Early in Mark Brunell's playing career, the expectations for the mid-1990s Jacksonville Jaguars were exceedingly low. Coming off an expansion season in which the Jags won just four games with the first-time starting QB, no one predicted an AFC Championship run in 1996.
As he begins his pro coaching career in Detroit as quarterbacks coach, Brunell said the 2021 Lions remind him of that Jaguars team.
"Very few people gave us a chance to do anything," Brunell said Wednesday, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. "Going into 1996, the expectations were really low and so all we heard was, maybe get to .500. Maybe win five or six games. A lot of inexperience, a lot of lack of talent and this and that. We actually started out that season and the first 11 games we were 4-7 and then we turned it around. So my point in saying all that is we were a team that people didn't give much of a chance to do anything. It kind of sounds familiar, doesn't it?"
The Lions are in the middle of a rebuild that could take several years to finish. Owner Sheila Ford Hamp handing out six-year contracts to GM Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell underscored the belief that this isn't a quick rebuild.
Detroit is more likely to be closer to the 2022 No. 1 overall pick than the playoff hunt come January.
A former fifth-round pick who turned into a 19-year NFL veteran -- including 10 as a starter -- Brunell isn't worried about public perception or expectations.
"My point is, it can happen and we believe it's going to happen, and there's something about being a part of a football team where everyone outside the building tells you that you can't," Brunell said. "And the message inside the building is, 'Forget about what you're hearing or what people are saying. You have to believe that you can.' And certainly this is going to be a group that is going to believe that we can do some good things early and regardless of what's being said out there, outside of the Detroit Lions."
The Lions added a plethora of former NFL players to their coaching staff to provide substantive messages like the one Brunell is preaching. You can bet Jared Goff hears similar wisdom daily from his new QB coach. Whether it works or not is the Lions' current experiment.