to make it any higher on this list. While he was a first-round pick, he was picked much later than most of the other first-round picks, including the two yet to appear. The expectations he failed to live up to weren't nearly as great as the expectations for the next two players as well.
2. Derrick Harvey, Defensive End
Derrick Harvey, selected eighth overall in 2008, was expected to be the pass-rushing threat for Jacksonville for years to come. Jacksonville broke bank in order to draft him, trading away four picks to Baltimore in order to move up 18 spots.
Needless to say, the team should have kept the picks.
Harvey was highly touted coming out of the University of Florida following two championship seasons with the Gators. He was praised for his combination of size, speed and agility, making him the consensus third-best defensive end in the draft. He even garnered comparisons to former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Jevon Kearse.
Unfortunately, Harvey came nowhere close to living up to those expectations. The slow start to his rookie season could be attributed to the lengthy holdout he had waiting for a contract (33 days). He missed all of training camp and most of the preseason, frustrating head coach Jack Del Rio.
This was a bad omen for the former Gator, as he managed only eight sacks in three years with the team. His dismal play was especially frustrating given the poor play of fellow 2008 draftee Quentin Groves. Together, the two were supposed to form a great pass-rushing tandem.
He ranks this highly on the list mainly because the Jaguars gave up so many picks to get him. It was a move that severely limited what the Jaguars could do in that draft. They gambled big and lost out completely.
1. Blaine Gabbert, Quarterback
Did you really think it was going to be someone else? Blaine Gabbert is the standard by which all other Jaguars busts are rated. His dismal tenure in Jacksonville wasn't entirely his fault, but he certainly didn't make things better. This pick set the Jaguars back a couple of years.
Gabbert experienced a meteoric rise up draft boards, thanks in part to Andrew Luck's decision to return to school for his final year. Gabbert decided to capitalize on this decision and declare early, despite posting only 16 touchdowns in a spread-system offense. To put it in perspective, Gabbert's predecessor Chase Daniels threw 39 touchdowns in his senior year.
Still, Gabbert managed to find himself drafted 10th overall due to his size, arm strength and accuracy. He came with a 8.49 grade per NFL.com, meaning he was projected to be a perennial All-Pro. He was praised by numerous draft pundits, with expectations of him being the best QB in the draft.
These experts and, more importantly, the Jaguars, couldn't have been more wrong.
He was named the starter by Week 3 of his rookie season, much earlier than he should have been. Gabbert experienced natural rookie growing pains, finishing the season with 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while completing only 50 percent of his passes.
He didn't fare much better in his sophomore year, starting 10 games before going down with an injury. He posted only 9 touchdowns in those 10 games, although he did improve his accuracy to 58 percent, leaving some hope for his third year.
His third year was an utter disaster, starting just 3 games and throwing seven interceptions before getting injured. His accuracy dropped to under 50 percent, solidifying his status as a bust. Gabbert wouldn't play another game for the Jaguars, eventually being traded to the San Francisco 49ers.
As I referenced above, not everything was Gabbert's fault. Jacksonville was nearly devoid of any receiving talent, relying predominantly on fourth-round pick Cecil Shorts III. Along with his terrible accuracy, Gabbert had a penchant for sensing pressure that wasn't there, leading to a number of broken plays as he scrambled away from nothing.
Gabbert wears the crown for biggest bust in Jaguars history bar none. His ineptitude under center stunted the growth of the organization. Gabbert's 5-22 record, combined with his 22-24 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 53 percent career completion percentage, ensures his spot atop this list.