25th Anniversary: Top 10 Plays in Jaguars Franchise History


There have been a lots of ups and downs, highs and lows, for the Jacksonville Jaguars in their first 25 years. From early success that crescendoed with a 14-2 team in 1999 that made it to the AFC Championship Game, to a 5-year stretch that was one of the worst in NFL History (2011-2016), "the Jags" have endured a lot of mixed results.

While we have not yet made it to or won a Super Bowl, there have been some memorable moments for this young franchise that are worth revisiting. As we embark on our 25th season together, here are what I believe are the Top 10 Plays in Jaguars Franchise History.

10. Blake Bortles' TD Pass to Keelan Cole vs. Texans (2017)

Huh? Before you berate me for including this on the list, let me explain. This Jaguars win clinched their first playoff berth since 2007. After a decade of losing, the Jags were finally headed back to the postseason. In addition, in what was likely the best game of Bortles' career, this touchdown put us up 31-0 right before half. Instead of running out the clock or settling for a field goal or being ultra-conservative, as the Jags have been known to do (and did do in the 2017 AFC Championship Game weeks later), Bortles hit Jaydon Mickens deep down the sideline, and then hit Cole in the endzone for the touchdown. The rout was on, and the Jags were back in the Playoffs.

This is a top ten plays list, not a top 10 games list or moments list. That's why you won't see the city being awarded the franchise, anything on Wayne Weaver or Shad Kahn, any draft picks, or even any 'top plays' from losses for that matter. When Cole caught this touchdown, my brother and I turned to each other in the stands - "We're going to the playoffs, baby!" Plus, beating a division rival like the Texans in such fashion is always fun. Speaking of beating the Texans...

9. David Garrard's Hail Mary vs. Texans (2010)

While it ended up being inconsequential for the team's success (we went 2-4 down the stretch and missed the Playoffs), this play will likely forever be remembered for those who saw it. The way we got there is almost as improbable as the play itself. The Texans stormed back from a 17-3 deficit, and tied at 24 were driving late - approaching field goal range. They stalled, and on 3rd & 15 fumbled the ball over to the Jags.

On our own 34 yard-line with 8 seconds to go, David Garrard hit a quick one to Marcedes Lewis who ran out of bounds at the 50. Then: a miracle happened. Garrard dropped back, stepped up in the pocket, and launched it high in the air from our own 45. The Texans batted it down and...WHAT?! Glover Quin's "bat-down" went directly into the hands of Jags' receiver Mike Thomas. This sort of thing happens in college...but an NFL game? Not too often. Jags win, Jags win, Jags win.

8. Maurice Jones-Drew's Kick Return vs. Colts (2006)

This term is over-used on SportsCenter, but MJD literally put up "video game numbers" against the Colts that day. The funny part is, Fred Taylor did too (14.56 yards per carry on 9 touches). In a 44-17 rout of the much-hated Colts, the Jags let out their frustration and ran wild.

  • MJD - 15 carries, 166 yards, 2 TD's
  • Taylor - 9 carries, 131 yards, 1 TD
This was MoJo's coming out party in his rookie season. 166 yards and 2 TD's alone would be enough to impress (he also added a 15-yard reception and 13-yard punt return). But it was the 93-yard dagger of a kick return that put us up 31-10 against the Colts that was the top play in my opinion. Coming into this game, we were 2-9 against Indy. Dressed in the all black unis, the Jags were angry that day my friend. MoJo got his mojo workin'.

7. Monday Night Football Debut: FG Block vs. Steelers (1997)

For those of you who don't remember, or are too young to know, the Jags-Steelers rivalry dates back to the franchise's beginnings in the AFC Central. The upstart Jags made a name for themselves quickly in their second year during the 1996 season. Much to everyone's surprise, they split their first 4 meetings with the Steelers.

Monday Night Football may not mean much to you, but it's a big deal to me. The Jags haven't appeared since 2011 (thanks in large part to not only being a small-market team, but also sucking so bad from 2011-2016 in one of the worst 5-year stretches in NFL history). Side-note: if we didn't get on MNF against the Chiefs this year, not sure when we will. Pat Mahomes vs. Nick Foles (former Chief), last 2 teams to lose in the AFC Championship...Anyhoo...

This was our MNF debut back in '97, and boy did we deliver.

With wins in their first two games, undefeated Jacksonville hosted the 1-1 Steelers in Week 4 of the '97 season. In front of a national TV audience watching on Monday Night Football, the teams dueled in a classic affair. Jerome Bettis rumbled for 114 yards on 21 carries, while Kordell Stewart's touchdown passes to Yancy Thigpen and Mark Bruener helped the Steelers overcome a 10-point halftime deficit to take a 21-20 fourth quarter lead.

The Jaguars responded, with Mike Hollis' 27-yard field goal giving Jacksonville a two-point lead late in the contest. Stewart rallied the Steelers back, and Pittsburgh was in position to win the game with just seconds remaining. But Johnson's field goal attempt was blocked and scooped up by Hudson, who ran untouched into the end zone in sealing Jacksonville's win.

On the replay, you can see Steelers' Head Coach Bill Cowher almost fist-punch Chris Hudson on his way by with the ball. What more could you ask for than the Jags beating the Steelers on Monday Night with a blocked FG return for a touchdown?

6. Jalen Ramsey's Interception vs. Bills (2017 Playoffs)

As we go through this list, you'll see that I have preference for playoff implications over regular season 'top plays'. That starts here. For those of us who were there that day, the environment was truly special. Not only was it our first playoff game since 2007, it was also our first home playoff game since the 1999 season when we beat the Dolphins 62-7 (more on that later). A sold out crowd, beer flowing, Bills Mafia, and even cooler temperatures - it felt like Playoff football and felt different than anything we've experienced in that stadium lately.

Despite an ugly offensive showing by both teams, the game was tight and tensions were high throughout. In a low-scoring game like that, any one play can win the game. "Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games." Enter Jalen Ramsey in the biggest Jags game in over a decade. Clinging to a 10-3 lead, the Jags defense was on the field yet again - and somehow Buffalo managed to convert a 4th & 3 by running Nathan Peterman to the edge. EDIT: No, that's not a typo.

After a grounding penalty, the Bills faced 2nd & 20 on the Jags 48 yard-line with 32 seconds remaining. Playing off-coverage, Jalen appeared too deep to cover the curl route. But breaking early and using his speed, he got there in time to tip the ball up in the air and then made the diving catch to seal the playoff win. The stadium went crazy, and the Jags' 2017 season (which was a hell of a surprising ride) continued.

5. Bortles to Bohanon vs. Steelers (2017 Playoffs)

'No way! You can't have 2 Bortles plays on the list. Recency bias much?' Well, let me paint a picture for you.

  • Did we win the game?
  • Was it in the Playoffs?
  • Did the play clinch the game?
  • Was the play particularly memorable?
  • Was the opponent particularly disliked?
Yes, yes, yes, yes, and hell yes. On the road, in the first trip to the Playoffs since 2007, Blake Bortles' team beat Ben Roethlisberger's team in dramatic fashion to secure a trip to the AFC Championship Game. The play that sealed it was pure football execution. The power-run-oriented Jags made it look like a straight hand-off to Fournette for his 22nd carry of the game. Fullback Tommy Bohanon ran straight into the hole at the linebacker. A hard play-fake by Bortles had the linebacker AND safety both bite...and Bortles floated the easiest TD pass of his career into Bohanon's arms to put the Jags up 10 with 4:19 to go. The Jags would advance to their 3rd AFC Championship Game in franchise history.

If that's not a top play, not sure what is.

4. Morten Andersen's Missed FG (Jags vs. Falcons, 1996)

Fans of other teams might make fun of us or say it's sad that #4 is a missed FG by the other team. I'd say ask Mets fans if they don't like the Bill Buckner play. Ask Miami Hurricanes fans if they ever revisit Wide Right I or II. Ask UNC fans if they wish Chris Weber hadn't tried to call timeout. For us, this was that moment: when the other team's blunder causes emotional bliss and satisfaction.

The 1996 season started out rough. 1-3 record, then 2-4, then 3-6, then 4-7. When you're 4-7 and just lost to your divisional rival (Steelers) 28-3, your season is by most accounts over. Everyone, at least outside of the building, has written you off. Well, this Jags team had more fight than people knew. After 4 straight wins, the set-up for the final week of the regular season was simple. If the Jags wanted to make the Playoffs, they had to beat the Falcons at home.

The Jags' offense didn't play their best (awful in red zone), but built a 16-3 lead late in the 3rd quarter thanks to kicker Mike Hollis. Unfortunately that lead disappeared. The Falcons scored a TD, the Jags kicked yet another FG, and the Falcons scored another TD in the 4th quarter to make it 19-17 Jags late. A 2-point lead with the Playoffs on the line is as nerve-wracking as it gets.

The Falcons took over on their own 30 yard-line with 3:57 to play, and proceeded to put themselves in winning position with a long drive. They kneeled the ball and called timeout with just seconds left on the Jags 13-yard-line. Enter Morten Andersen...Hall of Fame Kicker Morten of the best in NFL history. A 30-yarder for a kicker of that caliber is a chip shot. From 30 yards and in, he was 97.2% on field goals and 98.8% on extra points (this includes blocks). In other words, it's about a 99% probability he makes it...well, he didn't. Jags win.

In just our second season ever, we shocked the world - winning 5 straight to end the season 9-7 and in the Playoffs.

3. David Garrard's First Down Run vs. Steelers (2007 Playoffs)

Some of you may disagree with the ordering here, but that's to be expected. For me, this play is one of the best ever. Quite simply: I couldn't effing believe it. Part of why we rank things the way we do is by how fond we are of the memory of when we experienced them. For me, this play is the most memorable (aside from more recent home games in Jacksonville). I remember where I was, who I was with, how we reacted - lots of beers thrown, lots of beers chugged or shotgunned...some even jumped into the St. John's River - at night - in January.

I don't need to repaint the picture of Jaguars vs. Steelers, or their rivalry or history. This 11-5 team was one of the best in Jags history. Led by a nasty front 7 on defense, and a tough offensive line in front of MoJo and Fred, this was a physical team that would pound you for 60 minutes.

The Jags went up 28-10 on an MJD touchdown run with 4:44 left in the 3rd quarter. From that point on, things were downright awful. Roethlisberger caught fire while the Jags offense sputtered. Two Steelers touchdowns were followed by a Garrard interception. Another Steelers score, then the teams traded punts, and the Jags got the ball at the 49-yard-line off a short punt and a 16-yard return by none other than Dennis Northcutt..

With 1 timeout remaining and 2:38 left to play, the Jags were down 29-28. Three plays later on fourth down and 2, Garrard dropped back to pass, but then ran back to the line and took off for a 32-yard burst to the Steelers 11-yard line. PANDEMONIUM. Josh Scobee's game-winning kick (25-yarder) and the defense's strip-sack of Ben Roethlisberger on the ensuing possession (Bobby McCray and Derek Landri) should be noted. But the play we'll always remember is Garrard's run on 4th & 2.

2. Mark Brunell's TD Pass to Jimmy Smith vs. Broncos (1996 Playoffs)

Two inductees into the Pride of the Jaguars who essentially put the franchise on the map, Brunell to Smith in Denver is one the greatest plays (if not THE greatest play) in franchise history. At this point, we all know we were a young expansion team on a miracle run. But, did you know it's still considered one of the greatest upsets in NFL history?

One year removed from their inaugural season, the expansion Jaguars went into Mile High Stadium in the second round of the NFL playoffs and shocked the football world, eliminating the top-seeded Broncos, 30-27. It seemed to be a miracle that the Jaguars even made the playoffs (see Top Play #4 above), but they really seemed to have no shot against the top-seeded Broncos, who were led by John Elway at 13-3. Even after trailing 12-0 in the first quarter, the Jags rallied behind Mark Brunell and Natrone Means. But the play that sealed it was epic.

3:44 left in the game. 3rd & 5 on the Broncos 16-yard-line. The Jags are up by a field goal (23-20), but don't want to give the ball back to John Elway only up by a score. Brunell takes a quick 2-step drop and releases a deep fade down the left sideline to the endzone. Jimmy Smith beats his man and catches it for the TD. The Jags accomplish the improbable. The 2nd-year franchise just beat John Elway in Denver in the Playoffs. 40,000+ were downtown at the stadium that night and early morning to welcome the team back. What a crazy moment.

1. Fred Taylor's 90-Yard TD Run vs. Dolphins (1999 Playoffs)

62-7. Dan Marino's last game. Also, Jimmy Johnson's last game. The best team in Jags franchise history (14-2 record) showed it that day. The Jags boasted the league's best defense all season, and forced 7 turnovers in one of the most lopsided games in NFL playoff history. The Jags were up 24–0 after the 1st quarter. The game was so one-sided that the Jags led 41–0 in the 2nd quarter before the Dolphins even scored. Lots of top plays to choose from.

For me the highlight is easily Fred's run. 90 yards is a long TD run no matter who you are, but Fred's a big dude and this was in the Playoffs. The call was a run inside to the right. Fred sees nothing there so bounces it outside to the right edge. He then breaks a tackle (causing another defender in pursuit to fall over his downed teammate). He then plants and sidesteps back towards the field without losing any speed (a Freddy T signature), then breaks down the sideline and beats the safety. What a stud. Also - the ensuing shenanigans is still one of my favorite moments in Jags history (when Tony Brackens scored a defensive TD on the next possession, I still remember jumping up and down and screaming my head off at the TV).

More importantly, Fred's scamper put the Jags up 17-0 in what became a total domination. This victory is likely the best in franchise history. The team was 14-2 in the regular season, and then utterly dominated the Dolphins to reach the AFC Championship Game. If it weren't for the Titans, the Jags could've capped it off with their first Super Bowl.


Through all the peaks and valleys, the Jacksonville Jaguars really have had an exciting 25 years. While our peak success was early and seems far away, that success is what makes us hungry now. We know what the Playoffs feel like. We know what losing in the AFC Championship Game feels like (3 times over). Unfortunately, we also know what losing 50 games in just 4 seasons feels like (thanks, Gene Smith!)

My biggest 'regret' or disappointment with the franchise is that we haven't made it to the big one yet. Yes, the Super Bowl. We've been close a few times - 2017 was even closer than I like to remember. But I believe we'll get there one day.

Let's make this 25th season one to remember. Go Jags!

Also, please let me know your thoughts in the comments. What is your "Top Play" in Jaguars Franchise History? Do you agree with the list?

FanPosts do not necessarily reflect the views of the authors of Big Cat Country or SB Nation.