Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill.
THIS WEEK: Amid high expectations, the Jacksonville Jaguars will open their fourth NFL season against the Chicago Bears at 1:00 p.m. EDT Sunday in Soldier Field. It will be the Jaguars' first visit to Chicago.
In three NFL seasons, the Jaguars have 24 victories in 48 games, whereas the Bears, in 78 seasons dating back to 1920 (the first year of the NFL), have 602 victories, 406 losses and 42 ties. On opening day, the Jaguars are 2-1, with victories each of the last two years. The Bears have the NFL's fourth-best opening day record at 38-26-1 (.592).
The Jaguars are coming off a 42-20 victory over Dallas in their final preseason game and finished 2-2 in the preseason. They head into the regular season with a victory in their final exhibition game for the fourth straight year. Chicago lost its last preseason game 24-7 to the New York Jets and went 0-4 in the 1998 preseason.
Last season the Jaguars finished 11-5 and became the NFL's only expansion team to make the playoffs twice in its first three seasons. They qualified for the playoffs as a Wild-Card team (losing the AFC Central Division championship to Pittsburgh on the fifth tiebreaker), but lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos in a Wild-Card playoff game. The Bears went 4-12 and finished in last place in the NFC Central Division, their worst record since 1973.
TELEVISION BROADCAST: The game will be televised regionally by CBS and locally by WJXT Channel 4. Kevin Harlan will call the play-by-play and Sam Wyche will add analysis. It will be the Jaguars' first regular-season appearance on CBS.
RADIO BROADCAST: All of the Jaguars' games are broadcast on WOKV (690 AM), WBWL (600 AM) and WKQL (96.9 FM) and the Jaguars Radio Network. Brian Sexton calls the play-by-play and former NFL quarterback Matt Robinson adds analysis. Sexton and Robinson are in their fourth season together. Robinson, Jennifer Kumik, Vic Ketchman, and Cole Pepper handle the pre-game show, and Pepper and ex-Oakland Raider Pete Banaszak do the post-game show. A total of 21 affiliates in four states on the Jaguars Radio Network will also broadcast the game.
THE OPPONENT: The Bears have won the most games in NFL history and have claimed nine NFL championships. They started as the Decatur Staleys in 1920, and won championships in 1921 (their first season in Chicago), 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1963 and Super Bowl XX in 1985. The Bears have 24 players inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the most of any NFL team. They have missed the playoffs the last three seasons, but they did qualify for postseason play eight times in 11 seasons between 1984 and '94. Chicago is coming off a 4-12 season and their first last-place finish since 1981.
THE SERIES: The Jaguars and Bears have played only once, with Chicago winning 30-27 on October 15, 1995 in the Jaguars' seventh game ever.
THE LAST TIME: The Jaguars lost 30-27 when Mike Hollis missed a 54-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game. The Jaguars had battled back from 10-point deficits three times in the second half to get within three points with an opportunity to force overtime. QB Mark Brunell threw his third touchdown pass of the game, 23 yards to Cedric Tillman, with 27 seconds left in regulation, and then the Jaguars recovered an onside kick. But Hollis' attempt was wide left, and the Jaguars failed to become the NFL's first expansion team to win three consecutive games (they had beaten the Oilers and Steelers the two previous games). Hollis has missed only one other field goal attempt of 50-plus-yards in his career; his .750 percentage on 6-of-8 kicking from 50-plus yards is the NFL's third-best mark in that time. Brunell, who posted the first 300-yard passing game of his career, also threw touchdown passes of seven yards to James Stewart and 12 yards to Ernest Givins. James Stewart set a then-team record with 97 yards rushing on 17 carries.
A JAGUARS VICTORY OVER THE BEARS WOULD: Be their third straight on opening day, giving them a record of 3-1 in four seasons, which would be the best opening game record in the NFL if Dallas loses to Arizona (the Cowboys are 28-9-1, .750). It would also be their 17th victory in their last 22 regular-season games dating back to 1996, and it would give the Jaguars a 25-24 record all-time in the regular season, pushing them over .500 for the first time. A win would be the Jaguars' third consecutive road victory in the regular season after they closed 1997 with back-to-back wins at Buffalo and Oakland.
INJURY UPDATE: Two players suffered injuries in the Dallas game: S Mike Logan (hip pointer) and TE Rich Griffith (left shin contusion). Seven players on the final 53-man roster missed the game because of injuries: S Chris Hudson (thumb), LB Brant Boyer (ankle), LB James Hamilton (ankle), G/OT Jeff Novak (leg contusion), G Rich Tylski (knee), G/OT Todd Fordham (ankle) and DE Tony Brackens (ankle). DT Kelvin Pritchett and DE Fernando Smith played for the first time in the preseason. The status of all injured players will be updated during the week.
THE COACHES: Jacksonville head coach Tom Coughlin has led the Jaguars to the playoffs each of the last two seasons, a first for an NFL expansion team. In 1997, the Jaguars finished 11-5 and lost the AFC Central Division championship on the fifth tiebreaker to Pittsburgh. The Jaguars were defeated by Denver in the Wild-Card playoffs. In their second season in 1996, the Jaguars advanced all the way to the AFC Championship game, finishing the regular season in second place in the division with a 9-7 record. In the playoffs, the Jaguars upset the Bills and Broncos on the road before losing at New England. In 1995, Coughlin's Jaguars finished with four victories in their inaugural season. He became head coach of the Jaguars on February 21, 1994 following three successful seasons as head coach at Boston College. Coughlin compiled a record of 21-13-1 from 1991 to '93 at Boston College, and had two appearances in bowl games and a ranking of 13th in the final AP poll of 1993. A veteran of 27 years of coaching, he was previously an NFL assistant coach with the New York Giants (wide receivers, 1988-90), Green Bay Packers (wide receivers and passing game coordinator 1986-87) and Philadelphia Eagles (wide receivers, 1984-85). He has a record of 24-24 during the regular season and 2-2 in the postseason. His opening day record is 2-1.
Chicago coach Dave Wannstedt has posted a 37-45 record since succeeding Mike Ditka as coach in 1993, taking over a 5-11 team. The Bears improved to 7-9 in Wannstedt's first season, then to 9-7 in 1994, to earn a Wild-Card playoff berth. Despite an identical record in 1995, the Bears did not make the playoffs. The 1997 Bears finished 4-12 after a 7-9 season in 1996. Wannstedt had served as an assistant coach in Dallas, shaping the Cowboys' young defense into the best in the NFL during his four years as defensive coordinator. He assumed the Dallas assistant head-coaching duties in 1992 when the Cowboys' defense ranked first in the league. His defense forced nine turnovers in the Cowboys' 52-17 victory over the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII. He worked under coach Jimmy Johnson for 11 years: four as an assistant at Oklahoma State (1979-1982), three as defensive coordinator at the University of Miami (1986-88), and four at Dallas. At Miami, Wannstedt's defense helped produce a national championship in 1987. He was an assistant at Southern California from 1983-85 and at the University of Pittsburgh (1975-78). Wannstedt is 3-2 on opening day.
COACHING DIVISION VICTORIES: Entering the 1998 season, the Jaguars' Tom Coughlin is tied for fifth among all current NFL coaches with a .625 winning percentage (15-9) in games played within the division. The leaders are Bill Cowher (30-12, .714 with Pittsburgh), Marty Schottenheimer (70-30, .700 with Cleveland and Kansas City), Mike Holmgren (33-15, .688 with Green Bay), Mike Ditka (59-32, .648 with Chicago and New Orleans) and Ray Rhodes (15-9, .625 with Philadelphia).
JACKSONVILLE-CHICAGO CONNECTIONS: Three Bears have played for the Jaguars: FB Ty Hallock played in Jacksonville in 1996 and '97 before signing with the Bears as an unrestricted free agent on Febuary 16; OT Jimmy Herndon was a fifth-round draft choice in 1996 (dressed but did not play in eight games and was inactive for the other eight, as well as three postseason games) and was traded to the Bears on August 24, 1997 for a 1998 seventh-round draft pick (used to pick WR Alvis Whitted); and C/G Greg Huntington spent portions of the last three seasons with the Jaguars before being waived for the final time on last Oct. 24, just prior to being claimed by the Bears. Huntington was one of the original 10 Jaguars . . . Five Jaguars are from Illinois: TE Damon Jones (Evanston, Southern Illinois University), LB Tom McManus (Buffalo Grove), G/OT Jeff Novak (born in Arlington Heights), DT Renaldo Wynn (Chicago) and DT John Jurkovic (Calumet City and Eastern Illinois University). Also, LB Kevin Hardy played at the University of Illinois . . . Three Bears are from Florida: RB Edgar Bennett (Jacksonville, Lee High School and Florida State University), DB Tom Carter (St. Petersburg) and DB Terry Cousin (Miami) . . . Jaguars defensive coordinator Dick Jauron was born in Peoria . . . Jaguars inside linebackers coach Steve Szabo was born in Evergreen Park . . . Bears head coach Dave Wannstedt was the defensive coordinator at the University of Miami from 1986 to '88 . . . Bears defensive coordinator Bob Slowik was a part-time defensive assistant at Florida from 1979 to '82 . . . Bears running backs coach Joe Brodsky was one of south Florida's most successful high school coaches, posting a 104-32 record and winning five conference titles and one state title while serving at Jackson High (1965-1970) and Hialeah-Lakes High (1971-1977). He then became the running backs coach at the University of Miami (1978-1988). A native of Miami, Brodsky was a four-year letterman as a fullback and a linebacker at the University of Florida . . . Bears special teams coach Keith Armstrong worked with the defensive backs and assisted with special teams at the University of Miami in 1987 and '88 . . . Jaguars CB Aaron Beasley and DB Mike Logan played with Bears P Todd Sauerbrun at West Virginia University . . . Jaguars RB Tavian Banks was a teammate of Bears C Casey Wiegmann at the University of Iowa … Jaguars WR Alvis Whitted played with Bears DB Ricky Bell at North Carolina State . . . Jaguars LB Brant Boyer and TE Rich Griffith were teammates of Bears LB Sean Harris at the University of Arizona . . . Jaguars OT Tony Boselli and LB Jeff Kopp played and roomed with Bears TE John Allred at Southern California … Jaguars G/OT Brian DeMarco played with Bears FB (and former Jaguar) Ty Hallock at Michigan State.
ROSTER MOVES: The Jaguars released nine players on Sunday to get down to the 53-player roster limit. WR Willie Jackson, LB Eddie Robinson and DT Ed Philion were released, and G Mark Nori, S Ricky Parker, TE Mark Thomas, OTs Steve Zahursky and Jason Baker and DE Lamanzer Williams were waived.
NEXT WEEK: The Jaguars will host the Kansas City Chiefs in their 1998 home opener. The Jaguars and Chiefs have played only once before in the regular season, with Jacksonville winning 24-10 on November 9, 1997 at ALLTEL Stadium. The two teams did play in the third week of this year's preseason, with Kansas City winning 22-21. In 1997, the Chiefs finished with the best record in the AFC, 13-3, but they were defeated by Denver in the divisional playoffs.
LAST WEEK: The Jaguars won their final preseason game 42-20 over the Dallas Cowboys at ALLTEL Stadium to even their exhibition record at 2-2. The Jaguars scored in every quarter and scored 21 points in each half, as they scored 42 points and six touchdowns in a game, both of which would be team records had it been a regular-season game. Mark Brunell threw TD passes of 31 and 45 yards to Jimmy Smith, and Jacksonville scored four times on the ground, with James Stewart and Fred Taylor scoring once each and Tavian Banks scoring two TDs.
The Cowboys opened the scoring with a 22-yard interception return by Dexter Coakley after a deflected Brunell pass. Then, after the Jaguars' starters scored three straight touchdowns to take a 21-7 lead, Dallas closed the margin to 21-17 before the Jacksonville substitutes scored three more times.
NOTES FROM THE COWBOYS GAME: The attendance of 71,526 was the second-largest ever for a Jaguars preseason game. On August 18, 1995, 71,884 fans attended the first home preseason game against the St. Louis Rams. … The Jaguars dressed 54 players and played everybody in their last game before the final cuts. … Mark Brunell started and completed 8 of 12 passes for 148 yards and two TDs while leading the starters to three TDs in three drives following the interception by Coakley … Rookie Jonathan Quinn played three series and led one TD drive, and Jamie Martin played the last quarter and a half and led two scoring drives. … The Jaguars' first four TDs were all on drives of 70 or more yards. … James Stewart rushed 16 times for 61 yards, a 3.8-yard average, and one TD … Tavian Banks was 7 for 40, with two TDs, and Fred Taylor ran 11 times for 37 yards and a score. … Altogether, the Jaguars rushed for 176 yards, which would be the second most in team history if it was a regular-season game. … Jimmy Smith barely missed his second straight 100-yard receiving game when he caught 3 passes for 94 yards and TDs of 45 and 31 yards. Willie Jackson and Keenan McCarrdell also caught three passes apiece. Jackson also added 21 yards on a reverse. … Bryan Barker punted three times for a 48.0-yard average and two inside the 20, and he picked up a first down with an 18-yard run after a bad snap on a 4th-and-7. Dallas had just 4 yards on punt returns. … Donovin Darius and Eddie Robinson made interceptions, and Daimon Shelton (on a kickoff) and Cordell Taylor each forced and recovered a fumble. … LB Eddie Robinson led the team with 8 tackles (5 solo), and S Donovin Darius and MLB Tom McManus each had 5 tackles. … Jaguars captains were DE Joel Smeenge, LB Kevin Hardy, WR Jimmy Smith and C Quentin Neujahr.
IN THE PRESEASON: In 11 possessions in four preseason games, the Jaguars' starting offense scored six touchdowns and missed two field goals. QB Mark Brunell completed 21 passes in 38 attempts, 309 yards, five touchdowns and one interception for a 110.6 passer rating. RB James Stewart rushed 38 times for 191 yards, a 5.0-yard average and one TD. … Jimmy Smith caught 10 passes for 257 yards (25.7 average) and 4 TDs. Keenan McCardell had seven catches for 86 yards and two TDs. … The starting defense played well, allowing only 99 yards on 41 carries for a 2.4-yard average and holding opponents to a total of just 13 points in the first quarter in the four games. … The Jaguars made five interceptions in the four preseason games, and they recovered four fumbles. With just five turnovers, they were plus-three in the preseason. … Jacksonville outscored its opponents 114 to 82.
FROM COACH TOM COUGHLIN ON THE COWBOYS GAME: "It was a nice end to the preseason for us. We played strong. It was a good football game at 28-20, and then we broke it open with the two turnovers and two quick touchdowns. I was pleased with many parts of the game, although we have some work to do on the kicking game. The difference was, in the second half this week, we went out and won the game. Last week (at Kansas City) we were in the same position at the half and really were not productive."
(on Tavian Banks) "He really can make people miss. He explodes to the outside. He certainly does have a lot of big-play potential. His plays in the fourth quarter really electrified the crowd. He got us on top and put us in position to win the game. The guy's a play-maker (and) play-makers are going to be on the field."
(on Mike Hollis missing seven field goals in the preseason) "I'm very concerned about that. Mike has had his troubles. Hopefully, we can do some things in the next 10 days to build his confidence. He hit some balls outstanding. But we have some work to do. Our kickoffs weren't all that good (against Dallas), either."
(summing up the preseason) "We came in with some strong thoughts about rushing the ball and stopping the run, and, with the exception of a few times tonight, we did a pretty good job. We didn't rush very well against Kansas City, but we didn't have many opportunities. But tonight we rushed it with some different people. And we've been concerned about our third-down production on both sides of the ball, and our red-area production. And I hadn't felt like we had been scoring enough coming into tonight. We also had to strengthen our special teams, our coverage teams, and we did recover one fumble tonight."
FROM RB TAVIAN BANKS: "Most of what I did was in the fourth quarter when Dallas didn't have a lot of starters in the game. I really don't take it to heart. I know I'm still going to be counted on to come in and spell James (Stewart) and Fred (Taylor). I'll do anything to help this team. I like special teams and I think I'm getting better at it every week. It doesn't matter where I play. I'm happy here in Jacksonville and I'm happy with my role with this team. They happened to be the team to grab me and I'm glad they did."
A LOOK BACK AT OPENING DAY 1995: Only 18 players (listed in italics) who were on the Jaguars' roster for their inaurgural game on September 3, 1995 are still with the team. As an expansion franchise, the Jaguars were allowed to have 56 players on their roster for the first three games of 1995.
A LOOK BACK AT THE 1997 SEASON: The Jaguars set a number of team firsts in 1997, their third season. Here's a recap:
- Won a team-record 11 regular-season games
- Became the NFL's first expansion team to qualify for the playoffs twice in its first three seasons
- Finished six games over .500 in the regular season for the first time in team history (11-5, .688)
- Finished with the same record as AFC Central Division champion Pittsburgh for the first time ever (losing the division title on the fifth tiebreaker)
- Won seven of eight games at home for the second straight year
- Increased their winning streak at home to 13 consecutive games before losing the home finale
- Went 4-4 on the road for the first time ever
- Became one of only seven NFL teams to make the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
- Evened the franchise's three-year record in the regular season at 24-24.
- Improved their mark to 7-4 in December over three seasons
- Sent five players to the Pro Bowl (starters OT Tony Boselli, PK Mike Hollis and P Bryan Barker, and backups QB Mark Brunell and WR Jimmy Smith).
- OT Tony Boselli and P Bryan Barker became the first Jaguars to be named to Associated Press' All-Pro team
1997 STATISTICAL MILESTONES: The 1997 Jaguars set numerous statistical records. Here's a quick look at the most significant numbers:
* Scored a team-record 394 points * Allowed only 318 points, a team record * Sacked opposing quarterbacks 48 times, a team record * RB Natrone Means rushed for a team-record 823 yards * QB Mark Brunell's passer rating of 91.2 led the AFC and set a team record * WRs Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell became only the eighth receiving tandem in NFL history to have back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Smith set a single-season team record with 1,324 receiving yards, and McCardell tied his team record of 85 receptions in a season. * CB Deon Figures had a team-record five interceptions * PK Mike Hollis led the NFL in scoring with a team-record 134 points, including a team-record 31 field goals
THE TEAL IS REAL . . .Since November 24, 1996, when the Jaguars began their run to the '96 playoffs, their record is the third best in the NFL. The Jaguars have won 16 of their last 21 regular-season games. Here's a look at the league's best records since November 24, 1996:
Team Reg. Season Reg. Season Total
Green Bay Packers 5-0 13-3 18-3
San Francisco 49ers 4-1 13-3 17-4
Jacksonville Jaguars 5-0 11-5 16-5
Denver Broncos 3-2 12-4 15-6
Kansas City Chiefs 1-4 13-3 14-7
New England Patriots 4-1 10-6 14-7
Pittsburgh Steelers 2-3 11-5 13-8
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-2 10-6 13-8
. . . WITH THE THIRD-BEST RECORD AT HOME . . .The Jaguars have gone 7-1 at ALLTEL Stadium each of the last two seasons, which is tied for the third-best record at home in 1996 and '97. The Jaguars' 13-game home winning streak was snapped on December 7, 1997 when they were defeated by the New England Patriots. That was their first home loss since September 10, 1996, when they lost to the Houston Oilers. The Jaguars are 14-2 at home in the last two years and have won 15 of their last 17 home games dating back to December 24, 1995, in their inaugural season. Here are the best home records in the NFL in 1996 and '97:
Rk. Team 1996 1997 Total
- Green Bay Packers 8-0 8-0 16-0
Denver Broncos 8-0 8-0 16-0
- Jacksonville Jaguars 7-1 7-1 14-2
Pittsburgh Steelers 7-1 7-1 14-2
- San Francisco 49ers 6-2 8-0 14-2
- Kansas City Chiefs 5-3 8-0 13-3
New England Patriots 6-2 6-2 12-4
. . . AND FOURTH-BEST RECORD ON THE ROAD . . . The Jaguars are one of only six NFL teams with a better than .500 record on the road (including postseason) dating back to November 24, 1996. The Jaguars' 8-6 record away from home during that time is the fourth-best mark in the NFL, and their eight victories is tied with the San Francisco 49ers for the most road wins in that time. Here are the only teams in the league with a better-than-.500 record on the road since November 24, 1996:
Team W-L-T Pct.
Green Bay Packers 7-3 .700
San Francisco 49ers 8-4 .667
Carolina Panthers 7-4 .636
Jacksonville Jaguars 8-6 .571
New York Giants 5-4-1 .550
Kansas City Chiefs 6-5 .545
THE FIRST FOUR SEASONS: Here's how NFL expansion teams fared in their first four seasons:
Team 1ST SEASON 2ND SEASON 3RD SEASON 4TH SEASON
Dallas 1960 0-11-1 1961 4-9-1 1962 5-8-1 1963 4-10
Minnesota 1961 3-11 1962 2-12-1 1963 5-8-1 1964 8-5-1
Atlanta 1966 3-11 1967 1-12-1 1968 2-12 1969 6-8
Miami 1966 3-11 1967 4-10 1968 5-8-1 1969 3-10-1
New Orleans 1967 3-11 1968 4-9-1 1969 5-9 1970 2-11-1
Cincinnati 1968 3-11 1969 4-9-1 1970 8-7 1971 4-10
Seattle 1976 2-12 1977 5-9 1978 9-7 1979 9-7
Tampa Bay 1976 0-14 1977 2-12 1978 5-11 1979 11-7
Jacksonville 1995 4-12 1996 11-8 1997 11-6 1998 ?
Carolina 1995 7-9 1996 13-5 1997 7-9 1998 ?
Records include postseason games. The only expansion teams to make the playoffs in their first four seasons are Jacksonville (1996 and '97), Carolina (1996), Cincinnati (1970) and Tampa Bay (1979).
TERRIFIC TANDEMS: Jaguars wide receivers Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith have each had consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and they seek to join Minnesota's Cris Carter and Jake Reed as the only duos in NFL history to reach the milestone for three straight seasons. Carter and Reed have each compiled 1,000-yard receiving seasons for four consecutive seasons, and they can extend their record to five in 1998. Following is a chart comparing the receiving yards of the two terrific tandems:
Player 1994 1995 1996 1997
Cris Carter 1,256 1,371 1,163 1,069
Jake Reed 1,175 1,167 1,320 1,138
Keenan McCardell - - 1,129 1,164
Jimmy Smith - - 1,244 1,324
BRUNELL'S TOUCHDOWN TARGETS: Mark Brunell has thrown 52 TD passes in three seasons in Jacksonville. Here are the 13 players who have caught them: Willie Jackson (10), Jimmy Smith (10), Keenan McCardell (8), Pete Mitchell (6), James Stewart (4), Ernest Givins (3), Cedric Tillman (3), Andre Rison (2), Damon Jones (2), Derek Brown (1), Ty Hallock (1), Desmond Howard (1), Natrone Means (1).
WHERE THEY'RE FROM: The 53 players on the Jaguars' 1998 opening day roster were born in 25 different states and the District of Columbia, as well as three foreign countries. California leads the way with eight players on the Jaguars.
California; 4 - Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Virginia; 3 - Florida; 2 - Georgia, Iowa; Ohio; Pennsylvania, Washington D.C.; 1 - Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah. The only Jaguar who was born in a foreign country is DT John Jurkovic (West Germany).