Despite herculean efforts from running back Maurice Jones-Drew on an annual basis, the Jacksonville Jaguars rarely found success on the field during the tenure of one of their best players.
But that doesn't mean they didn't have chances to get to football's mountaintop; at least not in Jones-Drew's eyes.
In fact, the best team Jones-Drew was on is one he thinks should have gone all the way instead of falling short in the postseason, he explained this week on The Volume Sports Network's 'Catching Fades With Aqib Talib'.
"We should have won it all," Jones-Drew said about the Jaguars' 2007 squad that went 11-5 and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road in the Wild Card round.
“I’m in Jacksonville, it was 2007. We used to have, they called it a Rookie Tuesdays and it'd be at a rookie’s house," Jones-Drew said. "Everyone would come over, we’d gamble, watch TV hang out, just have a good get-together. We tried to keep that tradition going after, but that 2007 team - we should have went to the Super Bowl."
The 2007 Jaguars are the last Jaguars team to win 11 games and one of just two Jaguars teams to finish with double-digit wins since 2007. While the 2017 Jaguars got closer to a Super Bowl birth by advancing to the AFC Championship game, a strong argument could be made that the 2007 Jaguars are the best version of the team that has been seen since the team's glory days in the late 1990s.
From Weeks 10 to 17, the Jaguars were one of the NFL's best teams in 2007. After starting the year 5-3, the Jaguars went 6-2 over the second half of the season to finish second in the AFC South and earn a playoff berth.
The offense was top-seven in both points and yards, while the defense ranked in the top-12 in each category. The defense was filled with high-caliber players at each level, while Jones-Drew, Fred Taylor, and David Garrard led the offense.
It was just Jones-Drew's second season with the Jaguars, but he and Taylor quickly became one of the NFL's best running back duos. That year, Jones-Drew rushed for 768 yards and scored nine rushing touchdowns while also catching 40 passes for 407 yards. Taylor, meanwhile, hit the 1,200-yard mark and scored seven total touchdowns.
The Jaguars were a complete team, sans the fact that Garrard wasn't a dominant passer. But they had a running game, a strong defense, a quarterback who didn't turn the ball over, and a coach in Jack Del Rio who had won his locker room and fan base over.
It ended up not mattering due to the one franchise that seemingly always gets in the Jaguars' way in the playoffs: the New England Patriots. Much like how the Patriots broke the Jaguars' hearts in 2017, they did so to Jones-Drew and his best Jaguars team in 2007 by beating them 31-20 in the Divisional Round.
"We were right there in New England, we had ‘em beat. Right. One play away," Jones-Drew said.
"But what I loved about it was John Henderson opened a club. We'd always meet at the club on Sunday after the games. Right. We went 11-5 that year and beat Pittsburgh twice in Pittsburgh, but it was a family-type atmosphere."
A year later, the Jaguars' playoff window shut for the next decade. The Jaguars went 5-11 in 2008 after starting the season 3-3. The Jaguars would never again finish with a winning record in Jones-Drew's tenure with the team, instead winning eight games and seven games in two different seasons as the lone highlights.
"But what broke us apart was money, right. We needed guys to get paid. They didn't get paid, they ended up paying guys from outside that ruined it, but that year was special," Jones-Drew said on Talib's podcast.
"That 2007 team, like we had it and we just we just messed it up right at the end but it was a great time.”
Jones-Drew spent his first eight NFL seasons with the Jaguars, compiling 8,071 rushing yards, 2,873 receiving yards and 79 touchdowns. He was selected to the three Pro Bowls, including in 2011, when he led the NFL in rushing. He holds Jacksonville's franchise record for rushing touchdowns and ranks second on the team's all-time rushing list.
Funny enough, Pro Football Hall of Famer Charles Woodson spoke earlier this offseason about wanting to sign with the Jaguars in 2006. Had he done that, the Jaguars would have had a future Hall of Famer leading an already strong secondary. Perhaps that would've tipped the scale in the Jaguars' favor the next year, but we will never know.
To listen to Jones-Drew's entire appearance on Catchin' Fades With Aqib Talib, click here.