Mark Brunell: As division champs, Jaguars creating buzz

Team clinched first AFC South championship in history despite loss


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars accomplished something Sunday that hasn't been done around here since 1999: they won a division title. And that's not an easy thing to do.  

A team can have a very good record and STILL not hold the division title. In 2005, the Jaguars were 12-4 and were 2nd in the division. In 2007, 11-5 and 2nd in the division once again. In the previous 22 seasons, the Jaguars have won only two division titles. I hope fans understand just how special this football team is. And to win the division after a 3-13 2016 season is remarkable.  

Something else that's been remarkable is what's happening in our community. There is once again a buzz around town. People are excited. Everyone is talking about the Jags again. And over and over again, I get the same question: What happened to Blake Bortles? I get asked in the grocery store. I get asked at the post office, at the gym, and just about everywhere I go.  And it's a tough question to answer. Really the only person that has the answer is Blake himself. But SOMETHING has changed. He without a doubt is a different quarterback. So how do you explain the turnaround? 

I believe that most quarterbacks, if given the opportunity, eventually figure it out.  For certain guys it comes quick. It came quick for Peyton Manning. It came quick for Tom Brady. For most, it takes 3-4 years. It took Brett Favre a few years. Drew Brees didn't start being Drew Brees until year four. The problem is that many quarterbacks aren't given the opportunity. There isn't a lot of patience given to young quarterbacks. 

First-round QBs are thrown into the fire in their first season and expected to develop overnight. It doesn't work that way. Young QBs need time to develop. They need to be coached well and surrounded by good players.  And this is where we are with Blake. Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett have done an excellent job with Blake. Blake knows and is comfortable with the system. He has a solid offensive line. He has a running game. And most important, his defense is making all the difference in the world.

I simply believe that everything has finally "clicked" for Blake. You can see it. On the field he carries himself differently. There is a poise and a confidence. Even a bad play doesn't seem to bother him.  

So what about Sunday against the 49ers? Should we be worried? I don't think we should be worried. Maybe concerned. Sometimes teams have bad days. For whatever reason it happens. Perhaps it was the traveling to the West Coast. Maybe the let down of already clinching the division. More than likely, it was facing a hot football team led by the next great young QB Jimmy Garrapolo. Who knows? The Jaguars simply had a bad day.

But getting back to our quarterback.Yes, he threw three interceptions. But did you notice how he carried himself after those bad plays? Did you see how he responded after the pick 6? Didn't bother him. I truly believe Blake is a different guy. We get to find out just how different in the playoffs. Congrats to the players and coaches for the division crown. Not easy to do!

Go Jaguars!