Interested in rooting for one of the NFL's 32 teams -- but don't know where to start? Adam Rank has you covered with this series, which will present a handy guide to becoming an instantly rabid fan of each organization in the league. Below, find out why you should root for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
What you need to know so you don't sound stupid
You really need to know that.
I was at the NFL Draft a few years ago -- I don't quite remember the year, but I'm relatively sure it was the Aaron Donald draft (which I'll never get over). I was cruising around Radio City Music Hall (I miss the draft being there because it was awesome) and some striking Jaguars fan had his phone out and asked, "Hey, Rank. Can you yell Duuuuuuuvalll?"
And of course I did, not knowing if it was going to be some sort of incendiary thing or whatnot, which is how I roll. Then I did finally ask him what it meant. Turns out, Jacksonville is in Duval County, Florida, and the fans yell "Duuuuuvalll!" whenever something good happens for the Jaguars, which I think is kind of badass. I mean, it's much better than SKOL. Lame. (I'm kidding, Vikings fans. That's cool, too.) So Duval is rad and I had never known about it previously, which seems crazy. No, which makes sense because I don't believe I had ever met a Jaguars fan previously in my life. (Wait, that's not true! One of my former bosses, Justin Hathaway, was a Jaguars season ticket holder, but apparently he had been holding out on me.)
The point here is I spent some time mingling with the fans because they were pretty cool and out in full force. A bunch of them had traveled to the draft, so the Jags had a good turnout. And you know what? It was the Aaron Donald draft because the Jaguars picked Blake Bortles that year with the third overall pick. That's right, because I went up to the rafters of RCMH to hang out with the Jags fans midway through the first round -- mostly because I was on tilt since the Rams stole Aaron Donald. (And are wasting him. Where are the "Are the Rams wasting Aaron Donald" think pieces? I might just pen one.) But I went to hang out with the fans who were brimming with optimism.
Here's the thing: I really grew to love the Jaguars fan, and I would consider myself invested in the team. They remind me of what it was like being an L.A. Kings fan or L.A. Angels fan back in the day. A lot of folks would talk [expletive] about my teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s when things weren't go very well, but it only made it sweeter when those teams won (Angels in 2002, Kings in 2012 and 2014). There might not be a ton of Jaguars fans nationally -- not like the Cowboys or Patriots -- but I defy you to find fans who are more into their team, especially without the return other fans have gotten so far. These guys are hardcore. They are my people, even though I haven't set foot in Jacksonville in over 24 years. But, I am certain that their time is coming soon.
This might be the Jags' year!
I know, I know. You've probably heard this a lot, especially if you ever spend time reading offseason think pieces, because it seems each year, some pundit will proclaim the Jaguars are going to win the AFC South. All right, it was probably me. But I feel good about it this year.
And I hear you. You're tired of us crying wolf (or Jaguar, in this case). It's like the DCEU movies. Each and every one of them was supposed to be the big breakout that was going to establish the DC Universe. "Man of Steel" was going to rule. Then it was "Batman v Superman" that was going to do it. And if not those, "Suicide Squad" was going to be the tops. And while I loved all three, the general public was not as impressed. Well, the movies did well at the box office, but most of the Marvel, football watchers weren't having it.
But you know what happened this year? That's right. "Wonder Woman" came out and it staked its claim as one of the best comic book movies ever. EVER! Even the Marvel fans were like, "Yeah, it was pretty good," which, for those mouth-breathers, is high praise. (Believe me: None of them are ever going to admit how great that movie is.) What does all this mean, though? That this, THIS is the year for the Jaguars. I swear on the Sword of Athena this is the case. (BTW, Wonder Woman fans hiding swords down the back of their dresses is one of my favorite things ever. And no, it wasn't in the movie. Diana is the God Killer.)
Let's start with the quarterback
It's going to come down to Bortles. I remember the shock of the Jags fans at the draft because the selection was kind of rando. I'll say they were guardedly optimistic. The first three years have offered mixed results. Bortles was good in 2015, when he had 35 touchdown passes. Though he had this knack for putting up a lot of numbers in garbage time. The entire 2016 season was garbage time, but there is hope.
And look, I hate to do this. I really do. But the Jags fired Gus Bradley and promoted Doug Marrone to interim coach for the final two games of the season. Bortles was pretty great. He threw for 325 and a TD against the Titansin Week 16, and 301 and another score the following week against the Colts. No interceptions, either. And look, it's a rather flimsy exercise to cite that small, two-game sample size as a harbinger of things to come, but I firmly believe -- with Marrone in charge and Tom Coughlin at the top of the organization -- this kid has a chance. I'm not going to say he's going to evolve into Tom Brady. But he could be a Jay Cutler type (and don't talk s--- because he got the Bears to the NFC Championship Game).
Plus Bortles has this guy:
Robinson had a huge breakout in 2015, when he had 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. He slumped last year, but the dude still had 73 receptions. I'm telling you right now: Robinson is going to re-establish himself as one of the best in the game this year. He's going to get double-digit touchdowns and we can all forget about 2016. Trust me.
And it's not like he's got to do it himself because, in the draft, the Jags picked up a ...
... new franchise running back
One great thing to look forward to for the Jaguars this season is Leonard Fournette, who was chosen fourth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. Fournette has drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson and was pretty amazing at LSU. I also believe the trend for Tigers players is to be good in college, but become freaking studs at the next level. Jarvis Landry. Tyrann Mathieu. And oh right, Odell Beckham Jr. So I feel pretty great about this, and it's fair to mention the Jaguars have done pretty well with running backs over the years.
And, you know what? Let's jump to this right now.
Not enough credit
Fred Taylor was awesome, man. Just an underappreciated running back. He played 11 seasons for the Jaguars and came roaring out of the gate with 1,223 yards and 14 touchdowns in his rookie year. The dude also averaged 107.6 yards per game in 2000. The injuries the first couple of years slowed him down, and it's probably the only thing that keeps him from the Hall of Fame.
The franchise's best
I love Fred. But if you think I'm not going to give my dude Maurice Jones-Drew the title of franchise best, then you don't really know me that well. (Hello, my name is Adam.) He will probably be embarrassed I put him ahead of Fred, but I don't care. I worked at the Orange County Register and covered then-Maurice Drew at UCLA. We worked together on two great TV shows -- "Madden NFL Live" and "Fantasy and Friends" -- here at NFL Network. I don't mind bragging that I drafted MJD when he was as rookie in 2006 and piled up 1,377 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns. Although, 2011 was just as great, with 1,606 rushing yards and 11 total TDs. He didn't take over as the full-time guy until his fourth season, but he was the [expletive] man for the Jaguars. No question.
Don't @ me about this. I won't listen.
And there's also THIS ...
No disrespect to Shawne, who is also my dude, but damn, man. That was a solid block.
And this ...
Speaking of former UCLA players
Myles Jack is going to be a beast in the middle for the Jaguars this season. You knew it would take him some time to really get comfortable -- I mean, he did suffer a horrific injury in college -- but he's going to be excellent. And with Paul Posluszny on the outside now, this linebacker corps is nice.
And really, I love what the Jaguars have done building a defense that is strewn with high draft picks like Jalen Ramsey, Yannick Ngakoue and Sheldon Day (fine, he went in the fourth). Perhaps the best move of the offseason was to land Calais Campbell. A dominant force on the field and a great dude off it. He also had the chance to go to Denver, but wanted to be in Jacksonville because he believes in the direction of this team. That should mean something.
I always like a good fullback jersey. And Greg Jones was a monster. When the dude got hurt and was going to miss the 2006 NFL season, Jack Del Rio cried. SEE! THIS IS WHY YOU CRY, MARK!
Closing fun fact
We always like to talk about teams that check the boxes, and the Jaguars certainly do that. Good fans with a great atmosphere? You know it. Lovely. The stadium is pretty rad with a pool, too. (And I don't know why people bash the pool because the only problems are the ones that face all public pools.) The city is great. TPC Sawgrass is in Jacksonville if you want to make a huge weekend of it.
And then you have the team. Loaded with talent. The defense looks really good. The offense has some great pieces. The quarterback situation can be exasperating, but you have to take the good with the bad. If you're looking for a team with a cool scene and a team that could make a run at the division title (remember the "Wonder Woman" connection), then the Jaguars would be a pretty damn good choice. Jump quickly because the bandwagon is going to get crowded. Even Gregg Rosenthal is on board. Marc Sessler will need some convincing. (But he's a Browns fan. He wants nobody to have fun.)