ALLEN PARK – Mark Brunell was convinced his 17 years of playing experience in the NFL would help him connect with his quarterbacks, and it sure looks like he was on to something.
The Lions quarterback coach has been on the pitch in his new role for the first time in the past two weeks for organized team activities and the minicamp. Brunell has previously spoken of the most effective quarterback coaches of his playing days, saying they usually stand in the pocket for live reps before he becomes a coach.
âBut honestly, when I had a quarterback coach playing the game at a high level? It was really good for me. I can relate to that, âBrunell said previously. âThe things they were telling me resonated with me because they had stood in my place. It made sense to understand this because of their experience when they tell me about a certain situation or talk about game situations or are under pressure and everything that goes with work.
Brunell’s first practice in the NFL is interesting, without a doubt. The Lions traded Matthew Stafford to open the year, receiving Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third from Los Angeles in return. The Detroit quarterback features Goff at the top, with David Blough and Tim Boyle fighting for the reps behind him. Blough is entering his third season, Boyle signing a one-year contract after three years behind Aaron Rodgers at Green Bay.
Goff, Blough and Boyle each credited Brunell’s experience for facilitating communication and connection with their post coach. Goff said it’s been an interesting experience with so many former players as coaches, but these guys know what they’re talking about because they not only did it, but made it to a high standard.
Blough almost echoed Brunell’s comments earlier in the offseason, saying it’s a different relationship when dealing with a coach who has seen these reps live at your post.
âMark has been fantastic. He understands. He put himself in our shoes. He took the live ammunition, âBlough said. âHe was very successful. He’s had a lot of times where I’m sure he wishes it was different, and he can share those kind of experiences for Jared, for Tim, for myself where we can sit in this room and we can learn. I think some would say we’re probably a relatively young venue. We’re 26 and under, and we have a guy who’s been playing 20 years and can share these experiences where we don’t have to learn them on our own, and I think that’s going to pay us dividends in the long run. “
Blough added that it’s nice to have a coach who understands what the summer weeks between minicamp and training camp will be like. He said Brunell made sure to keep an open line for the next two weeks, helping out with the ever-evolving playbook before everyone else put their pads on.
âWhen you have this tight-knit group, guys who can lean on, build and uplift each other, help each other learn and grow, I think you can do great things together,â said Blough.
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Boyle credited Brunell for all the obvious things like his playing experience and years in the league, but pointed to his endless energy when asked about his first impression. Brunell was seen regularly in the middle of exercises, grabbing bags and ropes before starting the next session as if he was still fighting for reps.
âHe’s got so much excitement, so much love for the game, and I think it’s cool because I think he can relate to us as quarterbacks,â Boyle said. âObviously playing so many years in the league, having so much experience and success, he understands what we see there, so he’s able to talk to us in meetings and understand because he has seen everything. He’s been through it all, every game, every shot, every cover. He’s had so many reps, so he’s a wealth of knowledge for the three of us quarterbacks. But he brings the juice every day. He’s an optimist, and he loves us and he supports us, and we have his.