How many of you remember the Jacksonville Jaguars offense of 1999?
Odds are if you were playing fantasy football back then, you clearly remember the exploits of lefty gunslinger Mark Brunell, the thunder and lightning receiving combo of Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith, and the immensely talented often injured RB “Fragile” Fred Taylor. You might even remember the 13 rushing TD’s by James Stewart.
The ‘99 Jaguars went 14-2 in the regular season. They laid a 62-7 pounding on the Dolphins in the second round of the playoffs, in what would be the final game of Dan Marino’s HOF career. Unfortunately, they laid an egg versus the Titans in the AFC championship, losing 33-14. The Jaguars only three loses that season all came at the hands of the Titans.
During the regular season, they had almost an exact 50/50 split of passing and rushing attempts. They were beating teams so badly that year, that Mark Brunell’s backup Jay Fielder saw playing time in 7 games. Statistically, Brunell actually had one of his worst seasons, throwing for a little over 3,000 yards and 14 TDs. That didn’t stop super stud WR Jimmy Smith from breaking franchise records with 116 receptions and 1,636 yards.
Fred Taylor would miss seven games due to injury, however James Stewart filled in quite admirably. The two combined for almost 1,700 rushing yards and 19 rushing TDs. This group of four players (minus Stewart who left in free agency) would all go on to have great careers. I consider all of them to be some of the most underrated players ever at their positions.
Comparing ’99 Jacksonville Jaguars Offense to 2016 Version
As I look at the Jacksonville Jaguars offense for the 2016 season, I wonder — can this group be even better?
Blake Bortles is coming off an incredible sophomore season. He finished the year with over 4,400 passing yards and 35 TDs, adding 300 rushing yards and 2 TD’s. He finished as the fourth-ranked QB in fantasy. Yet, Bortles seems to be on everyone’s bust list, ranking outside the top 10 QB’s in many expert rankings.
Some of the reasons many experts have for citing Bortles as a potential Fantasy Football bust are that the Jaguars where trailing a lot last season, and much of that production was in “garbage time.” Another reason, is with the addition of RB Chris Ivory, and an improved defense, the Jaguars will run the ball much more this year. Lastly, many point out that Bortles had a relatively low completion percentage.
#Jags QB Blake Bortles finished the 2015 season tied for the second-most passing TDs (35), but was first in sacks taken (51) and INTs (18).
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 30, 2016
Allow me to dispel those fallacies. The Jaguars’ inability to run the ball last season was not because of the RB position, the main culprit was a terrible run blocking offensive line. That line doesn’t look much better this year.
Ivory is solid power running back, but he’s not going to come in and tear things up. Last year, he ran behind the mauling offensive line of the Jets. It will be much tougher sledding for him this year. He will probably score some TDs. That may take a couple TDs away from Bortles, but that’s about it.
An improved defense is a Catch-22 for passing numbers. Sure, if your defense is terrible, you’ll be forced to throw more. On the other hand, a better defense will keep the other offense off the field, allowing for more possessions. In my mind, it evens out. There are plenty elite fantasy QB’s that play with a good defense.
Last point, completion percentage is the most overrated stat in football. If you throw a bunch of short passes, of course you’re going to have a higher percentage compared to QB’s who like to attack downfield more. Last season, Teddy Bridgewater completed over 65-percent of his passes. Cam Newton completed 59-percent of his passes, the exact same percentage as Bortles, enough said.
Bortles playing style is very similar to Mark Brunell’s. Both are mobile gunslingers who like to take their chances downfield. The biggest difference between the two, Bortles is four-inches taller and about 30-pounds heavier than Brunell was.
Allen Robinson is a beast, but he’s not Jimmy Smith in his prime. Allen Hurns is on the same level as Keenan McCardell, though, they have very different skill sets. I have one concern about Robinson and Hurns. Last year, they combined to catch 24 of Bortles’ 35 TD passes. Touchdowns for WRs can be a bit random, and I wouldn’t bank on that number again. I think Bortles will spread the ball around a little more this year.
The current Jaguars have a very deep group of secondary receiving options; including Marquise Lee, Rashad Greene, Bryan Walters, and TE Julius Thomas. The ’99 Jaguars did not use many multiple WR formations, and their TE Kyle Brady was the best blocking TE in the league, but wasn’t much of a receiver.
Main Difference Between These Two Offenses
The current Jaguars are set up to be an air raid style offense. Whereas, the ’99 Jaguars were the very definition of a balanced offense. The ’99 team also had a far superior offensive line, anchored by HOF left tackle Tony Boseli. This allowed them to be a run first team.
As far as the RB’s go, there is no comparison. Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon combined, on their best day, are still not even on the same planet as a healthy Fred Taylor.
So, Which Jacksonville Jaguars Offense is Better?
I have to give a slight edge to the ’99 team, based on their huge advantage in the running game.
However, as far as the passing game goes, I think the current Jacksonville Jaguars offense is a little better based on their quality secondary receiving options.
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