Blake Bortles has forever been a polarizing figure for the Jaguars. From 2015, where there was a debate over how much the numbers he put up actually mattered. To this very moment, where pundits are debating whether or not Bortles can go into New England and beat the defending Super Bowl Champions.
Just last week, many others, including myself, pondered whether or not the game against the Bills showed exactly why the Jaguars need to upgrade from Bortles. Then, Sunday happened. The offense put up 38 of the 45 points, and it was Bortles who stepped up in the end, and went blow-for-blow with future Hall of Famer Ben Reothlisberger.
Bortles had a period in the 2nd half where everything looked to be falling apart. His receivers weren’t doing him any favors, but his passes were wobbly, and behind targets. Then on 3rd and 8, right around midfield for the Jaguars, Bortles hit Marqise Lee on an in route, and converted a crucial first play. On the ensuing play, Bortles stepepd up in the pocket and hit Keelan Cole on a 45-yard strike down the field, all of sudden, the Jaguars had the control back in their favor.
Bortles was calm and collective late in the game. Add in the great check-down to T.J. Yeldon which was taken 40-yards, and Bortles decision making was on point.
I know most people don’t want to focus on the off-season at all right now, but it is impossible to hide the speculation when it has been a running story-line throughout the whole season. Hell, i can’t think of a day i didn’t think of a possible scenario for the Jaguars to have a different quarterback next year. Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith, Eli Manning, the list goes on and on.
The truth is, no matter whether we agree with it or not, i think the win on Sunday confirmed that Bortles will be back next year as the starter. This seems odd, when just last week many were calling for his head, right? However, we do this weird thing with Bortles where after every game, we evaluate him as a quarterback with how he has just played. When in all honesty, we should take a birds eye view to Bortles season, or any quarterback’s in general.
In reality, Bortles numbers have not changed much, he just has been limited more in this offense. His interception percentage is at 2.5, just .1 down from last years 2.6 percentage. Now, his percentage has gone down since his rookie year, where he posted a 3.7 interception percentage, so he has gotten better in that aspect.
Whatever you choose to look at, whether it be his completion percentage (60), hie quarterback rating (84.7), QBR (55.5), touchdown percentage (4.0 percent), his numbers are league average, or hovering around there.
The real problem with Bortles is he rarely plays down the middle in a singular game. If you look at his game logs this year, and throughout his career, he has a lot of stinkers, and a lot of really good performances, not much in between. That is what makes him so maddening.
To me, this team, including this year, has 3 excellent chances to compete for a Super Bowl. With almost all of the key pieces on defense locked up through 2019, this team has a real window, it what i think is a weak AFC. How the Jaguars approach their whole roster build will be essential.
The quarterback position should be evaluated in a vacuum, no differently then other positions. If the team has a chance to improve, they look for that improvement. A team shouldn’t be afraid to move one, and try someone different. However, we have developed a different way we approach quarterbacks than every other position.
Organizations, management, coaches, approach the quarterback position in a cautious matter. There is a gut feeling approach it, and comfortably factor with it. Even in this draft, we will have the battle of the “Spread’ quarterback in Baker Mayfield, vs. the “Prototypical” quarterback in Josh Allen. No matter what me and you think, there will be many who prefer Allen over Mayfield, because he fits what they think a quarterback should be.
When a team drafts their guy, it is hard to move on from said guy. They will point out the potential they still have, make up excuses. There is so much pride in this industry, and proving one’s self to be right is something many executives and coaches strive to do everyday.
To me, sticking with Bortles to begin the season was partly because of pride. Dave Caldwell has rose colored glasses of Bortles, because he took him number 3 overall. Now, did it work out? It sure did, the Jaguars are about to play in the AFC Championship game. There is no doubt, that Caldwell feels a sense of “I told you so” with how this season has turned out.
We will have all off-season to talk about the Jaguars personal decisions. The truth is, if they win the Super Bowl, as opposed to losing this weekend, could change how they approach it. To me though, Bortles has secured his spot on this team next year. Even barring a complete stinker this Sunday, Bortles has enough people in their building that believe in him, and enough of his own teammates who have his back 100 percent.
Remember when we were debating in May whether or not giving Bortles his 5th year option was smart? Well, it looks determined he will play under it.
Oh, and if the Jaguars win the Super Bowl, i don’t think any of us will care.