Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brunell Will Prove Worth Money

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brunell Will Prove Worth Money

Article excerpt

Idiot fan: "When are the Jaguars going to trade Mark

Brunell?"

Idiot fan II: "Mark Brunell hasn't even looked as good as

Steve Matthews."

Idiot fan III: "Coach Coughlin is afraid to bench Mark Brunell

because of the money the team is paying him."

These are not the best of times for Jaguars quarterback Mark

Brunell. Fans, media, and even his own coach, have questioned

his play in recent weeks. What has happened to the $31.5 million

quarterback? Why is he not the same player he was in the

playoffs last season?

Why are his numbers down? Why is he not running more? Why is he

not hitting the deep passes?

Why? Why? Why?

Such is the life of a quarterback, particularly a high-paid

quarterback who plays in a small-town market.

Mark Brunell now knows what it's like to be a goldfish, with

large eyes looking in at you from all directions.

Like the goldfish, Brunell has nowhere to hide.

"That goes with being the guy," wide receiver Keenan McCardell

said. "If I was Mark, I would let it all go in one ear and out

the other."

Brunell hasn't. And who could blame him? In the last couple of

weeks, there has been tons of talk about benching Brunell in

favor of Rob Johnson. Talkshow callers have made him their top

target.

How can he hide from that? How can he not pay attention?

That has led Brunell to be a little testy the past few weeks.

Questions about the offense's poor play at times have drawn

quick, pointed answers. Last week, he had enough.

"It's amazing we can come in here after an exciting win, a big

win, and have to defend ourselves," Brunell said.

That's easy, Mark. The offense, despite being 6-3, hasn't

played its best. Even you said that. A year ago, this offense

was ranked second in the NFL. It's now 17th.

"We just haven't been sharp," Brunell said. "I could be making

better reads, bigger plays. And I think the receivers need to

tell you the same things about themselves."

Still, fans have not given him enough credit for a lot of

things he has done this season. For one, coming back from the

knee injury he suffered during the preseason as quick as he did

was amazing.

Plus, he hasn't played as badly as some people say. He's just

not playing up to that contract.

Brunell's numbers shouldn't be the worry. They were naturally

going to go down. As the team got better, and wasn't forced to

play from behind, the passing numbers would go down.

That was a given.

"We're not as wide open as we were last year," McCardell said.

"His numbers are down. Mine and Jimmy's [Smith] numbers are

down. That's because we're not behind as much. And we're running

the ball better."

"Look at my numbers," Brunell said. "I certainly don't have the

yards, but we're not playing catch-up like we were last year. …

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