Monday, June 23, 2014

Quad Patches continued...the Jacksonville Jaguars back when they were decent!

Remember when the Jaguars were an expansion team going deep into the playoffs?  Well those days are long gone...today the team is all Chad Henne and Justin Blackmon and John Cyprien and bad vibes.  But they used to be pretty good.  I remember them for a great defense and then a few steady offensive veterans that kept the ship moving.  This card captures all four of the guys I remember - Keenan McCardell, Mark Brunell, Jimmy Smith, and Fred Taylor, which is pretty cool.
Keenan McCardell is a name that kids these days are going to forget, and it's a shame because he was actually quite good.  He was a 12th round pick in the 1991 draft by the Washington Redskins, which was the last round back then.  8 guys were picked after McCardell, and none of them played a single game in the NFL.  So for McCardell to have more career receptions and receiving yards than any other guy in the class (which includes Herman Moore and Ed McCaffrey) is crazy impressive.  Even more impressive - he never played a game with the Redskins...and didn't even play at all until 1992.

McCardell spent his true first four seasons in Cleveland, and really broke out in 1995 with 700+ yards in 5 games started.  In the offseason he was signed by the Jaguars, and he spent the next 6 years dominating as part of the "Thunder and Lightning" duo with Jimmy Smith, including making the Pro Bowl in 1996.  He eventually moved on to the Buccaneers in 2002, and won a Super Bowl (where he had two touchdown receptions) and made a Pro Bowl in his two years there.  That 2003 season would be his last great one, as McCardell then had four okay years (three in San Diego, one in Washington) before retiring following the 2007 season.  16 year career, 16th all time in receptions, 27th in receiving yards - that's all way more than I expected.  So kudos to you Keenan!

Mark Brunell was mentioned in a previous post, but it's interesting to see how his tenure in Jacksonville ended.  I'd blame the offensive line a bit - Brunell led the league in sacks in 2001 after almost doing so in 2000.  By 2003 Byron Leftwich was drafted and Brunell was moving on to greener pastures.  It's crazy what a bad offensive line can do to a quarterback.

Jimmy Smith was the Lightning part of that Thunder and Lightning duo, and man was he crazy good.  But it almost didn't happen.  He was a 2nd round pick by the Cowboys in 1992, and like McCardell he is the career leader in many WR categories for his class (beating out Carl Pickens, Robert Brooks, and Torrance Small among others).  Unfortunately Smith broke a leg and then had a near fatal infection in response to an emergency appendectomy.  He was cut by the Cowboys and later the Eagles, and only found a team when his Mom sent some press clippings of past highlights to the Jaguars.  But that did it, and Smith spent the next 11 years as one of the league's best WR threats with 5 Pro Bowl nods.  18th in receptions and receiving yards, so you can see how he would outshine McCardell a little bit.  He was pretty darn good!

Last but not least, Fred Taylor was 1998 1st round pick who, as you probably guessed, was the best RB of his draft class like Smith and McCardell (beating our Ahman Green, Curtis Enis, and Robert Edwards among others).  Taylor's first four years in the league gave him a reputation as an injury risk, as he played just 40 of 62 games due to various ailments.  He was a yardage and touchdown machine though, and also stayed fairly healthy in his next 7 years in Jacksonville to cement his place as a franchise great.  He made a Pro Bowl in 2007 but appeared to slow a step in 2008, leading to Jacksonville letting him go.  The Patriots picked him up and let him do the RB by committee thing for two years before Taylor called it a career.  Still, 13 years for an "injury risk" back is pretty impressive, and really shows how tough Taylor truly was!

Who wins the card?  Man, this is a tough one.  There's a decent argument to be made that these are the four most notable Jaguars, at least offensively, in team history.  I think my choice has to be Jimmy Smith, though I give mad respect to Keenan McCardell for excelling in Smith's shadow for so long.

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