Mark Brunell is one of the best players in Jacksonville Jaguars franchise history.
Brunell, who hardly saw action with the Green Bay Packers from 1993 to 1994, became the expansion Jaguars’ first starting quarterback in 1995.
The unheralded Brunell promptly led a memorable Jaguars resurgence in the mid-to-late 1990s.
Behind Brunell’s league-leading 4,367 passing yards in 1996, Jacksonville reached the AFC Championship Game in only its second year in the National Football League.
With Brunell under center, the Jaguars made three more postseason appearances as the 1990s decade wound down. It was, without a doubt, one of the most memorable times in franchise history.
No wonder Brunell, who held thirty-six Jacksonville team records as of 2017, is enshrined in the team’s ring of honor, the Pride of the Jaguars.
This is Mark Brunell’s fascinating football journey.
Mark Allen Brunell was born in Los Angeles, CA on September 17, 1970. He has a younger brother, Matt.
Mark inherited his athletic genes from his father, Dave. The latter was a standout pitcher for Bell High School in 1969. He had an outstanding 1.01 ERA and a 12-3 record that year.
Dave eventually attended Cerritos College and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo during his college days.
Regrettably, Dave Brunell injured his throwing arm and decided to put his flourishing baseball career – he was a Kansas City Royals draft pick – on the back burner.
Mark, Dave’s first son, entered the world sometime after the latter’s career-ending baseball injury. Dave eventually embarked on a career in teaching and coaching.
Dave got a job as a teacher and baseball coach at St. Joseph High School in 1976. Dave promptly uprooted six-year-old Mark and the rest of his family and settled in Santa Maria, CA.
When Mark Brunell entered high school, he played football, basketball, and baseball for the Santa Maria Knights.
Brunell was a diamond in the rough during his first two years of high school.
UCLA Bruins offensive coordinator Homer Smith discovered Brunell attending Terry Donahue’s football camp when he was a sophomore in 1985.
Smith thought the kid had natural talent and poise the first time he laid his eyes on him.
Smith told Mark’s dad, Dave, that his son had the potential to blossom on the high school gridiron.
Dave Brunell, who coached baseball and served as St. Joseph High’s athletic director, couldn’t help but beam at the thought.
“From then on, football became Mark’s real love,” he told the Los Angeles Times‘ Chris Baker in September 1990.
Behind Brunell’s strong play at quarterback, the Knights reached the CIF Desert-Mountain Conference Semifinals in his junior season in 1987, per the Santa Maria Times‘ Joe Bailey.
Born this Day: Mark Brunell (QB)
W/#GoPackGo 1994#DUUUVAL 1995-2003#HTTC 2004-2006#Saints 2008-2009#TakeFlight 2010-2011
3x Pro Bowl
1x Super Bowl Champion
32072 Pass Yds (47th All-Time)
184 Pass TD (60th All-Time)
2421 Rush Yds
15 Rush TD pic.twitter.com/fCXvr97AXv
— Born this Day NFL (@sconiesportsguy) September 17, 2022
Brunell showed that he was one of the best high school signal callers in California one year later.
He shredded the Santa Paula Cardinals’ defense for 405 passing yards in 1988. Brunell’s 196 passing yards against the Righetti Warriors earned him Athlete of the Week honors that same year.
Brunell wasn’t a one-dimensional quarterback. He could also scamper for yardage. He had 95 rushing yards in a 42-26 victory over the Santa Clara Bruins in 1988.
Brunell concluded his high school football career with 5,893 passing yards and eleven touchdowns.
According to Baker, several big-name college football programs from the West Coast including the USC Trojans, Stanford Cardinal, UCLA Bruins, and California Golden Bears had Brunell on their radar as his high school football career wound down.
Brunell almost committed to the Trojans. However, after seeing future Los Angeles Raiders quarterback Todd Marinovich on the same recruiting visit, Brunell crossed out USC from his shortlist.
Mark Brunell ultimately decided to commit to the Washington Huskies. He clarified to the Los Angeles Times that he did not know Marinovich’s intentions when he went to USC during their senior year.
However, Brunell thought the allure of Seattle, The Emerald City, was more appealing than the glitzy streets of Los Angeles, CA. Brunell, who told Baker he was not a city guy, felt that the vibe of the University of Washington campus was too good to pass up.
Brunell would eventually play a major role in the Huskies’ first and only national title following the 1991 NCAA season.
College Days with the Washington Huskies
Mark Brunell attended the University of Washington in Seattle, WA from 1989 to 1992.
Brunell played for Washington Huskies head football coach Don James. One of his college teammates was future Indianapolis Colts defensive end Steve Emtman.
Brunell played behind starter and future Washington Redskins quarterback Cary Conklin during his true freshman season in 1989. The Huskies won eight games and routed the Florida Gators in the 1989 Freedom Bowl, 34-7.
James named Brunell his starting quarterback in the 1990 NCAA campaign. Brunell did not disappoint. He had 1,732 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, and eight interceptions in eleven games for the Huskies that year.
Brunell wasn’t the typical pocket passer. He could elude the pass rush and move the sticks with his nimble feet. In fact, Brunell had 444 yards and ten touchdowns on the ground as a sophomore in 1990.
Despite Brunell’s outstanding play at quarterback, he also had his share of awkward moments in his first full year as Washington’s starter.
Brunell groped for form in the Huskies’ first few games at the turn of the 1990s decade. According to Baker, he lined up behind the guard instead of the center during a game against the Purdue Boilermakers in 1990.
The flustered Brunell only realized his error when a Purdue defensive lineman told him. Not only that, but the Huskies center – Brunell’s own teammate – laughed at him.
Brunell claimed he wasn’t the only quarterback who made that mistake.
“It was kind of funny because the center started laughing,” Brunell told the Los Angeles Times in the fall of 1990. “But I’m not the first guy to do that. All those butts look alike.”
In another series, Brunell tripped and fell on the turf after receiving the snap.
However, Brunell put those embarrassing moments behind him and led Washington to a 20-14 win over Purdue.
Behind Mark Brunell’s emergence, the Washington Huskies made the first of their three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances in the early 1990s.
Brunell and Co. beat the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 1990 Rose Bowl, 46-34. Brunell earned game MVP honors after passing for two touchdowns and running for two more.
Brunell was ready to build on his success as a junior in the 1991 NCAA campaign. Regrettably, he injured his knee during a scrimmage game and sat out the first half of his junior season.
Brunell defied the odds and took the field earlier than expected. He returned to a thunderous standing ovation in Washington’s 56-3 romp over the Kansas State Wildcats at Husky Stadium on September 28, 1991.
Inspired by Brunell’s return, the Huskies won all twelve of their games in 1991. Washington crushed the Michigan Wolverines 34-14 in the 1991 Rose Bowl to clinch its first national title in football program history.
The 9-3 Huskies reached the Rose Bowl for the third straight time in Brunell’s senior season in 1992. The Wolverines returned the favor with a 38-31 win in a rematch of the previous year’s game.
Brunell finished his four-year stint with the Washington Huskies with 3,423 passing yards, 23 touchdown passes, and 16 interceptions.
With Mark Brunell under center, the Huskies had an impressive 31-5 (.861) win-loss record from 1990 to 1992.
Brunell, who met his future wife Stacy during their college days at Washington, thought coaching, chemistry, and work ethic were the secrets behind the Huskies’ success in the early 1990s.
“We were well-coached,” Brunell told the Huskies’ official athletics website in the summer of 2013. “We had good players that worked very hard, and that was really it. We had really good chemistry. The guys worked well together. It was just perfect.”
When Mark Brunell played in the NFL ranks, he led the Jacksonville Jaguars’ memorable resurgence in the mid-to-late 1990s. He eventually became one of the best players in Jaguars’ franchise history.
Pro Football Career
The Green Bay Packers made Mark Brunell the 18th overall selection of the 1993 NFL Draft.
Brunell and Ty Detmer played behind Packers franchise quarterback Brett Favre in the 1993 NFL season. Brunell did not play a single down as a rookie in frigid Green Bay, WI.
With Brunell saddled on the bench, the Packers won nine games and advanced to the 1993 NFC Divisional Round.
It was sweet redemption for Green Bay, which had missed the postseason twenty-three times in the past twenty-five years.
Alas, Brunell and Co. fell to Troy Aikman’s Dallas Cowboys in the 1993 NFC Divisional Round, 27-17.
Brunell hardly saw action in his second year in the pro football ranks. He completed 12 of 27 pass attempts for 95 yards in two games for the Packers in 1994.
Green Bay won nine games, made the postseason, and reached the NFC Divisional Round for the second consecutive year.
However, Favre’s Packers just could not get past Aikman’s Cowboys. Dallas throttled Green Bay for the second straight year, 35-9.
As for Mark Brunell, it became increasingly evident that he was not going to shine in Green Bay with Favre blossoming into a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback.
Fortunately for Brunell, his long-awaited opportunity would come sooner rather than later.
The expansion Jacksonville Jaguars traded their 66th and 170th overall selections in the 1995 NFL Draft to Green Bay for Brunell.
Happy Birthday @M_Brunell8
With his magic cleats and Hollywood escapes Mark Brunell has become the most dangerous weapon in the sport.
Mark throws the winning TD to Smith in the 1996 AFC Divisional.
30-27 #DUUUVAL pic.twitter.com/IHAvnmUemU
— Old Time Football 🏈 (@Ol_TimeFootball) September 17, 2022
That move paved the way for Mark Brunell to become the first starting quarterback in Jaguars’ franchise history.
Brunell had a decent first year in Jacksonville with 2,168 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. As expected, the Jaguars finished last in their division with an atrocious 4-12 win-loss record.
It seemed the Jaguars were destined for the bottom of the standings when they went 4-7 in the first twelve weeks of the 1996 NFL campaign.
All of a sudden, Brunell’s inspired play under center helped Jacksonville defy the odds.
Behind Brunell’s career-high and league-leading 4,367 passing yards during the regular season, the Jaguars finished the season on a strong note.
They went on a key five-game winning streak to finish 9-7 and secure their first postseason berth in franchise history.
A crucial miss from 30 yards out by seven-time Pro Bowl placekicker Morten Andersen in the waning moments of Jacksonville’s 19-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the regular-season finale clinched that memorable milestone.
Not only did Brunell fire on all cylinders at quarterback all season long, but he also earned the first of his three career Pro Bowl nods following the 1996 NFL campaign. The only glaring chink in his armor was his accuracy – he had a career-high 20 interceptions in 1996.
It was sweet redemption for Mark Brunell, who had watched helplessly from the sidelines as the Packers lost to the Cowboys in the NFC Divisional Round in 1993 and 1994.
Brunell then proved to the naysayers that his Pro Bowl selection was no fluke.
He had 239 passing yards and one touchdown pass in Jacksonville’s 30-27 upset road win over the Buffalo Bills in the 1996 AFC Wild Card Game.
Brunell followed that up with 245 passing yards, two touchdowns, and zero picks against the previously 13-3 Denver Broncos in the 1996 AFC Divisional Round one week later.
Brunell was one of the biggest thorns in Broncos quarterback John Elway’s side. A Super Bowl ring continued to elude Elway, who lost three Super Bowl games in the mid-to-late 1980s.
Elway would eventually lead the Broncos to consecutive Super Bowl titles in 1997 and 1998. However, he had to endure disappointment at the hands of Mark Brunell’s Jacksonville Jaguars.
— Laurie Fitzpatrick (@LaurieFitzptrck) July 12, 2017
To Elway’s credit, he sang Brunell’s praises after the Jaguars’ monumental upset win. He thought Brunell’s play at quarterback, particularly his shiftiness and poise in the pocket, was on a different level that afternoon.
“He was putting the ball on the money,” Elway told Sports Illustrated in the game’s aftermath. “He just made huge plays all day. You don’t see a lot of guys who can make things happen like he can.”
Brunell was so elusive that even Broncos Pro Bowl linebacker Bill Romanowski – one of the meanest pass rushers of his era – could not get his hands on the Jaguars quarterback.
Regrettably, Jacksonville’s magical run ended with a humbling 20-6 loss to Bill Parcells’s New England Patriots in the 1996 AFC Championship Game.
Brunell completed 20 of 38 passes for 190 yards, zero touchdown passes, and two interceptions in the loss.
Nevertheless, the Jaguars had sent a clear message to the rest of the National Football League – they were legit.
Brunell became a prominent member of the Jacksonville, FL community the moment he arrived in 1996.
He and his wife, Stacy, who he met at the University of Washington, started a Bible study group with his Jaguars teammates and their wives at their residence in 1996.
The group eventually grew into a 1,000-member congregation called Southpoint Community Church in 2002.
Under head coach Tom Coughlin’s leadership, Jacksonville became a perennial Super Bowl contender from 1996 to 1999.
The Jaguars’ nucleus consisting of Brunell, wide receivers Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith, running backs Natrone Means and Fred Taylor, left tackle Tony Boselli, and defensive end Tony Brackens helped Jacksonville rack up an average of twelve wins per year from 1997 to 1999.
Fred Taylor. Mark Brunell. Jimmy Smith.
— Whistle Blitz (@WhistleBlitz) September 22, 2022
Brunell never threw for fewer than 2,601 passing yards during that memorable three-season time frame, His best season during the Jaguars’ resurgence was in 1997 when he had 3,281 passing yards, 18 touchdown passes, and seven interceptions.
The Jaguars returned to the AFC Championship Game for the fifth season in 1999. Unfortunately, they lost to Steve McNair’s Tennessee Titans in lopsided fashion, 33-14.
Jacksonville’s impressive run had officially ended. The Jaguars slipped back into mediocrity in the latter years of the Coughlin era and the dawn of the 21st century.
Mark Brunell spent four more seasons in Jacksonville, FL from 2000 to 2003. He averaged nearly 19 touchdown passes and never threw fewer than 2,788 passing yards from 2000 to 2002.
Brunell’s accuracy, which improved as the 1990s decade wound down, slipped. The lefty quarterback averaged almost twelve interceptions per year during that three-season span.
The Jaguars were a shadow of the team they once were in the mid-to-late 1990s. They averaged just six wins per year from 2000 to 2003.
As for Brunell, he eventually took a backseat to rookie starter Byron Leftwich in the 2003 NFL season.
The struggling Jaguars traded Brunell to the Washington Redskins before the 2004 NFL campaign. Brunell spent the next four years of his pro football career in the nation’s capital.
During Brunell’s memorable nine-year tenure in Jacksonville, FL, he set new team records for passing yardage (25,698), pass attempts (3,616), touchdown passes (144), games with 300 passing yards (22), games with 400 passing yards (two), and pass completions (2,184), per the Florida Times-Union’s John Reid.
Brunell became part of the legendary Joe Gibbs’s second tour of duty as Redskins head coach. He also joined a core group of Washington players that included running back Clinton Portis, wide receiver Santana Moss, and safety Sean Taylor.
Unfortunately, a nagging hamstring injury limited Brunell to just nine games in 2004. Backup quarterback Patrick Ramsey promptly took over starting duties heading into the 2005 NFL season.
When Ramsey sustained an injury in the early part of the season, Gibbs made Brunell his starter again.
The 35-year-old Brunell proved he wasn’t washed up yet. His 3,050 passing yards, 23 passing touchdowns, and ten interceptions were arguably the best of his 19-year NFL career.
A rejuvenated Brunell led the 10-6 Redskins to the postseason where they lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the 2005 NFC Divisional Round, 20-10.
Redskins vs Texans | Week 3, 2006.
Mark Brunell breaks most consecutive completions record with 22. pic.twitter.com/ASAWZsTqkI
— Washington Window (@WasWindow) September 14, 2021
Brunell continued defying Father Time in 2006. His 22 consecutive completions in a September 24, 2006 game against the Dallas Cowboys set a new league record.
Brunell’s 88.9 completion percentage from that same game also set a new Redskins franchise record.
Despite Brunell’s best efforts, he only went 3-6 in his first nine starts of the 2006 NFL campaign. Consequently, Gibbs benched him in favor of second-year quarterback Jason Campbell.
Brunell eventually played behind Campbell until the former’s last season with the Redskins in 2007. Brunell never played a single snap that year.
Campbell led Washington to a 9-7 win-loss record in 2007. Regrettably, the Redskins lost to the Seahawks for the second consecutive time in three postseasons. This time around, Seattle routed Washington in the 2007 NFC Wild Card Game, 35-14.
After Brunell played out his contract with the Redskins, he signed with the New Orleans Saints in the spring of 2008. He backed up perennial Saints Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees in his two seasons in the Big Easy.
When Brunell entered his second and final season with the New Orleans Saints in 2009, it had been ten seasons since his Jaguars’ forgettable 33-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the 2000 AFC Championship Game.
Brunell was already 39 years old and pining for a Super Bowl ring.
He finally got his wish after his Saints beat Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, 31-17.
Although Brunell only played in just five snaps – he was the holder of two extra-point and three field-goal attempts – he could not have cared less. He was finally a Super Bowl champion.
— Quarterback Club (@TheNewQBClub) February 4, 2017
Brunell lost it as soon as he saw his dad, Dave, and his wife, Stacy, in the Saints postgame locker room.
“It was probably my favorite part of the day,” Brunell told the Florida Times-Union’s Gene Frenette. “As soon as I saw my wife and my dad, all three of us just broke down (crying). It was a special moment. I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”
Mark Brunell was in dire financial straits during the latter years of his memorable 19-year pro football career.
Brunell filed for bankruptcy in the summer of 2010. He claimed his assets were worth $5.5 million. Unfortunately, his liabilities were a whopping $24.7 million, per the Florida Times-Union’s Roger Bull.
Brunell and his wife Stacy both worked for his Mark Brunell Enterprises at the time. Their combined monthly net income amounted to $8,780.
Brunell’s bankruptcy filing showed that he gave $155,000 worth of tithes to his church. It also revealed his $1.55 million salary with the Saints in 2009.
Brunell’s financial woes apparently stemmed from his failed real estate and food industry investments.
Brunell was a partner of Champion LLC, a business he and former teammates Joel Smeenge and Todd Fordham established.
The company borrowed $2 million to purchase high-end condominiums in the Jacksonville, FL area.
Alas, the infamous 2008 global financial crisis made Brunell lose an astonishing $11 million worth of investments.
According to ActionNewsJax.com (via Mail Online’s Hannah Roberts), the brunt of Brunell’s financial struggles were his $9 million investment in the Whataburger restaurant franchise.
Since Brunell couldn’t pay off his loans, his lenders slapped him with six lawsuits. He and his wife Stacy even had to sell their $9.5 million house in Jacksonville, FL to offset the stunning losses.
Things got so bad for Brunell that he had to work as a medical sales representative prior to his final NFL season in 2011. The job paid him $60,000 per year.
Some observers thought Brunell struggled financially because he trusted others too easily.
“He’s trusting and maybe that’s a weakness,” United Football League commissioner Michael Huyghue said. “The consequences when they are wrong can be really debilitating.”
Mark Brunell spent his final two pro football seasons backing up starter Mark Sanchez with the New York Jets from 2010 to 2011.
Brunell saw action in a combined eighteen games for Jets head coach Rex Ryan during those two years.
With Brunell on the roster, the Jets averaged ten wins per season but never made it past the AFC Championship Game.
Mark Brunell eventually retired following the 2011 NFL season. He had 32,072 passing yards, 184 touchdown passes, and 108 interceptions in his 19-year pro football career.
Mark Brunell and his wife Stacy have a daughter, Caitlin, and three sons: Jacob, Joseph, and Luke. The Brunell family currently resides in the Jacksonville, FL area.
Brunell coached the Episcopal Eagles, a high school football team based in Jacksonville, from 2013 to 2020. Under Brunell’s leadership, the Eagles won 49 of 81 games and made three playoff appearances in eight seasons, per the Florida Times-Union.
Brunell also worked for the NFL Legends Community as its Southeast Coordinator back then. He also hosted The Mark Brunell Show on Jacksonville, FL TV station WJXT.
A 3-time Pro Bowler, Brunell holds nearly every major passing record in Jaguars history.
— Detroit Lions PR (@LionsPR) January 29, 2021
Brunell’s ascent in the football coaching ranks continued during his retirement years. The Detroit Lions hired him as their new quarterbacks’ coach on January 28, 2021. Brunell’s hire coincided with that of new Lions head coach Dan Campbell.
Before working with the Lions, Brunell previously mentored rookie quarterback hopefuls in the NFL Scouting Combine for five years.
Mark Brunell is also a member of the Pride of the Jaguars and the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.