Since going 11-5, making and winning in the playoffs in 2007, the Jacksonville Jaguars have gone just 20-28 and are in mid-rebuilding mode. In actuality, the 2007 season was one of the worst seasons in Jaguars history, in terms of what the future wrought. Similar to the 1999 season, it tricked the franchise and fan base into thinking they were close. Close to something they were actually far away from. How does a team go from being a dark horse playoff candidate to 5-11 and into rebuilding and roster purging just one off-season? They tricked themselves. They tricked themselves into thinking they were more talented than they actually were.
After the 2007 season, the Jacksonville Jaguars thought they were close to a Super Bowl. They had beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh in the playoffs, which not many teams have. They went blow for blow with the first half of the divisional round match-up with the New England Patriots the year the Patriots went 17-1 and lost the Super Bowl. It was a team seemingly on the rise.
So, what happened?
They bought into their own hype. Head coach Jack Del Rio got a 5-year contract extension, which the team is still saddled with today. Then new starting quarterback David Garrard was handed the keys to the franchise and hasn't gotten it out of first gear since. Those two alone are arguably the Jaguars biggest albatrosses. They hitched their wagon to quarterback and coach, and neither were what they thought. Say all you want about bad drafting and free agent busts, but those two deals still haunt the team. Many wanted Jack Del Rio fired, and deservedly so, but because of that quick-draw contract he's still owed $10 million on his deal that runs through 2012, guaranteed. While Garrard had a "career" season last year, he still faltered again down the stretch and is still due about $8 million this year and next.
After those two contracts, the Jaguars thought they were close. They went out and paid big money to wide receiver Jerry Porter, who looked like he was just trapped in the Black Hole of the Oakland Raiders and needed new scenery, when really he was just a turd who got paid, got hurt, and never seemingly wanted to fit in. They also went out and paid corner Drayton Florence and handed him a starting position he didn't deserve. Florence excelled as a nickel corner in San Diego, but as a starter in Jacksonville he struggled mightily. Because the Jaguars thought they were close, they traded up in the first round to get that pass rusher they needed and took Derrick Harvey. Why stop there? You can never have too many pass rushers when you have Peyton Manning in your division! The Jaguars then traded up again and took Quentin Groves. Neither player has yet to emerge as anything but serviceable. Harvey was benched in favor of journeyman Jeremy Mincey and 5th round rookie Austen Lane. Neither is really all that great, but that speaks more to Harvey than either of those two players. Groves now starts at outside linebacker for the Oakland Raiders after he was shipped out last off-season and is just really average.
So, what did the 2007 get?
A head coach still on contract most fans wanted fired.
A quarterback who's over paid and under performs in meaningful situations who most fans want replaced.
A draft class with only one remaining player who may not remain in the 2011 season.
A free agent period with $23 million in guaranteed money paid to two free agents that started a combined 14 games total in a Jaguars uniform.
A team who entered roster purge and rebuild mode just one season later.
Blame the total tenure of Shack Harris all you want, but it wasn't the drafting from 2003-2007 that killed a team on the rise. They miraculously were able to hold on and survive that with his draft picks that did work out. It was an off-season in 2008 of rushed mistakes and a false sense of worth that put the Jaguars where they're at today. In all reality, 2007 was a last gasp more than the start of a rise to the elite level of the NFL.