The Jacksonville Jaguars' 2003 season marked the ending of one era and the beginning of another. It was the first season in team history the club was not led by Head Coach Tom Coughlin.
Coughlin, hired by then-Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver in 1995, was fired in 2002 following several disappointing seasons primarily caused by salary cap problems that forced the Jaguars to get rid of core players, such as Tony Boselli and Keenan McCardell.
Coughlin's replacement, Jack Del Rio, was a former NFL Pro Bowl linebacker and considered a defensive guru. He promised to bring toughness and a stifling defense to Jacksonville.
The Jaguars began the 2003 season by drafting Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich with the 7th overall selection in the first round of the NFL Draft. This move created some controvery locally, as the Jaguars' offense had been led by quarterback Mark Brunell since early in the 1995 season.
Other draft choices included Rashean Mathis, who would go on to have a long career with the Jaguars, and even earn a Pro Bowl roster spot in 2005.
The Jaguars also made a free-agent splash leading up to the 2003 season, snagging former Philedelphia Eagle and Pro Bowler Hugh Douglas, a pass-rushing specialist. Douglas, however, would prove to be a major flop, recording only 3.5 sacks in 16 games. He was released following the season.
Brunell entered the season as the Jaguars starter, and performed well in the first two games, despite the team losing. In week 3, Brunell was injured and replaced by the rookie Leftwich.
Leftwich would go on to start the remaining games, and Brunell was traded to the Washington Redskins before the start of the 2004 NFL season.
Leftwich would struggle at times, typical for a rookie, during the 2003 season. As the Jaguars offense sputtered, the club started the season with a 1-7 record, but was able to pull out some wins in the second half, finishing 5-11.
The rookie quarterback finished the season completing 57 percent of his passes for 2,819 yard. He threw 14 touchdown passes versus 16 interceptions.
The 2003 Jaguars' strong point by far was the team's running game, and its run defense. Fred Taylor enjoyed one of the finest seasons of his career, finishing with a then team record 1,572 yards and six touchdowns. He also caugh 48 passes for nearly 400 yards.
The Jaguars tough run defense allowed an average of less than 90 yards rushing per game, and opponents could only achieve a paltry 3.2 yards-per-carry average. The team's pass defense, however, was not as effective as Jaguars opponents threw for nearly 3,400 yards and 23 touchdowns versus 15 interceptions.