JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell is one of the most beloved players in franchise history, but he riled up some fans during a Tuesday morning appearance on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike show with comments about the team moving to London.
"You know, it wouldn’t surprise me," Brunell said when Mike Golic asked him if he thought the Jaguars topped the list of franchises that could move to Los Angeles or London. "I hate to say it, but we’ve got an owner in Shad Khan that’s bought the soccer team over there and all indications are that we’re headed that way. It’s not good for Jacksonville. You don’t hear a lot of that talk in Jacksonville right now but everywhere else, someone mentioned it the other day it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars of London. I want them to stay. That’s my home. I love the franchise. I love the organization, but it wouldn’t surprise anybody if in a few years it happened."
Those comments stirred up fans on Twitter, so much so that Brunell, who was recently hired by ESPN as an NFL analyst, posted a response shortly after 3 p.m. EST.
Heard from a lot of Jag fans about my comments on Mike and Mike. Please know that NOBODY wants the Jags to stay in Jax more than me.
— Mark Brunell (@M_Brunell8) October 29, 2013
Brunell -- who is paid by the Jaguars to do a weekly radio show and as a color commentator on preseason TV broadcasts -- is right about one thing, though: There isn’t much talk around Jacksonville of the Jaguars heading to London. That’s because of the significant investments that Khan has already made in the facilities and has pledged to make to the stadium.
Khan spent $11 million on improvements to the weight room, locker room, and training facility and earlier this month the team announced Khan is contributing $20 million toward $63 million in stadium improvements, that include two new video scoreboards and an interactive area inside the stadium that will include a pool. That brings Khan’s total investment since he purchased the team to $31 million.
That’s a significant amount of money for someone to sink into facilities and a stadium, and it seems unlikely that Khan -- whose net worth as of September 2013 is $3.8 billion, according to Forbes -- would invest that much only to move the team.
Khan did purchase the Fulham Football Club of the English Premier League in July and is using each franchise to help cross-promote the other, especially with the Jaguars being committed to playing one game in London’s Wembley Stadium in each of the next three seasons.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said last week that he wants to put franchises in Los Angeles and London and said he doesn’t care which happens first. However, Los Angeles still doesn’t have a stadium or ownership group in place and there are significant financial issues to work out for a London franchise, including tax implications for players, and numerous players around the NFL have gone on record saying they wouldn’t play for a team in London.
That means either city getting a team in the near future appears highly unlikely.
It also means Brunell may not get as warm a reception as he deserves when he is inducted into the Pride of the Jaguars at halftime of the Dec. 15 home game against Buffalo.
Brunell played nine years in Jacksonville (1995-2003) and still owns or shares 23 franchise passing records, including career passing yards (25,698), single-season passing yards (4,367 in 1996), single-game passing yards (432 vs. New England in 1996), touchdown passes (144), and 300-yard passing games (six).
He led the NFL in passing in 1996 and helped guide the Jaguars to an improbable playoff run to the AFC Championship Game in just the franchise’s second season. Brunell led the Jaguars to a franchise-best 14-2 regular season and another appearance in the AFC title game in 1999. He is a three-time Pro Bowler and was the game’s MVP in 1997.
"I was very fortunate," Brunell said when his induction was announced. "I’m a firm believer that to do well as a quarterback in the NFL you’ve got to have good people around you. From the first day that I stepped foot in Jacksonville, I was very thankful that I had very good people around me, starting with the head coach in Tom Coughlin, a great coaching staff, and like I said great teammates like Tony [Boselli], Fred [Taylor] and the list goes on and on."