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'10 things,' then 10 more


This is the Mark Brunell nostalgia weekend, so, in keeping with that theme, here are 10 of my most vivid memories of the first true star in Jaguars history.

  1. The scrambles—The one in Denver in the 1996 playoffs tops the list, but they all seem to blend into one giant weave through the tapestry of his early career: The first-down runs to keep the drives alive in Cleveland in 1995; the Christmas Eve, '95 dash that beat the Browns in the season finale; the suicide scramble in the win over Pittsburgh in '95, which ended with Greg Lloyd hitting Brunell head on; the tormenting scrambles that always stole victory from the Ravens.
  1. The injury—Giants linebacker Jesse Armstead ended all of the scrambling by robbing Brunell of whatever elasticity was left in his bad knee, in a meaningless preseason game in 1997.
  1. The miracle—Brunell was expected to have suffered a season-ending torn ACL from that Armstead hit, but when the doctors went in, it wasn't torn. In a post-surgery interview, Brunell explained that he believed the ACL really was torn, but his prayers healed it.
  1. The first look—I saw him for the first time at the Jaguars' training camp in Wisconsin in 1995. Steve Beuerlein was the number one quarterback at the time, but there was no doubt Brunell would soon be the man. I remember saying to myself, "I better get to know this guy."
  1. His father—Dave Brunell is one of the real good guys. I loved talking football with him along the sidelines in training camp, and I've admired the relationship he and his son have.
  1. The interceptions—One by Willie Clay and the other by Marcus Robertson, each in AFC title games that came so close to sending the Jaguars to the Super Bowl.
  1. Tony Boselli—I can't think of Brunell without seeing Boselli. They go hand in hand. They are the joint identity of the Jaguars. They are to my career covering the Jaguars what Joe Greene and Terry Bradshaw were to my days in Pittsburgh.
  1. The bruise—A scramble against Kansas City in 1997 left Brunell with a bruise from his ribs to his knee. Meanwhile, fans were complaining that Brunell wasn't scrambling enough.
  1. The high ankle—Brunell got his ankle bent underneath him while being hit by Detroit's Robert Porcher in 1998. The TV replay was gruesome. Four weeks later, Brunell led the Jaguars to their first-ever home playoff win.
  1. The toughness—He's as tough as any player I have ever covered.

Now, here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Saints.

  1. Stop Deuce McAllister—That should be easy to figure out. He's da man for the Saints. Everything begins and ends with McAllister.
  1. Run the ball—The Jaguars have a pretty good running back, too. Fred Taylor can hang with the best of them, and this will be an interesting confrontation between McAllister and Taylor.
  1. Make it important—It's week 16 and thoughts can begin turning to the offseason. That won't work. Finish the season. A small crowd may say this game isn't important, but true professionals don't think that way.
  1. Respect Aaron Brooks—He's not one of the household names among quarterbacks, but he's having a very respectable year. He's been among the top five in the NFC passer ratings, his touchdown to interception ratio is outstanding, and Brooks has the athletic skills to make big plays.
  1. Play for the "House"—The Jaguars can officially "Take Back Their House" with a win over the Saints. Their home record this season would reach 5-3, marking the first winning season at home since 1999.
  1. Do it for the rankings—If the Jaguars should win their final two games of the season, they will have won four of their last five games and that'll cause a greater measure of respect in next summer's preseason rankings.
  1. Forget the draft—Only losers play for the higher spot in the draft. Win and let fate take care of the rest.
  1. Back Byron—It would certainly do a lot for rookie quarterback Byron Leftwich to avoid a meltdown on a day when a lot of fans are going to be chanting, "We want Mark." Brunell's farewell needs to be achieved tastefully, and that means without embarrassment to Leftwich.
  1. Continue the improvement—The Jaguars' arrow has been pointing up in almost all areas of their game since the second half of the season began. Don't let that change now.
  1. Make fans—This is the home farewell and this team needs to sell tickets. Send the fans into the offseason with a good taste in their mouths for Jaguars football.
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