In the history of the Jacksonville Jaguars, there has never been more excitement heading into a season. And it is for good reason.
The Jaguars, under new leadership in head coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Trevor Lawrence, could be in the ideal position to make a run and become long-term contenders in the first few years of their partnership.
Now, most people outside of Jacksonville have already rolled their eyes. And yes, it is the previously 1-15 Jaguars, but it’s not outlandish. It’s not even that bold of a statement if you simply take a look at what traits and characteristics recent Super Bowl teams had in order to make it to the ultimate game.
So, let's break it down.
A great QB on a rookie deal
If you look at every Super Bowl matchup over the last nine years at least one team in almost every matchup has featured a young star quarterback still on his rookie deal. The San Francisco 49ers started the trend when they inserted Colin Kaepernick into the lineup, replacing Alex Smith, and he led them to the Super Bowl appearance against the Ravens.
Russell Wilson took the reigns the following two seasons, defeating the Broncos in 2014 and falling one play short against the Patriots in 2014. Cam Newton and the Panthers were incredible in 2015 before falling to Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Super Bowl 50. It was the first year into Newton’s second contract, however, but it was pretty close.
The following season featured two veterans in Matt Ryan and Tom Brady so it doesn’t apply to them. However, Carson Wentz led Philadelphia in the following season before he tore his ACL and then by Nick Foles on a very average backup deal went ballistic in the playoffs en route to a Super Bowl victory.
The Rams and Jared Goff nearly took it home against the Patriots in 2019 and then Patrick Mahomes burst onto the scene the following year on his rookie deal as well. And if not for his incredible play he would’ve still been on his rookie deal last season against the Bucs.
That’s a mouth full, but it illustrates the importance of having a young stud under center and how often it has happened over the last decade. It’s not completely full proof, but unless you have Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or a prime Matt Ryan you haven’t been to one without a QB on a rookie deal.
The reason is pretty simple. A QB on a rookie deal means teams aren’t hindered by a massive contract to their quarterback and can use their assets to bring in playmakers at other positions, strengthen their lines and build a great defense.
And the Jaguars under Trevor Lawrence fit the mold perfectly for this trend.
A good core of playmakers
Another trend among recent Super Bowl teams is having a good core of playmakers on offense. This is where the Jaguars have to prove they have what some think they do. On paper a group made up of DJ Chark Jr., Marvin Jones, Laviska Shenault Jr., James Robinson and Travis Etienne looks good enough to qualify for this trend.
However, last season wasn’t good for anybody on the Jaguars and the new faces are a rookie and a solid receiver in Marvin Jones, who has proved plenty when it comes to on-field production. For the rest of the group, though, there is still plenty to desire.
The biggest upside though is how cheap this group is. Together the top two running backs, top three wide receivers plus the top two tight ends combine for a cap hit of $22.2 million. There are ten players in the league who will carry a higher cap hit alone than that entire group.
So, what they lack in proving production they more than makeup for in youth, upside and cost. This group is no Chief's core of Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but it is a solid group with a lot of potential.
And with the right quarterback in Trevor Lawrence and system under Meyer, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer we may finally see that come to fruition.
A fast and instinctual defense
The Jaguars had the worst defense in franchise history last season so it’s difficult to believe they will somehow turn into a major strength. However, Joe Cullen brings a very good scheme from Baltimore and with the cheap playmakers offensively, this defense may have a chance to be good enough to eventually make it to a Super Bowl if the Jaguars can continue to add pieces.
This season they won’t be. There are too many new faces and they haven’t proven anything. However, bringing in free agents like Shaquill Griffin, Rayshawn Jenkins, Roy Robertson-Harris and Jihad Ward will go a long way to quickly improving the defense.
Furthermore, Myles Jack, Josh Allen and Joe Schobert are benchmarks of this defense from last year and while Allen had a down year this new system should suit him nicely. Jack had a career year and probably should’ve made the pro bowl.
With Cullen, young pieces like CJ Henderson, veterans in Jack and Allen, and all their new acquisitions under general manager Trent Baalke this defense should be much improved this season and has the potential to become stout within the next few seasons.
The right coach
Finally, maybe the most important trait to making the Super Bowl is having a great head coach leading the way. Whether it’s Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, Sean Payton, Andy Reid, or Sean McVay there haven’t been many teams recently that have made the Super Bowl without having a fantastic head coach.
Meyer was a legendary college head coach, but the NFL is a different level.
This one was saved for last because we truly have no idea what Meyer will be at this level. His track record indicates he will be successful and do it quickly. Whether it was at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, or Ohio State, Meyer won quickly and took each program to new heights.
The hope for Jaguars fans is he will do the same in Jacksonville. On paper, this is a match made in heaven. Meyer has been on the job this entire offseason and is about to enter his first training camp. Who knows how long it will take, but if history is any indication it won’t take him long to figure this NFL thing out.
Overall, the combination of Lawrence on his rookie deal, a good core of playmakers offensively, a fast and multi-faceted defense with a lot of new and exciting pieces, and a potentially top-level coach leading the way bodes well for the Jaguars.
Recent history in this league indicates this team is poised to go from worst to first in the coming years and it could happen sooner rather than later. It won’t happen immediately, and may not at all, but it will certainly be interesting to watch what this team can do.