The Jacksonville Jaguars were born into the NFL in 1995, along with the Carolina Panthers, bringing the NFL to an even 30 teams. And, like the Panthers, despite their short history, the Jaguars have accomplished several milestones.
A bet on the Jacksonville Jaguars to be chosen as the 30th franchise might not have been a great idea. Jacksonville and Carolina faced stiff competition from a group of cities that included Baltimore, Memphis, and St. Louis. (All three would later receive a football franchise in some form or another – Baltimore would turn the Browns into the Ravens in ‘96, St. Louis would receive the LA Rams for two decades, and the Houston Oilers would move not to Memphis, but to nearby Nashville, and become the Tennessee Titans). But the league chose Jacksonville, gifting it the task of building a franchise from the ground up.
As such, the Jacksonville Jaguars odds for immediate success were not high. However, the team defied the odds, laying a strong foundation with its initial draft selections and trades. They selected OT Tony Boselli 2nd overall, then selected RB James Stewart seventeen picks later. The team further traded two draft picks for Green Bay backup QB Mark Brunell. Brunell would become the team’s starter in the 3rd game of the season when Steve Beuerlein, who the Jaguars had selected #1 overall in the expansion draft, went down with an injury, and serve as the starting QB for eight straight seasons. Finally, the Jaguars signed Jimmy Smith, a free agent WR released by both Dallas and Philadelphia. Smith would go on to become the team’s all-time leading receiver.
They also hired Tom Coughlin, head coach at Boston College, as their first head coach. In 1995, a bet on the Jacksonville Jaguars would not have been smart, as the team predictably finished 4-12, and the Jacksonville Jaguars odds to become a force to be reckoned with were low. But a year later, Coughlin and the Jaguars shocked the NFL by going 9-7 and grabbing a wildcard berth. Brunell led the league in passing, Smith and fellow WR Keenan McCardell both had over 1,000 yards receiving, and Jaguars finished with the #2 offense in the league.
In their first playoff game ever, the Jaguars travelled to Buffalo to play Jim Kelly and a powerhouse Buffalo team that had admittedly was at the twilight of a dominant era of football. The Jacksonville Jaguars odds weren’t good – they were 8.5-point underdogs. But RB Natrone Means ran for 175 yards and the Jaguars scored the last ten points of the game, winning 30-27. The week after, they defeated Denver by the same score, with Means again running for over a hundred yards. The Jacksonville Jaguars odds in that game? Even longer – they were 12.5-point underdogs. Finally, the magical run ended in Foxboro, where Bill Parcells & Co. held Means in check and defeated Jacksonville, 20-6.
That playoff success, however, set the foundation for years to come. Coughlin would mold the Jaguars into winners, making the playoffs each of the next three seasons. The team won its first division title just four years into its existence, in 1998, then won another in 1999. The formula was the same – Brunell, Smith, and McCardell, along with new rookie RB Fred Taylor, creating a top-10 offense.
However, a bet on the Jacksonville Jaguars to win a title would not pay. Denver would exact revenge the following year in the wildcard round, ousting the Jaguars on their way to a Super Bowl title. In 1998, they would lose to Bill Parcells again, this time with the Jets, in the divisional round. A year later, Coughlin returned to the AFC championship game as 7-point favorites over the Tennessee Titans. However, a bet on the Jacksonville Jaguars to advance would not pay, as Tennessee won a turnover-laden affair, 33-14.
Coughlin would be fired in 2002 after posting three straight losing seasons, and the Jaguars replaced him with Carolina defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. Del Rio’s tenure had spotty success – the team made the playoffs twice in his nine-year stint, losing twice to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. But, by and large, the 2000s were an unremarkable decade for the franchise, and not a great time to bet on the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jacksonville Jaguars odds to succeed were never lower, however, than the early 2010s, when the team averaged 3.5 wins a season for over half a decade. However, in 2017, new head coach Doug Marrone forged a dominant defense, leading the team to a surprise AFC South crown. In the wildcard round, the Jaguars defense stifled the Bills, 10-3. Then, in the divisional round, the Jaguars raced out to a 21-0 lead over the favored Steelers and won a shootout, 45-42. A bet on the Jacksonville Jaguars to finally vanquish playoff nemesis New England would not pay, however, as they would lose the third AFC title game in franchise history, 24-20.
Marrone struggled to recapture the success of 2017, however, and posted two straight losing seasons afterwards. After a complete roster overall, the Jacksonville Jaguars odds of returning to their glory days seem long, as the team will face stiff competition both from within the division and the conference for the foreseeable future.