Blake Bortles has raised a lot of questions since he entered the NFL.
Should he see the field as a rookie? Can he clean up his college mechanics? Can he lead a young offense? Can he cut down on the turnovers?
Bortles has also answered a lot of questions, showing that he can lead an explosive offense that is littered with other young players. He displayed the ability to improve upon his game and move on from a rookie season that was one of the poorest from a rookie quarterback in recent memory. His statistical improvement from his rookie season to his sophomore season is one of the greatest improvements at the position in a long time.
His 2015 put a lot of pessimism to rest and excited even the already optimistic. He has fewer questions going into his third season then he did the season before. There are fewer answers he needs to display for the first time. With that said, there is still one looming question that he has yet to answer, but only because he has yet to have a chance to answer it.
How will he play in meaningful games?
There was an article about Bortles at Insidethepylon.com that is worth reading, written by Justin Twell, but one of the final sentences stuck out to me more so than any of the others.
With the weapons Bortles has around him in Robinson, Hurns, Julius Thomas — and the nice one-two punch in the backfield of Yeldon and Chris Ivory — we should expect Bortles to continue his improvement in 2016.
Although a question remains: How will Bortles perform under some real pressure situations, should the Jaguars find themselves fighting for a playoff spot or even make the playoffs? A comfortable and effective offensive scheme with trustworthy players around him will give Bortles a lot of confidence to perform in those situations. However the answer is simply, only time will tell.
Anyone who is anyone in football has an opinion on Blake Bortles, be it a positive or a negative one. But no matter the opinions, nobody can say for certain how Bortles would play in games that have serious implications, such as games that have playoff spots or division championships at stake.
Nobody has the answer to this question because, at this point in his career, Bortles' most significant games have been Thursday Night Football appearances against the worst team in football the last two years: the Tennessee Titans. And those are only important because they were the teams only exposure on a national stage.
Bortles has displayed his ability to play under pressure with games on the line. He has led a game-winning drive against the New York Giants in 2014 and the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, and technically the Baltimore Ravens in 2015.
He has shown that at the end of games, when they put the ball in his hands, he can make things happen. But he also has shown this against teams that were at best mediocre and at worst the worst team in the NFL.
The overlying point here is that all NFL games a player plays in will be meaningful, but some more so than others. A game that may decide whether or not you go to the playoffs means a lot more than an end of the season Thursday Night game against the team with the worst record in the NFL.
And players are human. You can't expect them to be robots who treat every game the same. If they were, then there would not be players who seem to always struggle in the playoffs.
I don't have my doubts that Bortles will show up in big games based on what we have seen from him in the past. But until he finally does play in a meaningful game (please be in 2016, please be in 2016, please be in 2016...) nobody has the answer to that question. Maybe for the first time in Bortles' career, there is finally a question that only he can answer, with zero input from all of the outside noise.
Here's to looking forward to the day he gets to answer it.