The Jacksonville Jaguars have said since January, prior to selecting Blake Bortles with the No. 3 overall pick, that whatever quarterback they drafted would sit until they were ready. This has been restated multiple times over by Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley.
But what does that actually mean? For some it appears to mean that he'll sit the entirety of the 2014 NFL season.
ESPN's @caplannfl on #Jaguars: "They're gonna stick to their game plan. Chad Henne is the starter. Blake Bortles sits all year."— Evan Silva (@evansilva) August 4, 2014
This isn't necessarily to slam Adam Caplan, who was in attendance for Jaguars practices last week, or anyone else who thinks Bortles will sit the entire season. But more pondering on what him being "ready" actually means. I'll go ahead and say however: Bortles sitting the entire season at this point seems silly.
It's even more so silly to think that the Jaguars have already made up their mind on how long exactly he'll sit, considering the team hasn't even played a preseason game yet.
There are a few tells, at least in my opinion, that lean towards Bortles playing at some point in 2014. First of all, at this point, I don't think Bortles will be the opening day starter, because we have yet to see enough to make a determination either way. Though, from the practices, from my observations and from people I've talked to who were at the scrimmage (and sober) on Saturday evening, the gap between Bortles and Henne doesn't appear to be very big, if at all.
Why Bortles is likely to play in 2014
The Jaguars currently have Bortles listed as the No. 2 quarterback on their depth chart and Dave Caldwell has stated that Bortles will be the the least the No. 2 quarterback during the regular season, which means he's going to be active on game day. This means the team is at the very least comfortable with trotting him out on the field if something happens to Chad Henne, who's the incumbent starter. If the Jaguars weren't comfortable with that, they'd make him the No. 3 quarterback and would keep him inactive on game day so there would not be a situation to throw him in there too early.
A lot of people talk about Bortles sitting and learning, like some other quarterbacks. Most notably the references are Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers, both of which sat for a season plus before taking over as a starting quarterback. Both of those players were inactive nearly their entire rookie and sophomore seasons however, partly because both teams had capable incumbent starters in Brett Favre and a coming-into-his-own Drew Brees. Another recent player who sat for a season is Carson Palmer, who also was inactive for the entire season.
That's not going to happen with Bortles. He'll be active. If the Jaguars truly planned to sit Bortles the full year as some have either suggested or misinterpreted, the team would very likely keep him as the No. 3 quarterback and he'd be inactive on game day. The team has already stated that's not the case.
The team has also left themselves a gray area to play with on how long Bortles will sit, if he sits at all. When asked, both Bradley and Caldwell have consistently said when he's "ready", which in reality could mean tomorrow or a year from now. It means whatever they want and that's by design. For one, the team doesn't want Bortles to worry about having to "win" or "prove" he's the starting quarterback. He's just got to go out there and improve each day, which he has been doing and doing at a noticeable rate.
At some point, very likely this season, Bortles is going to get to the point where the Jaguars have no choice but to get him on the football field where his real learning can begin.
Why Bortles could sit for part of 2014
People love to talk about quarterbacks "learning" on the bench. Sitting there, holding a clipboard, charting a game, and listening to the offensive coordinator call the game and how the starter reacts and reads what's going on with the various plays is great. You can learn some things. But ultimately, it has a low boiling point. There's only so much you can learn by not sitting in the drivers seat in NFL football and there's only so many things you can by actually playing in games.
It should not take long for Bortles to equal and/or surpass Chad Henne as far as his ability on the field. Henne is who he is, and he's always going to be who he is. That's not necessarily a dig at Henne, just more stating the situation. The thing is, I don't believe Bortles is necessarily competing one-for-one with Henne. At this point, I think they're pretty even as far as what the offense can do with either one under center, but there's more to it than that.
This is where Bortles sitting makes sense, at least for a little while.
When asked how he would know when Bortles was "ready" recently, Caldwell told 1010XL's Jessica Blaylock that he'd know. The coaching staff would know. It's just something that you'd know.
When you decide to go with Blake Bortles, the decision is permanent. Once he's on the field, he's your guy for the remainder of the season unless things just go completely off the rails. In order for him to be "ready", he not only has to be showing it on the field, but the other players in the locker room have to know as well, and they will. They'll know when Bortles is ready and more so than his actual performance, will be when the staff will know he's ready. Once he's won over the players, all bets are off.
You also have to consider the uncertainty on the Jaguars offense, as well. The team is starting a new left guard, center, and right guard, and for all intents and purposes a new left tackle. That unit, which at this point isn't fully decided, will have to gel and work through things. This could simply take until the end of the preseason or it could take until the bye week. While there is never a realistic "ideal" situation to start a rookie quarterback, there are bad situations.
If the Jaguars interior offensive line remains unsettled and a liability, it wouldn't necessarily be in the Jaguars best interest to throw a rookie out to the wolves. I will admit, however, I am in the camp of throwing a guy to the wolves. If he's good, he'll survive. From what I've watched of Bortles, I think he'd survive. But it still would behoove the Jaguars to figure out that interior line situation before fully committing to a rookie quarterback.
With the preseason just days away from starting, which means Bortles and Henne in live action and the inevitable head-on comparison, the debate for who should start at quarterback will flare up. I'm in the team who thinks that if Bortles is better than Henne on the field, he should start. There are some who would push against that in fear of "breaking" him, but at some point he's got to play and he's got to learn.
So, how long will the Jaguars actually sit Blake Bortles?
Until he's ready.
I think he'll play a significant portion, but he's not likely to start for the entire 2014 season.