The Jacksonville Jaguars have had their share of big moments since breaking into the NFL as an expansion franchise in 1995. From a remarkable four playoff appearances in the franchise’s first five seasons to nearly toppling Tom Brady in the 2017 AFC title game, the Jags have given football fans in North Florida a lot to cheer about throughout the years. In chronological order, here are five of the top moments in team history.
The Brunell Trade, 1995
You can’t win in the NFL without a capable quarterback. And the Jaguars locked up a darn good one before ever taking the field. On April 21, 1995, Jacksonville sent third- and fifth-round draft picks to the Green Bay Packers in exchange for Mark Brunell. In nine seasons with the team, the lefty out of the University of Washington led the Jaguars to four playoff appearances (all in the organization’s first five years!) while earning three Pro Bowl nods. The Jags’ acquisition of Brunell is widely considered the top trade heist in franchise history.
Inaugural Game: Sept. 3, 1995
Sure, the Jaguars didn’t win, but regardless of the outcome, the franchise’s first-ever real game belongs on this list of memorable moments. With Steve Beuerlein, the top pick in the expansion draft, starting at quarterback, the Jags lost to the Houston Oilers, 10-3, in front of 72,363 fans at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. The Jags weren’t exactly juggernauts out of the gate, winning just four games in 1995, but they did set the stage for future success.
A Stunning Win Over the Broncos in the 1996 Playoffs
Most expansion franchises take a while to find their bearings. Not the Jacksonville Jaguars. After going 4-12 in their inaugural season, the Jags powered their way into the 1996 playoffs by winning six of their final seven regular season games.
Jacksonville kept that momentum going in the playoffs, upsetting the Buffalo Bills, 30-27, in the wild card round to set up a showdown with the top-seeded Denver Broncos in the divisional playoffs. Sure enough, coach Tom Coughlin’s Jaguars did the unthinkable a second straight week. Behind 140 yards from workhorse running back Natrone Means and a timely fourth-quarter touchdown catch by Jimmy Smith, Jacksonville upended Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway and the Broncos, 30-27.
The Jaguars’ improbable run ended a week later with a loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC title game, but that big win in Denver stands as perhaps the brightest moment in franchise history. The team would go on to make the playoffs in each of the next three seasons, a remarkable feat for an expansion franchise.
Jags Hang 62 on Dolphins in 1999 Playoffs
On the heels of a 14-2 regular season, the Jaguars throttled Hall of Famer Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins, 62-7, in the divisional round of the 1999 playoffs. Jacksonville’s No. 1-ranked defense forced seven turnovers along the way. It was a big moment in Dolphins’ history, too, as Marino retired after the season, as did coach Jimmy Johnson. As for the Jaguars, they’d lose to the Tennessee Titans in the AFC title game the following week. But 1999 still stands as the team’s best regular season in franchise history.
2017: Back to the Playoffs
The Jaguars’ first and only playoff appearance since 2007 nearly resulted in a Super Bowl appearance. But a young buck named Tom Brady – you may have heard of him – stood in the way. In Blake Bortles’ last hurrah as a competent quarterback before practically falling off the face of the planet the next season, the Jags went toe to toe with Brady and the New England Patriots in the 2017 AFC championship game before the man with seven fingers’ worth of Super Bowl rings rallied the Patriots to a 24-20 win with a late touchdown drive. Nonetheless, the Jaguars put forth their most successful season in a decade, finishing the season at 12-7.
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