Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles had an excellent season his second year in the NFL, shattering franchise records for both yards and touchdown passes with 4,428 passing yards and 35 touchdowns, respectively. He earned himself a place on the NFL's Top 100 players list falling in at No. 56 overall, which generated a lot of debate. The future for Bortles appears to be bright, but as always we're going to have, as Enzo Amore likes to a say, couple haters.
One of the most widely used criticisms I've seen about Blake Bortles is that a lot of his stats came in "garbage time", which is something I vehemently disagree with, and I feel the stats back me up on. One of those people is Jaguars fan favorite, CBS's Jason La Canfora. Here's a blurb he had about Bortles on his ranking of NFL quarterbacks, of which he placed Bortles in the "Guys that can be winning quarterbacks" which was right under the "The Rising Stars" category.
I am not on his hype train like some others -- ahem, Pete Prisco. A lot of his stats are padded by garbage time in the second half of games the Jags were already going to lose. He has a ton going for him, but with a renewed roster I need to see more consistency and fewer mistakes. He has led NFL in picks the past two years despite being loaded with red-zone weapons.
Before we dissect this blurb from La Canfora, I think we need to define what "garbage time" in the NFL is. For me, garbage time is when you're down 14+ and have no chance of winning the game. Now, just being down 14+ in the first or second quarter, or even at halftime doesn't necessarily constitute "garbage time", but let's just pretend that's what people are speaking of when they label Bortles' stats that.
Well, when you look at the splits for Bortles numbers in 2015, his garbage time stats aren't even that big. In 2015 while the Jaguars were behind by between 9-16 points (so, two scores) he threw for just over 1,000 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. When the Jaguars were losing within one-to-eight points (so, one score) he threw for just over 1,500 yards with 13 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Bortles only threw 11 total touchdowns when trailing with four minutes or less remaining in the game, while losing, as well.
To say most of his stats were "garbage time" tells me one of two things. It tells me that you either didn't actually watch the film/games and you just saw the team went 5-11 and assumed they were playing catch up every game, or you have a ridiculously broad definition of what "garbage time" is. Twenty-two of Bortles 35 touchdowns were thrown in games where the margin of victory was between zero and seven points with only five being thrown in games where the margin was 15+ points. Even if you include games that ended with a margin of victory between eight and 14 points, the grand total is only 13, which again is roughly one third of his total touchdown passes.
A more apt criticism of Bortles numbers is to say they were inflated because the team was playing from behind quite a bit and because they were ineffective running the ball in the redzone, both of which are true. Bortles threw 25 touchdowns in the redzone last year, which I expect to decline this year. I don't expect Bortles numbers to be the same in 2016 as they were last year because I think the team will be more balanced.
As I've argued before I feel like the Jaguars choked away games last year and should have finished in the 7-9 to 8-8 range. Do you think if they ended up at 7-9 last year so many people would call Bortles' numbers garbage time? I don't think so. No one calls Derek Carr's numbers garbage time, but nearly half of his touchdowns were thrown in games where the final margin of victory was 8+ points. I don't think Carr's numbers were garbage time either, for the same reasons I don't think Bortles are.
The other odd criticism La Canfora has, or at least misguided I should say, is the quip about Bortles turnovers in relation to his redzone targets. Being "loaded with redzone targets" has literally nothing to do with Bortles interception issues, because he only threw two interceptions in the redzone. The vast majority of his interceptions came in the Jaguars own half, which is why they were such back breakers at times.
TL;DR: There's plenty to criticize Blake Bortles about with his 2015 season, but calling his stats "garbage time" and intimating he has interception issues in the redzone aren't really valid ones.