The folks in Jacksonville had been pursuing a National Football League team for quite some time when they received word that they would finally get one in the mid 1990s. The city had been home to the Jacksonville Sharks/Express of the World Football League of the 1970s and the Jacksonville Bulls of the United States Football League of the 1980s. Finally, though, they would be entering the world of the NFL.
There were not a lot of high hopes that first season. The team had hired head coach Tom Coughlin out of the college ranks and had a roster composed of first year players fresh from the NFL Draft and players who had accrued experience on the rosters of other NFL teams, mostly as backups. The previous two expansion teams had been the Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976, and neither of those teams had any success at all right from the start. Joining Jacksonville as an NFL team in 1995 would be the Carolina Panthers. Up until then, the record for most wins by an expansion team in their first year was three which was set by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1968. Not a lot was expected from Jacksonville in 1995, but the fans were excited just the same.
The Jaguars had drafted veteran Steve Beuerlein in the expansion draft to be the team’s starting quarterback, but he quickly lost that job to former Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Mark Brunell who they had acquired in a trade on draft day. The team had used the second overall pick in the 1995 NFL Draft to select offensive lineman and also signed wide receiver Jimmy Smith as a free agaent. Each of these three players would play a significant role in the many successes to come for the Jaguars franchise.
The Jaguars lost their first four games, not unexpected really, and were on the road in Houston in week five. They trailed 13-10 heading into the fourth quarter of that game and after giving up a field goal that made it 16-10, won it on a 15 yard touchdown pass from Brunell to wide receiver Desmond Howard. This first win game them confidence and though they would continue to struggle, they would also win more games too. They finished the season with a 4-12 record which allowed them to hold their head up high among expansion teams.
That first season was one of the building blocks that allowed the Jacksonville Jaguars to become one of the expansion teams quickest to experience success. In 1996, the team would make the playoffs for the first time and end up advancing all the way to the AFC Championship Game, just one game from playing in the Super Bowl.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are a great franchise that has experienced ups and downs in its relatively short history. The team has built on the lessons learned and experience earned though in 1995 when they were a brand new franchise in the National Football League.