With the 2017 NFL Draft approaching on Thursday evening, the opinions on what the Jacksonville Jaguars should do with the No. 4 overall pick are all over the place. Some people want a running back, namely Leonard Fournette, others want a defensive lineman or even a quarterback. There are logical arguments for all of these positions being the Jaguars pick at the No. 4 overall pick, but one of the main arguments I've seen is that the current regime has to "win now", so that's how they should/will approach the No. 4 pick.
Typically, this logic is used for the reasoning to take the aforementioned Fournette with the pick, because the belief a good run game will help balance out the Jaguars offense and help them win games now. In fact, I don't even disagree with the idea that there is pressure on the new staff to win sooner than later. But, you have to actually parse the situation and look at everything.
Will Fournette help the Jaguars offense? Yes.
Will an improved offense help the Jaguars win? Yes.
Can the Jaguars win with Blake Bortles at quarterback? ...I don't know.
Again, the most common thought is that picking a running back will help take pressure off Bortles and balance out the offense. I'm not even going to argue the merits of picking a running back at No. 4 overall, the value or even scheme fit because that's not what this about. We're just going to assume, going with the popular narrative, that the team picked Leonard Fournette to help the offense and would take the pressure off Bortles.
Effectively, the team would be limiting what Bortles did to a game manager type of quarterback rather than everything being put on his shoulders. In order for this to happen however, you need almost everything to go right and you can't make mistakes. If the plan is to grind out teams with defense and a strong running game, you can't turn the ball over. We saw this a few years ago with Jack Del Rio and David Garrard. If you don't turn the ball over, pick up third downs and run the ball well you can win the close games. If you make a critical error however, it's almost impossible to recover.
As mentioned, to do this, your quarterback needs to be able to hit those deep shots when they're called, pick up efficient short passes and be efficient on third downs. They need to be able to actually manage the game, make short accurate passes, and not turn the football over.
Sounds like Blake Bortles, right?
Yeah, not at all.
So the overwhelming narrative is that head coach Doug Marrone, general manager Dave Caldwell and VP of football operations Tom Coughlin have to "win now" and there's a sense of urgency, but if you're going to try to do that by turning Blake Bortles into a game manager and needing him to suddenly be efficient at things he's been bad at through his NFL career so far, will that actually work? Aren't you just taking your quarterbacks deficiencies and exacerbating them?
You're also supposing that adding Fournette and maybe a rookie offensive lineman later in the draft is going to suddenly enable the team to run the football with minimal upgrade to their offensive line. How is that going to work? So does that mean the team couldn't run the ball mostly because Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon simply weren't good enough and the blocking was there and yards were left on the field? Or was it a combination of the offensive line not opening enough lanes and the two backs not being able to create something when nothing was there? Is Fournette going to be so transcendently good none of that matters?
Now, coupled with that if the argument is that they need to win now or their jobs could be in trouble in 2018, can you bank on a quarterback who's career record is 11-34 and has been more bad than good in his career? We can make all the excuses for Bortles we want, but the reality is at a certain point quarterback wins actually matter and it's going to take a miracle for Bortles to flip his record to even .500.
My argument here would be that, the best way for the Jaguars to "win now" isn't with a running back, but with a new quarterback, be it with the fourth overall pick, second round pick or in some kind of trade. People will try to counter that point that you can't win more than a handful of games with a rookie quarterback, but the reality is they haven't won more than a handful of games in a season with Blake Bortles. Why should there be any expectation, especially one that could cost you your job, that he suddenly can get you nine or more wins? I think it can be argued that picking and starting a rookie quarterback gives you just as much a chance to win nine or more games in 2017 than Blake Bortles does, because Bortles is a known commodity with known fatal flaws that teams clearly know how to exploit. You still get the unknown factor with a rookie and I think, with this draft, you can pick things up to help a rookie ease into the team with the defense we all expect the Jaguars to have.
If Blake fails this year, you're boned and then forced to pick a quarterback in 2018. So if you don't win in 2017 and can't win with a rookie in 2018, what happens? What if that great 2018 quarterback class doesn't actually end up great and you end up picking 12th? Do you fire everyone after 2018 because they couldn't win, or do you let them enter a lame duck year because they had a quarterback? You're going to end up getting stuck in a circle of half-measures and you're constantly chasing your tail to line everything up.
The idea that the Jaguars have to win now, so picking a running back is smart is inherently flawed because it's based on the belief that Blake Bortles will play well above his level the past three seasons and suddenly being efficient at areas of quarterbacking he's been nothing but poor at. If you have belief that Bortles will suddenly improve significantly, that's great, but it's not really based on anything but pure hope because everything we've seen from Bortles says he's still going to be bad at these things. Everyone wants to focus on his mechanics, but that's the little light hanging from the Anglerfish luring you. He's struggled reading coverages pre- and post-snap. He still makes really bad decisions with the football and he turns the ball over in the most crippling times. Not to mention that he's never really been able to lead a team back in the fourth quarter to win a game outside of when they were handed the Baltimore Ravens game a few seasons ago or the Buffalo Bills game in London, where the Bills were back in the game because of mistakes Bortles made.
Yeah, he hasn't really had a running game. Yeah, he's had offensive line issues. Yeah, the defense was bad until this past season, but how many excuses are going to get made? This reminds me of the arguments about Gus Bradley and if he should be kept in 2016, because could you ever really recover from the start he had? He didn't and they set themselves back by keeping him.
The idea of making a pick at the No. 4 spot because it helps Blake Bortles and you need to "win now" is inherently flawed, because it presupposes you can actually win with Blake Bortles. All the evidence we have so far points to the contrary.
TL;DR: The best way for the Jaguars to "win now" is to upgrade their quarterback, by whatever means they can.