If so, Brunell may turn out to be a doozy. Trailing the Bengals 20-19 late in the third quarter, he was flushed out of the pocket and all the way to the left sideline. Instead of hightailing it out-of-bounds, he slipped between three charging Cincinnati linemen as if he were executing a square dance move and launched a rocket to wideout Keenan McCardell, who tightroped down the chalk line for a 48-yard TD.
Brunell then took a two-step drop and fired the conversion to Willie Jackson to make it 27-20. And on Jacksonville's final drive, Brunell connected with wideout Jimmy Smith on a 41-yard crossing route (the ball bounced off Bengals cornerback Jimmy Spencer and right back to Smith) to set up Mike Hollis's franchise-record fifth field goal, which made the score 30-20 with 2:04 left.
"With our passing game we can run the table in the rest of our games," said McCardell, looking ahead to the Jaguars' last three opponents: Houston, Seattle and Atlanta. "You never know. That crystal ball might come up at the end of the season and say, 'Jaguars in the playoffs.' "
That would sweeten the pot only further for Brunell. The league's second-lowest-paid starting quarterback in 1995, he's making a base salary of $800,000 this fall (which might explain the second job as a pitchman) but will be a free agent after the '97 season. This is one mass marketer, however, who will probably not be allowed to auction his arm on the open market. A clause in Brunell's contract specifies that he must discuss a new salary with the Jaguars this off-season, and Jacksonville will most likely sign him to a blockbuster deal.
And, says Rison, if Jets quarterback Neil O'Donnell is worth $25 million in today's market, then "Mark will be worth 50."