Oral history of the 1996 Jaguars: The inside story of how the rag-tag Jags shocked the NFL

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Long before Tom Coughlin had two Super Bowl rings and a Hall of Fame resume, he had the doughnuts incident. It came in Coughlin's second year coaching the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars, an upstart team of has-beens and young players trying to find their way. It was a team considered to be a bridge to the growth for future years, but one that turned into so much more.

Coughlin, struggling to relate to his players because of his maniacal and dictatorial ways, decided to join his team one Saturday morning midway through that 1996 season for their weekly doughnuts feast. It called for rookies to bring in boxes full of Krispy Kremes to fill the ample bellies of the veterans, who demanded it and, of course, made the rookies pay.

As players sat in the locker room that day eating up the sugary treats, Coughlin sauntered in and joined them. Players were stunned. This was their time. So one by one, they got up and left -- except for two, second-year tackle Tony Boselli and defensive tackle John Jurkovic.

"Tom would walk in and every person would get up and walk out," Boselli said. "A couple of times the only two guys who stayed were me and Jurko."

"The two fat guys," former Jaguars defensive end Jeff Lageman said laughing.

Said Boselli: "As much as I was mad at Tom, the doughnuts were way more important. I didn't care. It was uncomfortable to where Tom would walk in and when the lights would come on the cockroaches would go running, just gone."

With the coach-player relationships frayed to the point of almost ripping apart the team, largely because of a Coughlin rulebook thicker than the Jacksonville phonebook, there was real tension. His style made players feel more like third-graders than professional football players, which had this team on the verge of disaster.

Owner Wayne Weaver sensed the trouble and was so unhappy he called players in to discuss the coach. Coughlin was a man who cut team leaders, even high-profile players like Andre Rison. He was also as inflexible as any coach most of these players would ever suit up and play for in their careers during this time.

Somehow, though, after that doughnuts incident, Coughlin changed. He became more flexible. He lightened up some of the practice load, which was fierce and physical.

He started to understand his players better, and the walls came down.

And the Jaguars started to win. And win. And win.

It was an amazing run: A team that was 4-7 at one point ended up a game from the Super Bowl or, more precisely, a bad end-zone interception possibly away from it.

The Jaguars ripped off five straight victories to end the season, got a miracle missed chip-shot field goal by a future Hall of Fame kicker to get into the playoffs, then knocked Jim Kelly into retirement and ended the Buffalo Bills' AFC dynasty before knocking off the Denver Broncos in the second-biggest postseason upset in league history. The New York Jets knocking off the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III is the biggest for a frame of reference.

That put the young Jaguars on the verge of the Super Bowl in their second season, an unthinkable feat that day when Coughlin wandered in to sit with his players. Coughlin's team, of course, didn't get there, losing to the New England Patriots, but it's the journey that makes the 1996 Jacksonville Jaguars season so remarkable, one of the strangest, wildest odysseys for any team in NFL history.

As we ready for Super Bowl 50, in the 20th year since that season, here is a look back at some of the major happenings that year with an oral history of what has to be considered one of the biggest aberration seasons in league history.

The early reign of Tom the Tyrant

When Coughlin came from Boston College to be the first head coach in franchise history, he was given control of all football operations. It was his way or the highway, and he instituted rules that many of the players had never dealt with in their careers. He ruled with an iron fist. When one player showed up with a Mohawk haircut, Coughlin made him cut it. Then he cut him the next day.

The inaugural team in 1995 was put together with draft picks, a bountiful expansion draft and a free-agency class that wasn't as good as expected. That team took the brunt of Coughlin the tyrant as he tried to weed out the players who didn't want to be there, trying to find the ones who did -- players who would be willing to do it his way.


Coughlin: That first year was about setting a tone. We had to find out what we had. Yes, it was tough. But it was for a reason.

Quarterback Mark Brunell: In 1995, a lot of us were just happy to be on the team. While it was miserable winning only four games, for a lot of young players it was our shot.

Defensive end Jeff Lageman: I was the union rep. All the complaints came to me. I had a lot of respect for him. His office was always open. It didn't mean it had a welcoming feeling, but it was always open. He would listen to you. It didn't mean he would change his mind.

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Tom Coughlin was uncompromising in his approach with the expansion Jaguars. Getty Images

Offensive tackle Tony Boselli: When we went to training camp in 1995, every night the start of team meeting he would have the overhead projector going. He would read every rule in the rulebook.

Lageman: I challenged him on a rule in '95. The rule said you had to wear a tie. I wore a bolo tie on the road trip one time. And I got fined. I challenged him on it. I told him that's a tie. The next year, the rulebook actually changed and instead of saying tie, it said cloth tie. He was that specific about his rules.

Boselli: You got fined for what color socks you wore, what kind of shoes you wore, no jeans on the road. You had to have collared shirts.

Lageman: It had to be patented leather shoes. I actually caught him on the elevator one time wearing sneakers. I said, "Who fines you?" He looked down and he's like, "Oops." He pushed the button and went back up and changed in his hotel room.


The first team went 4-12 as players dealt with their maniacal coach. They did win the last game at Cleveland, beating the Browns 24-21, a victory some players said gave them momentum for the 1996 season.

That spring they had a second draft that added some key defensive players like Tony Brackens, Kevin Hardy and Aaron Beasley, all three big contributors as rookies in 1996. They also had a big haul in free agency, landing right tackle Leon Searcy, receiver Keenan McCardell, linebacker Eddie Robinson and defensive tackle John Jurkovic. They claimed running back Natrone Means off waivers, and in the summer they signed veteran receiver Andre Rison and defensive end Clyde Simmons.

Those players joined a young team that was expected to be better, but how much better nobody knew for sure.

When those new veterans arrived, they were quickly informed about the crazy man at the top and his rules.


Jurkovic: You knew Tom's reputation going in. I understood it. He had to establish his reputation early on. He had a lot of misfits. Needed to find out who could play and who didn't want to be there. When I signed with him, he called me into the office in May and he told me, "I brought you in to be who you are. I might yell at you and tell you to toe the line, but be who you are." I was the guy who could be funny, kept it light, but when it needed to be serious I would do that. He let me do that. It wasn't like I didn't get fined. He fined me for wearing white socks with sandals in the (home-game) hotel. Tuesday at my locker that week, I got a letter that said confidential on it. I knew what it was. I never wore white socks with sandals again. The great thing about Tom was that his rules applied to everyone."

McCardell: "When I got there, it was like I was back in college. The rules didn't bother me. But they bothered a lot of guys. You better not come down in the hotel before game in T-shirt and shorts. That was a fine. You had to wear slacks. You couldn't wear what he called them, dungarees. Some people would test him. At the time, I wondered if it would blow up. But we were a bunch of young guys trying to make our way, so it was better than if we had a bunch of veterans.


Rison was one of those veterans. He was a former star, coming off a bad season in Cleveland that led to his release, but a lot of players on the roster gravitated to him. He was, strangely enough, a leader of sorts to a lot of players.

He was also trouble. Rison was constantly late. He also had some problems with alcohol. But when he showed up to compete, he competed. And players noticed.


Rams general manager Les Snead, then a low-level scouting employee for the Jaguars: I was a scouting assistant. I got a salary of $18,000. One of the things I had to do was go get Andre when he wasn't there. How many times did I have to retrieve him? Maybe a handful of times. He didn't have a permanent residence. He was at the hotel. I remember a few times where I had to go pick him up when Andre had a fun night the night before. But no matter how good the night was before, when he got to the practice field he was a competitor.

McCardell: Andre was the type of guy who breeds confidence in people. He could talk you into doing good things. He was a fierce competitor. I learned a lot from him. I was with him in Cleveland too. He wanted to be in the spotlight. Guys on that team followed him. The one thing that drove him nuts was Jerry Rice. He always thought he was as good as Rice. I remember in Cleveland when our receivers coach Mike Sheppard, mentioned Rice once. Andre got so mad he threw his notebook against the wall and walked out. That was his switch. If you looked at his numbers at that point, you'd see why he was mad. Then when we get to Jacksonville, Pete Carmichael, our receiver coach, mentioned Rice in a meeting. I dropped my head. No, not again. Andre jumps up and says, "What the hell is it with Jerry Rice?" He got up, slammed the door, and walked out. That's who he was as a competitor.

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With Andre 'Bad Moon' Rison, the good always came with the bad. Getty Images

Early in that 1996 season, Rison made some special plays. But he also he did his own thing, which drove the coaches and, especially Brunell crazy. The team opened with a 3-6 record and featured an offense that made a ton of mistakes.

They lost games they should have won. They lost close games. They lost games where they outgained the opposition 2-to-1. The talent flashed, but the youthful mistakes always seemed to show up.

Rison, who didn't return phone messages for this piece, continued to be a constant. Mistakes. And incidents. One came before a road game at New England, a classic that these players still can't believe happened.


Boselli: When you are at the team meeting, nobody is talking. No one is saying anything but Tom. Tom is going to go through his spiel. All of us are sitting there knowing what he's going to say. Let's listen to what he has to say and let's get out of here and go do our thing. In mid-sentence, as Tom is explaining game-plan stuff, and that week it was all about (Patriots running back-returner) Dave Meggett and special teams. As soon as he mentions Dave Meggett again, Andre Rison raises his hand after having I'm sure a couple adult beverages and says, "Coach, I got something to say. He stands up and starts the sentence with "bleep Dave Meggett," and goes on a five-minute tirade about "bleep Dave Meggett" and what we need to do. This and this, and give me the ball. The thing that shocked me most: Tom was just sitting there. I was waiting for him to kick him out of the meeting or whatever. Andre sits down, Tom looks at him and says, "Well said, Andre. Well said."

Coughlin: Yeah, I do remember it. But he did make some good points. We needed to worry about us and not focus so much on the opponent. The way he conducted himself had both a positive and a negative influence.


It was one of the few times Coughlin didn't reprimand or fine a player for something so egregious. By the time the team was 3-6, Coughlin's rigid ways were wearing on his players. They resented him. It was so bad that fans picketed in front of the stadium calling for his head. At one point, Weaver called some key players into his office to get the pulse of the team -- and especially the head coach. There was some talk of change around the team.


Lageman: In '96, we reached a critical juncture where it was going to go one way or the other. It was either going to get really bad and Tom was going to lose the team. Or things were going to get better.

Snead: I remember at the 3-6 mark rumors of Tom getting fired and Steve (Spurrier) taking over sometime.


Then doughnuts happened. Coughlin would sometimes wander into the locker room to talk with his players on Saturday, a light time as they ate doughnuts and laughed and joked. Rarely would players stay to hang out. That one time, they all got up and left.


Coughlin: I do remember that. I can't recall when it happened. What it evolved into after that was me being there and nobody afraid to relax. It was before all the nutrition stuff now. Jurkovic would get the Krispy Kremes and we would eat them. They would bust my chops.

McCardell: He wanted to be liked. That's all he wanted. He wanted to work hard, but he wanted us to like and respect him. We all got up and left. What did he do? He was kind of like, "Wow."

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Coughlin lightened up some. He eased off in practice, which had been brutal and physical, unlike the practices you see today.


Boselli: Tom was a guy who always cared deeply about his players. He was not very good at communicating that inside the building. Ask any guy who played for him. Outside the building, Tom cared about the guys. He was a pleasure to be around. In this building, he had no idea how to communicate that. It was almost like there was a fear, "I'm not going to let these guys get close and that I have to be a tyrant." I don't think that changed greatly throughout the years he was here. But he understood he had to take care of guys and how we practice. That slowly changed.

McCardell: Our practices were knockdown, drag-out practices. We told him we needed to be fresher. He eventually started to change. Not much, but a little bit.


Something else needed to change. When Rison ran the wrong route in a loss to the Steelers, dropping the Jaguars to 4-7 and making the playoffs look impossible at the time, Brunell snapped at him on the sideline. It was caught on camera and the next day, Rison was cut. There was some talk that Brunell went to the coach and had Rison cut.


Brunell: I didn't have a chat with Coughlin. I was frustrated. I remember the play. We called a Skinny-8, a Bang-8, Glance route, whatever. It was a timing route. I take five steps and on my fifth step I throw it against Cover-3. It's a version of a post. He ran a big post. I threw it, it got tipped, and got picked. The problem with Andre was as talented as he was, he just wasn't doing the right thing. Our system was complicated, probably different than what he was used to. It was hurting us. I throw that pick. We lose the game and I am walking off the field with Michael Huyghue (team president) I said, "Michael, he's killing us. He's killing us." Michael said, "I know. I know." I said we've got to get this thing right. I had no thoughts at all of Andre being off the team. It was Andre Rison. So sure enough, they release him. I had no intent of, "Tom, let's get this guy out of here."

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'I was frustrated,' Brunell says of Rison's inconsistency. Getty Images

Receiver Jimmy Smith: He was loved in that locker room. We all loved him. He brought a swagger. But there was some division in the locker room. I remember seeing him at his locker after he was released. I couldn't believe it. But after Andre was released, the team came together. He was probably a cancer to the locker room. It seemed like it after he left. He also cut Vinnie Clark earlier in the year. He was a defensive leader of sorts. A lot of the bickering aimed at Tom was coming from those guys and it carried to the younger players. Now that I look back on it, it was the right thing to do to release those two.

Coughlin: I remember he turned the ball down on Mark and it was picked off and taken back for a touchdown. We felt it was such an incredible act to put the quarterback in that position. I let him go. I think it made a strong point that this was not going to be tolerated. He did have some issues.


After being cut, Rison sat at his locker surrounded by some of his younger teammates. It was a strange surreal scene, one that clearly could have sent this team in a bad direction. There was even talk of a racial divide, but players later disputed that.


Receiver Bucky Brooks: I remember coming into the locker room and guys were saying "Hey, they got Andre." Guys were shocked. We were young and impressionable and Andre was a mega-star. It was a shot to the bowels. It was a big deal internally. I do remember him holding court with a lot of guys who looked up to him that day. It was kind of like a hero worship of Andre Rison. It was weird. His feelings were hurt. It was a unique situation the way the young guys gravitated to him that day at his locker. He might have been a bit of a freelancer."

Lageman: As a locker room, we knew one thing: It didn't matter who you were, Tom treated you the same. Tom was black and white as far as how he treated people, but it had nothing to do with black and white color.

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With Andre Rison out of the picture, Jimmy Smith and the Jags took off. Getty Images

McCardell: That had nothing to do with it. Andre was cut because he didn't run the right plays. He couldn't be trusted.


Smith was right. With Rison gone, the team took off. The mistakes that were killing them early in the season were cut down. The young players were growing up. The quarterback, who was the constant target of Coughlin's wrath, started playing better, smarter. He was becoming a quality NFL starter, who could win with his arms and his legs. It didn't mean it was easy playing for Coughlin.


Lageman: When you were around Tom and Mark, you could feel the tension.

Brunell: While it wasn't easy to play for him, when I got away from that and played for other coaches I certainly appreciated him more. I understood it better. The best thing about Tom for me was I knew exactly where I stood. I knew what his expectations were, and if I didn't meet those or play well enough, he was going to let me know. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. As a young quarterback, I didn't like that. That is rare. For a quarterback to know exactly where he stands with the head coach, what his expectations are, that doesn't happen in many places. So I appreciate him more now than I ever did when I was playing for him. I learned how to play the position and what was most important as far as being the quarterback of the team. And that was protecting the football. We put up a bunch of yards and some points early, but I wasn't playing that well to tell you the truth.


After winning four straight games, the Jaguars were 8-7 heading into the final week of the season. This group that looked lost midway through the season, with a coach on the verge of losing his team, was suddenly in the playoff race. Win the finale against a bad Atlanta team at home, and they were playoff bound.

The Miss

The 1996 Falcons were a 3-12 team that was going nowhere when they showed up in Jacksonville that December day.

In front of a sellout crowd, with a playoff berth at stake, the Jaguars played one of their worst games. It was as if were September again.


Lageman: The Atlanta game, we were tight.

McCardell: Some of us didn't know how to handle the pressure. Pressure bursts pipes. You know how it is.

Jurkovic: That team wasn't any good, but we didn't play well. We kept them in the game. They kept throwing those quick receiver screens for big plays. We kept them around. Then we started pressing. We felt the pressure.


The Jaguars held a 19-17 lead late in the game, but the Falcons moved to a first down deep in Jacksonville territory in the closing seconds, setting up Morten Andersen, one of the all-time great kickers, for a chip shot from 30 yards out. He had not missed from that distance or closer since 1989, a streak of 59 straight makes.


Boselli: You are sitting over there thinking they have Morten Andersen. They're in field-goal range. It's over. We're done.


Andersen missed wide left.


Snead: I remember thinking it was over. We were trying to beat the crowd to the elevator down from the press box. In the elevator, the place erupted. You didn't know what happened. He missed the kick.

Smith: I think he missed on purpose. The way he kicked it. I think he missed it on purpose.

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Morten Andersen's miss set off pandemonium in Jacksonville. Getty Images

Coughlin: No, you can see him slip. He was back on his heel. He yanked it. He slipped.

Andersen: I would never miss anything on purpose. That's ridiculous. The field was kind of wet and my plant foot slipped and I missed it left. I remember our center Robbie Tobeck coming over to help me up, and me thinking how nice that was of him. And he said, "You lost the game." But I got a lot of mileage out of that kick in Jacksonville. That spring I was a surprise guest at an awards show in Jacksonville. I got a standing ovation. I got some golf down there because of it. It's part of my resume. I've never shied away from it. Never did. Never have. Never will.

Snead: I remember everybody in the locker room celebrated. But I also remember Tom's message. He said, "We're going to win this week, so don't listen to the talk you don't have a chance." He was the general, and we all believed.

McCardell: We were playing with house money. We had nothing to lose. We aren't supposed to be there. What the hell? Let's go out and play loose and see what happens.

The Playoffs

The first playoff game would be at Buffalo against the Bills, made up of the same group that had been to four Super Bowls in the decade and had Hall of Fame players all over the roster, including Defensive Player of the Year Bruce Smith, Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas. The Bills dismissed the Jaguars all week. When the Jaguars arrived in Buffalo for the game, they saw Kelly on his television show talking disrespectfully about them.


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'We were playing with house money,' Keenan McCardell says.  Getty Images

McCardell: They didn't think we had a chance. They were the Bills. Who were we?

Smith: They thought they had a cakewalk.


It was far from it. After the Jaguars withstood an early punch by the Bills, they settled down and played like the better team. The game was tied at 17 at the half, 20 after three and then the Jaguars won it on a 45-yard field goal by Mike Hollis late in the game. Before that, three things happened. Kelly was knocked out of the game on a hard hit that ended his career. Means rushed for a 175 yards on 31 carries and Boselli dominated Smith in one of the most impressive performances by a young lineman against a great player in league history.


Boselli: If you go back and look at the whole year, he was dominant. You watch J.J. Watt now, and nobody blocks him. That was Bruce. When I came out, as I am jogging down the sidelines, the Buffalo fans are screaming at me, "Boselli, you're going to be Bruce Smith's ----." I'm thinking, I hope they're not right. The first series we go three-and-out and we're backed up. It's third-and-10. We call a play where there is no slide. There was no help. I was going to be by myself. I remember setting, and I blocked him. I jogged off the field. This is no different than anything else.

Lageman: He put a little extra on Bruce in that game. He was blocked, and Tony was giving him the business. I've never seen anything like it. It was one of the most-dominant performances I've ever seen.

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Boselli more than held his own against the great Bruce Smith.  Getty Images

The Bills of the 90s died that day. The Jaguars made a statement and turned heads. They were relevant.

It was on to Denver.

The Broncos were the top seed in the AFC. They were 13-3 during the regular season and were first in total offense and fourth in total defense. This was going to be the year John Elway finally won a Super Bowl after 13 years of trying to do so. They were 14-point favorites against Jacksonville.


Elway: We had a really good team that year. We thought it was a Super Bowl year. It just didn't work out that way. I don't think it was over-confidence or anything. We just didn't play well.


The Jaguars ruined Elway's Super dreams -- at least for a year.

On the morning of the game, the Jaguars players and coaches picked up the local newspaper. In it, lead columnist Woody Paige wrote a column making fun of the Jaguars, who were just in their second season. He called them "Jagwads."


Coughlin: That was flat-out an unbelievably rude thing to say. Who the hell are you guys? Come on. That did piss us off.

McCardell: I never saw Tom so fired up before a game. In the meeting, he was livid. He was heated. That was personal to him. It got us fired up because he was so pissed.


The players also noticed scaffolding in the end zone. It was there as a network set for the following week's AFC Championship Game.


Smith: Nobody gave us a shot. Nobody.


Early on, it played out that way. Denver jumped to a 12-0 lead, and appeared on their way to an easy victory. But then it all changed. Those Jagwads started to dominate. The offense, filled with young players, couldn't be stopped. The Jaguars punted on their first three series, but didn't give up the ball after that without scoring the rest of the game. The only time they didn't score was taking a knee in the final seconds. They took the lead late in the second quarter on a 42-yard field goal by Hollis, and they never trailed again. Two signature plays in franchise history keyed the victory on the final drive. The first was a 29-yard scramble by Brunell on second-and-10 at midfield with Jacksonville leading 23-20 with about six minutes left in the game. The second was a touchdown pass from Brunell to Smith -- already a budding star who would go on to become the best receiver in team history -- with 3:39 left that made it 30-20.


Lageman: The week before was the game you watched Tony and Bruce. The Denver game was when you sat back and watched Mark.

Brunell: All my runs were designed passes. We just fell into it. It was either pressure or it was like so many times not seeing the open guy or going through my progressions. We criticize all these young quarterbacks that get out of the pocket too quick. They can't read a defense. They're trusting their legs. That was me. First chance I could take, I was gone. That (29-yard run) was one of those plays. I made a few cuts, got a few breaks.


The touchdown to Smith came with Jacksonville clinging to a 3-point lead late and the prospects of an Elway comeback looming. A field goal would make it six, which wasn't enough with a player like Elway on the opposite sideline. So faced with a third-and-5 from the Denver 16 with just under four minutes left, they weren't thinking field goal.


McCardell: We didn't want the game in John's hands.

Brunell: 62XRead. In the huddle, I said, "Jimmy if you get press I am coming to you." I knew if they came out and pressed Jimmy, it's just throwing a fade route. Everything gets very easy. If the corner is off, we're working the front side to Keenan hoping he finds a void. They pressed us. Why would you press Jimmy? That play was our bread and butter. We have Keenan on the right, Jimmy on the left. If we get this defense, let's take a shot at it. I take three steps and I know exactly where to put it. It came together.

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Jimmy Smith drives in the dagger in Denver. Getty Images

Smith: Mark gave me the look he always gave me. My release wasn't that great, but I had a chance to make the play. The only reason I dove was to make sure of the catch. Mark threw a great pass.

Brooks: That catch was one of the seminal moments in Jaguars history. The city rallied around us. It was special.


The touchdown gave the Jaguars a 30-20 lead. Elway led the Broncos on a touchdown drive, but they didn't get the onside kick. The Jaguars took three knees and one of the biggest playoff upsets in league history was in the books.


Elway: That one hurt. I really thought our team had a real chance to win it all. They played a great game. They deserved to win it.


The next week they played the Patriots with a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Of the three teams they played in the postseason, the Jaguars felt the Patriots were the worst of the three of them. They already had lost a close game to them in September, which gave them confidence.

But on a cold, frigid night, the magic ran out right after the stadium lights did. That's right, the lights went out in old Foxboro Stadium as Adam Vinatieri was lining up for a field goal for the Patriots. They stayed off for 11 minutes.

Vinatieri made that kick for a 10-3 lead and with New England leading 13-6 in the fourth quarter, Brunell threw an end-zone pick to Willie Clay. Nobody would say it then, and nobody will on the record now, but Smith ran the wrong route. Later, Otis Smith returned a James Stewart fumble 47 yards to make it 20-6, which is how the game and that magical season ended for the Jaguars. New England went on to lose to the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl.

The player who caught the first touchdown pass in that game? None other than Rison, who was picked up by the Packers and went on to win a ring. Jacksonville could only lament the missed chance in New England.


Smith: I didn't run the wrong route. I ran a fade. It wasn't me.

Brooks: The pressure of the moment got to us. That was a winnable game. What I learned from that whole experience is the thing to do is get into the tournament and get hot. That was a young team that was just growing up. We needed to believe it.

Boselli: We lost that game because of turnovers. I remember thinking: This wasn't that hard. We're going to be back here. This is going to be a regular occurrence. We'll get to a Super Bowl. Now you look back. It's hard. You take it for granted. I was a second-year player and went on this ride. This is what you do in the NFL. I am going to play for 15 years and we'll have several chances.

Coughlin: The game was no virtuoso. We made a lot of mistakes. The frustration from a loss of that magnitude is tough to get over. I still think if we had played at 1 o'clock, we would have won.

McCardell: We pried the window open. We thought our group would win a Super Bowl. You never know when it closes. But we opened it.


They were young, had talent, and a coach who understood what it took to win on the NFL level, as his two Super Bowl wins in New York with the Giants later showed. But the Jaguars never were able to win a Super Bowl. That team went to the playoffs each of the next three seasons, and again played in the AFC Championship Game in 1999. But they were upset on their home field by the Tennessee Titans, ruining a season that saw them go 14-2 and earn the top seed in the playoffs.

The following year, it all started to unravel. Injuries and cap issues sent the team reeling. Coughlin was fired after the 2002 season after consecutive 6-10 records. The Jaguars haven't sniffed the Super Bowl since.


McCardell: That season made the franchise who we were. It put the franchise on the map. It was our coming-out party. But we should have done so much more. That team should have won at least one.

Boselli: We had enough good players. We should have won a championship.


They will always have 1996, one of the strangest seasons in NFL history, a virginal time for a fledgling franchise led by a maniac coach and a bunch of young players mixed with veterans just trying to find their way in just the second season of the team's existence. It was a special time, one that still seems unbelievable to this day some 20 years later.


Coughlin: We jammed a whole lot of living into those first two years. It was special.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an... Full Bio

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