This is the one in a series of posts about the best teams that never won a championship in the NFL.
Well, this is certainly a wild card. Although some will argue that the 1999 Jaguars shouldn’t come before other, better teams, those people probably don’t remember how good they were. The 1999 season is blurred by the Music City Miracle, the surprising Colts, and the “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams, but the Jaguars were nearly the ones to play St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXIV. Unfortunately, the Jags are in the storm right now, with their season on life support after a 1-7 start, but it’s nice to remember their best team in franchise history.
Mark Brunell was a very nice surprise for the early Jaguars.
The mobile leftie from Washington brought the infant Jaguars into relevancy, and although he didn’t have fantastic numbers in 1999, he always did enough to help his team win. Brunell finished 1999 with a 58.7% completion rate, 3,060 yards, 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions for a rating of 82.0. A young Jay Fielder also filled in nicely when he did, starting 1 game and winning it against the Bengals.
The team wouldn’t have been complete without their punishing rushing attack, formed by duo James Stewart and Fred Taylor. Stewart (above) finished 1999 as the Jags’ leading rusher, carrying the ball 249 times for 931 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The tremendously underrated Fred Taylor, meanwhile, carried the ball 159 times for 732 yards and 6 touchdowns. Stewart was the power, Taylor was the speed, and the Jags could win with both. Taylor also ripped off an incredible 90 yard run in a postseason lambasting of the Dolphins, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Before his legal troubles, and after he finished breaking his legs while in Dallas, Jimmy Smith was a great receiver for the Jaguars, and actually finished 1999 as the NFL’s leading receiver. Smith finished with 116 receptions for 1,636 yards and 6 touchdowns. The offense, in all, barely missed 400 points, scoring 396 and averaging 24.8 per game.
The defense was spectacular, ranking 4th in the NFL, giving up the fewest points in the league (217). DE Tony Brackens, LB Kevin Hardy and DT Gary Walker all finished with 10+ sacks. CB Aaron Beasley finished as the team leader in interceptions, with 6 for 2 touchdowns.
In all, this was a well-run, nearly unstoppable team (which also had Bobby Petrino coaching their quarterbacks). In fact, they went undefeated against the NFL…except in Weeks 3 and 16, getting swept by division rival Tennessee. On opening day, the Jaguars started off with a 41-3 destruction of San Francisco, and later crushing Cincinnati 41-10. They were sweet, like a well-oiled machine.
In the playoffs, the Jaguars received a first round bye, and then set out to attack the 9-7 Dolphins. And man, did they.
In what would be Dan Marino’s final career game, the Jaguars embarrassed the Dolphins in a 62-7 dissection, scoring 8 touchdowns and forcing 7 turnovers. The game was 41-7 at halftime, as Jacksonville outgained Miami 131-520.
Onto Tennessee! If there was ever a team with a revenge factor working for them, it’d be this one. After losing to Tennessee by scores of 20-19 and 41-14, Jacksonville felt that third time was the charm, determined to fulfill their 5-year Super Bowl destiny. The Titans, meanwhile, were forced into a wildcard game where the Music City Miracle saved them from a massive upset at the hands of the 11-5 Bills, before they pulled an upset themselves, beating the reborn Colts, before advancing to the title game.
At first, it was pretty close, with the Jags matching the Titans touchdown for touchdown. but Tennessee ultimately pulled away after a safety-punt return touchdown combo, scoring 14 points in 17 seconds. The final score was 33-14, and there was a dagger in the hearts of Jacksonville fans.
It seems humorous now that the Jaguars, Titans, Rams and Buccaneers were once the four teams fighting to be in the Super Bowl, but that was how it was. Titans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams later admitted to stealing the Jaguars offensive playbook in 1999, Belichick style. Brunell spent half the AFC Title game on his back, while the running game was stuffed and the defense was cut up. Coincidentally, the only team Brunell had a negative TD-INT ratio against was the Titans, going 1-4 in that statistic in their three games against them.
But the 1999 Jaguars are always going to be the team Jaguars fans will fret about, as they got the closest to the Super Bowl, but didn’t close the deal. We can only hope Bortles and Co. will turn it around in future years, but we’ll be waiting a while.