If you haven't heard the news, the Jacksonville Jaguars decided to pick up the fifth-year option for quarterback Blake Bortles. The move was a surprise to nearly everyone who covers the Jaguars on a daily basis. The expectation was that the Jaguars would ride out the 2017 season with Bortles and if he was good, stick him with the franchise tag and go from there. That's off the table now that the team picked up the option.
Now, first we'll get out of the way the option versus the franchise tag. Yes, the option saves the Jaguars roughly five million in guaranteed money compared to the franchise tag and lets you use the tag on someone else, but the reality is the team doesn't really have anyone else worth spending the franchise tag on. I don't think you're going to tag Telvin Smith, Allen Robinson or Brandon Linder. Logically, the point is sound and I won't argue that, I just don't believe that it's on the table there. Even after the option is picked up, I don't think it happens for anyone on the team.
The biggest thing with the Bortles option is that it means the team has no backup plan whatsoever. It's Bortles or nothing. All that talk late last season and the offseason about bringing in competition in some form, was total bullshit. The team showed absolutely no interest an any veteran quarterbacks. The team didn't draft a quarterback in any round or sign any undrafted free agents for even a camp arm and then picked up the fifth year option.
Media asked both general Dave Caldwell and VP of football operations Tom Coughlin about Blake Bortles all offseason, and they were mum. They didn't want to talk about it. In fact, Coughlin refused to talk about Bortles two days ago during the draft. No vote of confidence for Bortles. No indication they'd be interested in adding a quarterback at all. Then they pick up the option.
It's clear now, the plan the whole time was to pick up the option, so why wait? What was gained? Why didn't you do this months ago?
Sure, some will argue it was to make other teams guess about the Jaguars drafting a quarterback, but you can pick up the option and still put that thought out there. The option is only guaranteed for injury or if Bortles is on the roster for 2018, so in no way would it prevent a team from drafting a quarterback early. You could have had the same song and dance with the reported interest in now Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and nothing would have changed.
The team has been bad at optics and presenting situations the last few seasons, and I'm not sure why.
Remember when the team announced Gus Bradley was safe as the head coach before the final game during the 2015 season, then they got their faces pushed in against the Houston Texans? Not only that, but they were laughed at by the Texans coaching staff during the offseason in a feature in Sports Illustrated.
Announcing Bradley was safe wasn't really a huge issue, it was the timing of it. It came after back-to-back losses and was succeeded by a blowout loss where it appeared like the team completely mailed it in because the game didn't matter. Well, they were 5-10 so it didn't really matter anyway, but it appeared like it really didn't matter to anyone. It was just a bad look. A few weeks later, Bradley signed a one-year contract extension and promoted Todd Wash to defensive coordinator after Wash sat in on interviews with every other candidate. Again, bad optics. If it was Wash the whole time, which it clearly was, just hire him.
Fast forward to the end of the 2016 season and the Jaguars ended up firing Gus Bradley have a 2-12 start to the season. It felt like the team should have fired Bradley a lot sooner and could have left some wins on the table, but for whatever reason they decided to wait it out. After the firing, Caldwell admitted the they had decided they were going to fire Bradley after the team lost to the Minnesota Vikings but wanted to wait. It only took a week and another fourth quarter collapse for Caldwell and owner Shad Khan to change their mind, firing Bradley after their 21-20 loss to the Houston Texans.
During the team's head coaching search, there was radio silence on who the team was interested in. Literally every other team looking for a new head coach that offseason publicly communicated who they interviewed for the job and when the interviews completed, except for the Jaguars. They would not confirm interviews or visits. Nothing. It ended up leaking out that the team would stick with interim head coach Doug Marrone, which initially was met with a lot of push back from fans because it was "keeping everything the same". Not long after it was reported the Jaguars would also be bringing on former head coach Tom Coughlin in an executive role, which people were happy about. The Jaguars could have gotten ahead of this and announced them in reverse order, which would have quelled a lot of the push back, but instead it came out the opposite and appeared disorganized.
After the hire, the message from the team was that everything was Gus Bradley's fault. They didn't explicitly state that, but it was painfully obvious by their actions then, and their actions now, that they laid everything at Bradley's feet. Picking up the Bortles option and bringing in absolutely no one at the position furthers that they're blaming everything on Gus Bradley.
The narrative of bringing in competition for Bortles was talked up locally, heavily (though I tried to warn people the only way to do it was with a trade or to draft a guy), and not a single body was signed at the position. The team re-signed veteran quarterback Chad Henne to be the backup and still have last year's late round pick Brandon Allen, but it's status quo.
It's clear the team is going "all in" with Blake Bortles in 2017, which I think was pretty obvious from the get-go, but they didn't control the narrative, again. Picking up the option now, after there were reports Coughlin wasn't a fan of Bortles (which was reported even before his was hired), the team essentially to refuse to speak about him in any offseason press conference other than the bare minimum, seems puzzling. The logic behind doing so is fine, I understand the financial argument of it, but what message is it sending?
You're all in on Bortles and it was all Gus Bradley's fault.
This mentality is fine, I guess, but the perception the entire offseason was that the team didn't have confidence in Bortles and they could pick someone in the 2017 NFL Draft. There were too many reports, too much smoke about quarterbacks in the draft, and the team wouldn't even talk about him or the fifth year option when asked about it.
I feel like this is getting cluttered and rant-y, but just from a perspective of the public message, it's cluttered and confusing.
What a weird team.