Mark Brunell was asked: What are the most memorable games in your career with the Jaguars? Brunell's answer came quickly: "Denver in the 1996 playoffs and the Pittsburgh game when we returned the blocked field goal."
For the record, the Pittsburgh game to which Brunell was referring was the first-ever Monday night game in Jacksonville, on Sept. 22, 1997. The Denver game was actually played on Jan. 4, 1997.
What it means is that Brunell's fondest memories in his nine-year career with the Jaguars are from two games in a three-game stretch. He beat Denver, he lost to New England in the AFC title game, then beat Pittsburgh in the '97 regular season, which was his regular season debut after sustaining a knee injury in the preseason.
All right, so what? Here's what.
As I have said on several other occasions, that knee injury changed Brunell's career forever. I will never have anything but an ill feeling when I hear the name Jesse Armstead. What he did to Brunell when he drove his head into the quarterback's knee in that meaningless preseason game deprived us all of a level of greatness Brunell was on the verge of achieving, but never did.
The guy was going to be better than Steve Young.
Brunell was on the verge of becoming the best quarterback in the game. His scrambling ability gave him magical qualities no other quarterback in the league possessed. The knee injury, however, ended his days as a scrambler. He was never the same again.
What we were left with was Brunell the pocket passer, and Brunell did a masterful job of becoming a by-the-book quarterback, but that's not what he was supposed to be. He was born to scramble, and he was at the height of his improvisational skills when he was cheap-shotted by Armstead.
That Brunell's most memorable games should be two games in a three-game stretch only serves to underscore the fact that his career, his true career as an athletic quarterback, was very short. In that '96 playoff win in Denver, he was Brunell the scrambler. Then, for that Monday-nighter against Pittsburgh, he limped onto the field and back into the pocket forever more.
The Brunell you'll see this Sunday when the Jaguars play the Redskins is only half the player he was and would've been. He was on his way to greatness. Armstead robbed him of it.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the Redskins.
- Throw the ball—Because the Redskins saw the tape of the Colts game, they're going to be loaded up to stop the run.
- Dominate on defense—The Redskins offense lacks firepower in its passing game and leans hard on its running game. That's a formula that plays right into the Jaguars' hands.
- Tackle the return man—The Jaguars didn't do that against the Colts and it cost them the game.
- Make field goals—The Jaguars didn't do that against the Colts and it cost them the game.
- Find a reason to be excited—This is the kind of game that can leave a team flat. The Jags are coming off three emotional games and they're not familiar with the Redskins.
- Don't flinch—Sean Taylor is a lights-out hitter in the middle of the field.
- Keep pace—The Colts are playing at the Jets, so a loss would be double trouble.
- Rush the passer—This is an old Brunell, not the Brunell of old.
- Coach, baby, coach—That's an all-star staff on the other side of the field.
- Make it four—The much-maligned Jaguars offensive line has been fantastic through three games.