The NFL announced in 1991 that it had plans to expand the league by a total of two teams and that cities were allowed to enter with their proposals if they wanted to be considered as a host. One of the cities to put themselves forward was Jacksonville in Florida. An ownership group calling themselves “Touchdown Jacksonville” had be formed to lead the areas plans to get an NFL franchise. The group had been struggling to negotiate their plans for the outdated Gator Bowl stadium with the city and so had to pull out of the running to become an expansion team in 1993.

After Charlotte was awarded the first of the two expansion teams the announcement of the second was delayed. Many thought this was because the league wanted to award it to St. Louis but wanted the city to strengthen its bid first. If you ask any Baltimore Ravens fan – the city of Baltimore was considered to be one of the favourites to get the second expansion – they might tell you that foul play was involved by the then NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle and his wealthy friends. I wrote a bit about it in my Baltimore Ravens History article. Jacksonville was convinced to re-enter the race for the second franchise and ultimately won.

And So It Began

The old Gator Bowl stadium

The old Gator Bowl stadium was practically demolished to make way for the Jaguars new stadium.

The team’s first head coach was a certain Mr Tom Coughlin who had no previous head coaching experience at the time as he’d been a position coach previous to this recruitment. The Jaguars gave him his career break as a head coach – which turned out to be a good one as he went on to win 3 Super Bowls with the New York Giants – and is why fans are happy to see him back with the team today as the Executive Vice President of Football Operations – as of 2017.

Expansion and Regular Draft

During the expansion draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars caught some good players who would help them to get established. They took veteran QB Steve Beuerlein with the first overall pick in an attempt to gain them some much-needed experience and leadership but he would get injured during week 2 of their first regular season. Luckily they had done a trade during the regular draft with the Green Bay Packers which got them the Packers’ backup QB Mark Brunell. He would start in place of the injured Beuerlein and actually keep the starting job once he was recovered from the injury.

Out of the regular draft of 1995, the team took offensive tackle Tony Boselli and running back James Stewart in the 1st round and both would go on to play huge parts in the early successes of the team.

OT Tony Boselli of the Jacksonville Jaguars
QB Mark Brunell of the Jacksonville Jaguars
RB James Stewart of the Jacksonville Jaguars

On the field Play Starts

The team started its onfield play in the 1995 season. It went as expected really with them ending the regular-season with a 4-12 record. This was, in fact, a better record than any previous expansion team had managed. It was, however, eclipsed by their fellow expansion team of this year, the Carolina Panthers, who managed a very respectable 7-9 debut season.

The Jaguars franchise and fans didn’t have to wait long to taste success as they made it to the playoffs and all the way to the AFC Championship game – one game short of the Super Bowl itself – in 1996 after beating the Denver Broncos 30-27. This was a huge achievement as this was only their second season in the league and the Broncos were considered to be the best team in the league by many.

The best period the team has ever had continued on from this 1996 season for the next 3 seasons. They would finish with regular season records between 1997-1999 of 11-5, 11-5 and 14-2 and make it to the playoffs all 3 years – twice as division champions.

In 1999 they went all the way to the AFC Championship game again – destroying the Miami Dolphins 62-7 along the way, which would end up being the great Dan Marino’s last game – only to lose for the 3rd time that season to the Tennessee Titans who had also handed them their only two regular season losses that year.

Dan Marino's last game against the Jacksonville Jaguars was a 62-7 thrashing during the 1999 playoffs.

End of an Era

After the heights of success the team had reached between 1996-1999, the Jaguars started to struggle and Tom Coughlin was fired after the 2002 season. He’d done all he could for the franchise at that time which included 4 playoff appearances of which 2 ended just one step shy of Super Bowl appearances.

Also in 2002 the league restructured and introduced another expansion team – the Houston Texans. Up to this point, the Jaguars had been playing in the AFC Central division but would now battle it out in the AFC South with the new Houston team as well as the Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans. This is the division they still compete in today.

The next period for the Jaguars would be one of averageness really. They did make it to the playoffs again in 2005 and 2007 as a wildcard but lost both times to the New England Patriots, once in the wildcard round and once in the divisional round.

Signing up long-term to NFL London Makes Perfect Sense

Things went downhill on and off the field from 2009 as they missed the playoffs and the stadium attendances fell sharply. The stadium has an attendance of 73,000 but they covered 10,000 of those so as to reduce the capacity and allow for larger attendance/capacity percentages. Such a large stadium located in one of the NFL’s smallest markets isn’t ideal for convincing the league and TV networks to televise and support a franchise – especially it would seem not when an apparently fickle fanbase stops attending when things aren’t going as well as they have done for a period. It even got to the point where TV blackouts of home games were in effect due to a lack of interest. I guess no-one saw any profit in televising the games.

All this is more than likely why the franchise had been so willing to sign up to a long-term deal that would see them play regular-season games in the UK as part of the NFL London series of games. Guaranteed revenue from an 80,000+ crowd and a top spot on any list of teams to be the possible London expansion team should they fail to keep interest in Jacksonville going forward. I also personally believe that this threat of the area losing their team has helped support grow again. It’s also a great move as they’ll be making large sums of money from their new European based fans via merchandise sales. I know I for one have bought a jersey and some t-shirts etc. to show my gratitude and support for a franchise that’s willing to give so much to us Euro fans. All in all, it makes a lot of sense for the franchise to be doing what they are with regards to the NFL London experiment.

NFL London Jacksonville Jaguars

All Change At The Top

For the past 9 years, Jack Del Rio had been the head coach of the team but his time came to an end in 2011 after a 3-8 start to the season. The ownership of the team would also change as businessman Shahid Khan bought the club in 2012. He hired Mike Mularkey to be the head coach and made changes throughout the coaching and front office staff. This would lead to the team’s worst season in their history as they could only manage a 2-14 regular-season. This led to the sacking of the head coach and general manager.

The next coach in the door was Gus Bradley who had been the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive coordinator. Gus didn’t do very well in any of his seasons as head coach and ended up with a poor 14-48 won/lost record with the team. He was finally fired in December 2016 after being given plenty of time by the owner to turn things around for the better. After Gus Bradley’s dismissal, it fell to assistant head coach Doug Marrone to see out the season in 2016. He obviously impressed as he was handed the job full time and will lead the Jacksonville Jaguars into the 2017 NFL season.

Gus Bradley - former head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars

As well as a change at the head coaching position, the team has brought fan favourite, Tom Coughlin, back. This time as Executive Vice President of Football Operations. If you remember, he was the guy in charge when the Jags were successful in their early days.

It’s Not All Doom and Gloom

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been in a slump for years now but things have the potential to improve vastly. If new coach Marrone can find a way to get the best out of his talented young roster then I believe they can be a playoff contender again for years to come. I must admit that I thought they would be knocking on the playoffs door in 2016 but I apparently forgot to factor in Gus Bradley and his coaching and gameplans.

I do genuinely believe that this roster is stacked with good young talent on both sides of the ball and if someone can unite them and unlock that talent then watch out AFC South.

Jacksonville Jaguars Rivalries

The Jaguars don’t really have rivalries outside of their AFC South division other than, perhaps, their 1995 expansion buddies, Carolina Panthers. Other than a passing interest in wanting to do better than the team that joined the league at the same time as them, I don’t see this as much of a rivalry.

Since their introduction into the league in 2002, the Houston Texans have always been a team that the Jaguars have struggled against. This is an annoyance and source of their rivalry as well as the fact that they are now division rivals.

I’d say that the division rivalry with the Tennessee Titans should be quite strong as they are the team that handed the Jaguars their only 3 losses during the 1999 season of which one was in the AFC Championship game meaning the Jags missed out on the Super Bowl by the narrowest of margins.

1999 AFC Championship game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans

The Jacksonville Jaguars host the Baltimore Ravens at Wembley stadium, London in the first of the NFL London games of 2017. The game will be played on September 24th, with the kickoff time still yet to be announced. The talk is that kickoff times for the 2017 series of games could be moved back to later times in order to accommodate the U.S. fans.

Be sure to browse the teams’ categories for more articles about the teams playing in the NFL London games.