The 2002 NFL season marked the end of an era for the Jacksonville Jaguars, as the 2003 season would bring a new head coach and a new philosophy.
Tom Coughlin, the Jaguars coach who led the young team to four straight playoff appearances, including two AFC Championship Game appearances, was fired by Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver following the conclusion of the 2002 season.
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The Jaguars early successes turned to failures by the time the 2000 NFL season rolled around, primarily caused by the Jaguars' salary cap problems.
Despite the issues, Coughlin had begun to rebuild his franchise, infusing the team with a mix of veteran and young talent. Draft picks such as as Marcus Stroud (2001) and John Henderson (2002) would prove to be major contributors throughout the Jack Del Rio era (the coach who replaced Coughlin).
The Jaguars 2002 draft class also included quarterback David Garrard, who Coughlin drafted to eventually replace long-time quarterback Mark Brunell. Garrard, of course, would go on to be passed over by the new regime and Byron Leftwich, but eventually became the Jaguars' starter and led the team to the playoffs.
The 2002 Jaguars started the season on a high note, opening with a 3-1 record in the season's first quarter. The success, however, was short lived as the club lost four games in a row, and never could get back on track, winning just three games the rest of the season.
Despite the team's failures, veteran Jaguars enjoyed solid statistical campaigns in 2002. Quarterback Mark Brunell finished with 17 touchdown passes versus only 7 interceptions, and running back Fred Taylor finished with 1,314 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns. Taylor also added 49 receptions including a long of 72 yards.
Wide receiver Jimmy Smith also enjoyed a solid if not spectacular season, hauling in 80 passes for more than 1,000 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Many of the Jaguars offensive struggles were caused by the team's lack of receiving depth, as teams were able to double cover Smith, reducing his effectiveness, as other receivers were unable to step up and increase their productivity. The Jaguars number two receiver, Bobby Shaw, finished with just 43 catches and only one touchdown.
Defensively, the team sorely missed playmaker Tony Brackens, who missed most of the season with an injury. Brackens played in only 5 games, recording one sack. Rookie John Henderson enjoyed an outstanding rookie campaign, however, recording 6.5 sacks from his defensive tackle position, knocking down six passes at the line of scrimmage, and recovering two fumbles.
By the time the Jaguars took the field for the 2003 season, the club had a completely different look, particularly following the replacement of long-time starting quarterback Mark Brunell by 2003's first-round draft pick, Byron Leftwich.