Just seven games into his Redskins' tenure, the beleaguered QB heard the already-familiar boos and chants for his backup Patrick Ramsey echoing from the home crowd as his team fell to 2-5. He was sacked four times and picked off twice. The second time proved to be the last straw in the Packers' 28-14 win at FedEx Field Sunday.
With the season going nowhere and the finger of blame pointed -- probably erroneously -- at him, Brunell must be wondering where his career went wrong.
Making the day especially poignant for the ex-Packer and Jaguar was his cross-field counterpart, a friend and former teammate who is one of the few men in the league who never has to wonder "what if."
"His career has been a lot different from mine in some ways," Favre said of Brunell after the game. "He's trying to help Joe Gibbs start over here, to get them back to where they were. And it's a tough position to be in."
Brunell was drafted by the Packers in the fifth round in 1993 with a pick gained from the Buccaneers in the Vince "Pookie" Workman trade. Perhaps Ron Wolf saw the Washington Huskies' QB as an insurance policy in case the new young gun at the Packers' helm didn't pan out. Brunell served as a backup in Green Bay from 1993-94 before being traded to expansion franchise Jacksonville in 1995. Had Brunell or any of the others since waited for Favre to relinquish the starter's spot, they'd still be waiting.
Brunell's stay in Green Bay was part of a remarkable era for Green Bay's QB. He roamed the sidelines along with Ty Detmer, under the guidance of then-QBs coach Steve Mariucci. While other teams seached for an adequate field general, the Packers had an embarrassment of riches just biding their time. Around the same time as the Brunell trade, Detmer went to Philadelphia, and Mariucci assumed his first head coaching post at Cal. All three have moved on again (and again, in some cases).
The 34-year-old Brunell has fared better than most. After the trade he stayed with Jacksonville for the team's first nine seasons and led the Jags to the AFC championship game in 1996 and 1999. He holds most franchise QB records there and helped them become the first expansion team ever to finish with a .500 record in its division.
Favre said he and his former teammate enjoyed a long discussion before Sunday's game.
"We rekindled some old memories," Favre said.
After the game, the topic wasn't the past, but the future. Favre, who couldn't accept hands extended in congratulations Sunday due to his battered and bruised right hand, sought out Brunell in the post-game crowd.
"I heard the boos. I just wanted to tell him to hang in there," Favre said. "He's a strong person. I have a lot of respect for him and I just wanted him to know that."