The Jaguars began the 2006 season with a renewed sense of optimism, after having finished 12-4 the previous season and making the playoffs.
The season, however, would end in disappointment and confusion, including a yearlong quarterback controversy between journeyman David Garrard and the club's 2003 first-round pick, Byron Leftwich.
Leftwich began the season entrenched as the starter and played well in the team's first two games. In the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, the Jaguars rallied in the fourth quarter to cap off a 24-17 victory. In week 2, on national television, the Jaguars shut out the Pittsburgh Steelers with their stiff defense.
Related:Jaguars 2011 Season in Review
Despite their fast start, the Jaguars would struggle down the stretch. In week 8, Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio announced quarterback David Garrard as the starter, claiming Leftwich was injured. Leftwich, on the other hand, claimed he was healthy enough to play. The controversy was the beginning of a spat that would ultimately cause Leftwich to fall out of favor prior to the 2007 season.
Garrard played well at times, but also struggled mightily at times. On December 10, the Jaguars improved to 8-5 by embarrassing the eventual Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts 44-17.
Jaguars running back Fred Taylor and rookie RB Maurice Jones-Drew ran all over the Colts, racking up over 200 rushing yards by halftime and 375 for the entire game. The game was the high point of the Jaguars season. Unfortunately, things would fall apart shortly after.
The Jaguars ended the season with three straight losses to finish 8-8, missing the postseason. Quarterback David Garrard was benched twice in favor of third-string quarterback Quinn Gray in the final two games.
Despite the final record, the Jaguars showed plenty of promise in 2006. Their defense remained one of the best in the league, and the Jaguars had one of the best running attacks in the league (ranked 3rd overall), led by an ageless Fred Taylor and the Jaguars rookie and future superstar, Maurice Jones-Drew.
Jones-Drew finished with 941 yards on only 166 attempts (5.7 YPC) and scored 15 total touchdowns, despite starting only one game. He also proved a threat in the return game, averaging nearly 28 yards per return including a 93-yard touchdown return against the Colts.
Taylor finished with nearly 1,200 yards, averaging 5.0 yards per carry. He also scored 5 touchdowns.
Cornerback Rashean Mathis emerged as a true playmaker and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl. Mathis recorded 8 interceptions and had 21 passes defended.
The Jaguars biggest struggle in 2006 was the team's passing game. Neither Leftwich or Garrard proved truly effective. Leftwich finished midseason with 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, along with a quarterback rating of 79. Garrard was a little better statistically, with a rating of 85; however, he struggled mightily in the Jaguars final three games.