Mark Allen Brunell was born on September 17, 1970 in Santa Maria, California. In college, Brunell starred at the University of Washington where he became the starter during his sophomore season and had a fine collegiate career. Brunell, a left-handed quarterback, was drafted by the Green Bay Packers with pick 118 in the fifth round of the 1993 NFL Draft to become a backup to their franchise quarterback, Brett Favre.
Brunell Traded to Jacksonville
After spending the 2004 NFL season as Brett Favre’s backup, the Packers looked to trade Brunell before he would become an unrestricted free agent. After an attempt to trade him to the Philadelphia Eagles failed, Tom Coughlin and the Jacksonville Jaguars came knocking on the door. The Jaguars gave up a third and a fifth round pick to the Packers to get Brunell. “I didn’t see him becoming a Pro Bowl player. I missed that,” Wolf said in 2001. “But the bottom line is, he wouldn’t have played where he was anyway. We would have lost him for absolutely nothing in free agency. At that time, yeah, I thought we got everything we could for him. As you look at it now, it certainly doesn’t appear that we did.” (1)
Brunell Shocks the World
Early in the 1996 NFL season, the Jacksonville Jaguars were 3-6, a long shot to even make the playoffs, let alone to do something special. However, Jacksonville won five of their final six regular season games including their final four to make the post season as a Wild Card team. The team traveled to play the Buffalo Bills led by Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas in the first round of the playoffs. Nobody gave them a chance to win, but they did 30-27.
The next week they would travel to the Mile High City to play against the top seed, the 13-3 Denver Broncos. Despite the upset victory in Buffalo, the Jaguars entered the game as two touchdown underdogs. Early on, it looked as if the prognosticators were correct as Denver quickly took a 12-0 lead. Denver had an extra point blocked and then failed on a two-point conversion. By halftime, Brunell and the Jaguars led the heavily favored Broncos, 13-12.
In the second half, Mark Brunell played some extraordinary football. He made several plays with both his arm and his legs, picking up key third downs and propelling the Jacksonville offense to a score on six straight possessions. On a second and nine play from midfield, Brunell started to run to the right, cut back to the left and weaved his way up the field for 29 yards and a Jaguars’ first down. Later on, from the Denver 16-yardline, Brunell lobbed a beautiful pass to Jimmy Smith in the corner of the end zone to widen the lead to 30-20. John Elway rallied for a quick score but after a failed onside kick, Jacksonville had upset the Broncos 30-27. For the day, Brunell completed 18 of 29 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 44 yards on seven attempts and walked off with a game ball. (3)
Brunell’s Time in Jacksonville
Mark Brunell had some wonderful achievements during his time in Jacksonville. When looking back to when the Jags acquired Brunell, Coughlin said, “Without question, of the players available, he was the guy I wanted to be the quarterback of the future,” Coughlin recalled, “a quarterback who would be a . . . quality individual, someone tough enough to withstand the early going, one who had great drive and a great will to win.” (2) Coach Coughlin was right as Mark Brunell became a three-time Pro-Bowl player and gave Jaguars’ fans a taste of early success.
During the 1996 season, Mark Brunell became the first player since Johnny Unitas in 1963 to lead NFL quarterbacks in both passing and rushing.
Brunell Goes To Washington
Mark Brunell became the Redskins starting quarterback in 2004, but lost his job after some lackluster performances. In 2005 though, he recaptured his job and had an unbelievable performance on Monday Night Football against the Dallas Cowboys.
With just 4:48 remaining the Redskins faced a third down and 27 and trailed 13-0. Brunell dropped back, but nobody was open. He took off scrambling down the field and dove head first for a 25-yard gain. After picking up 20 yards on the next play, Brunell hit Santana Moss for a 39-yard touchdown with 3:46 remaining. “They asked me during the week about the double move and I thought we could make some plays with it because their safety, Williams, is aggressive and I thought I could get behind him,” Moss said. (4) With 2:35 remaining, Brunell hit Moss again, this time for a 70-yard touchdown to give the Redskins the 14-13 win. Brunell threw for 138 yards and one interception in the first 54:02, and 153 yards and two touchdowns in the final 5:58. Wow!
By A. Goodin, 20Yardline.com
Mark Brunell Biography Sources:(1) Brunell: Favre’s Job Was Secure…(2001, November 29) Wisconsin State Journal
(2) THE STURDY CORNERSTONE OF A WINNER GETTING QB MARK BRUNELL WAS THE JAGUARS’ FIRST - AND BEST - MOVE (1997, September 26) The Virginia Pilot
(3) Elway, Meet Brunell (1997, January 1) Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
(4) An Offensive Awakening; Brunell, Redskins Come to Life (2005, September 21) The Washington Times