For our initial list in recognition of the Jaguars 20th anniversary we chose something very subjective: popularity. It’s not the “best” or “well known” but popular. People who had an impact, whose names you knew instantly as part of the Jaguars organization. And we didn’t limit it to just players. For the better part of the 20 years the Jaguars franchise has been around, some coaches and front-office personnel have been as popular as anybody in uniform.
That’s why both Wayne Weaver and Shad Khan are on this list. Without Weaver, Jacksonville doesn’t even get a franchise. In 1993, the NFL owners were looking for somebody to take a franchise that could add something to the group, collectively. Weaver was a popular guy among his fellow owners, even before they granted Jacksonville a team. The league didn’t want a collection of “owners” in Jacksonville, and that’s when Weaver stepped forward.
While Weaver didn’t own a majority of the team, he had 51 percent of the vote as the managing partner, and that’s what the league likes. Shad Khan has kept that tradition of ownership popularity and stepped it up. Khan is considered the most popular owner in the NFL according to a recent poll. Likeable, glib and willing to spend money, Khan has been popular from the day he got to town.
It’s easy to put Tom Coughlin on this list. Wayne Weaver said it was the biggest mistake he made as an owner to get rid of Coughlin as the head coach. Perhaps Tom would have accepted a General Manager to come in and help him with the personnel part but either way, Tom was, and remains a very popular part of the Jaguars organization. Even though he’s been gone for more than a decade, he remains one of the most philanthropic people in North Florida associated with the Jaguars. Easy choice.
By just being himself, Gus Bradley has put his name on the list. Bradley’s enthusiasm, authenticity, and his message have made him a speaker much in demand at various group meetings in town. Just spending time with Gus makes him easy to like, so again, an easy choice for this list.
It would be hard to have this list without Jaxson DeVille on it. The person who portrays Jaxson is the original guy who stepped into that cat suit in 1995. He’s a mainstay at just about every public function in town. He’s part of the scenery at games and represents the Jaguars and Jacksonville at national and international appearances. Plus Jaxson (or the guy in the suit) might be the best athlete on the field.
On the field, players who are in the “Pride of the Jaguars” would be a consensus choice on any list. Mark Brunell, Tony Boselli and Fred Taylor were good for the organization on and off the field. Fans liked them as much as they cheered for them to play well. I think Brad Meester should be the next addition to the Pride, so he makes the list, easily, as well.
Going back 20 years and reviewing each roster, some names were easy to pick out and others jumped off the page, even though they didn’t come to mind when putting together the “Top 20.” As a homegrown talent, Rashean Mathis was always a popular player. Joel Smengee had a short, productive career here but had popularity in every part of town. Joel’s an easygoing guy and I think that resonated with a lot of fans.
His personality alone puts John Jurkovic on the list. But his play for the Jaguars provided a veteran presence in the middle of the defensive line at just the right time. His popularity paid off with a post-football career in radio in Chicago. We put John Henderson and Marcus Stroud on the list as one entry. You almost couldn’t talk about one without the other. Both were popular among fans but as a tandem entry, they jump into the top 20.
As a receiving group, none was more popular, or productive, than Keenan McCardell, Jimmy Smith and Kyle Brady. Perhaps because of their production or just their personalities, all three were popular players during their stay in Jacksonville.
Despite his holdouts and how he left, Maurice Jones-Drew is among the top 20 most popular Jaguars. Playing behind Fred Taylor at the beginning of his career, Jones-Drew signed every autograph and worked a lot with charity in town.
Partly because of his longevity but also his production on the field puts Josh Scobee in the top 20. It’s not unusual for a successful kicker to be a popular player in the NFL. Josh is also an avid golfer, lives in town and I’ve never heard of him saying no to any reasonable request. Paul Posluszny falls in the same category. He’s an excellent player who was vocal about staying in Jacksonville when it appeared the “rebuilding” of the Jaguars wouldn’t include any veterans. Unfailingly polite, “Poz” is a very popular player. I’d say he’s the most popular player currently on the roster and was until Blake Bortles showed up. Bortles hasn’t taken a single snap that counts but already he’d qualify as a very popular player.
Here’s our Honorable Mention list: David Garrard, Tom McManus, Pete Mitchell, Dave Widell, Mike Hollis, Jeff Lageman, Paul Spicer, Joe Zelenka, and The Roar.
Did we leave somebody out? I’m sure you have an opinion. Send us your “Most Popular Jaguars” to Twitter with the hashtag #JagsTop20 or tweet them @Sports4Jax and we’ll list your top four Friday night on our weekly Jaguars wrap-up show.