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Blake Bortles versus Cody Kessler 2018 statistical quarterback review

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NFL: New York Jets at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that quarterback play was abysmal for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018, and the team is almost certain to make a change at the position this offseason. Both Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler spent time as the starter, and both had poor campaigns for the Jags, as well as a lack of weapons and a depleted offensive line. Remember, this was a unit that only mustered two offensive touchdowns in the last five games of the season.

But what does it look like when we compare the two quarterbacks’ statistics side by side? Let’s take a look.

Raw/High-level stats:

Bortles: 13 games (12 starts), 3-9 record, 243-403 (60.3 completion percentage), 2,718 yards, 13 touchdowns, 11 interceptions (2.7 interception percentage), 6.7 yards per attempt, 209.1 yards per game, 79.8 rating

Kessler: 5 games (4 starts), 2-2 record, 85-131 (64.9 completion percentage), 709 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions (1.5 interception percentage), 5.4 yards per attempt, 141.8 yards per game, 77.4 rating

Thoughts: Just taking a quick look at the high-level stats, it’s obvious that Bortles would have higher quantatative numbers because he played in more games. However, Bortles actually has much higher averages in yards per game and yards per attempt as well. He also has a slightly higher quarterback rating. Kessler had the much higher completion percentage (but also took way less deep chances — which we’ll get to momentarily), better winning percentage and lower interception percentage.


But what does it look like when we take a look at some more advanced metrics using Sharp Football Stats and Football Outsiders? Time to explore.

Directional Passing:

  • When passing the ball 0-14 yards to the left side of the field:

Bortles: 60-96 (62.5 percent), 557 yards, 2 TDs, 1 Int, 81 passer rating

Kessler: 25-31 (80.6 percent), 205 yards, 0 TDs, 0 Ints, 94 passer rating

  • When passing the ball 0-14 yards to the middle of the field:

Bortles: 70-112 (62.5 percent), 705 yards, 3 TDs, 3 Ints, 78 passer rating

Kessler: 12-19 (63.2 percent), 130 yards, 0 TDs, 1 Int, 61 passer rating

  • When passing the ball 0-14 yards to the right side of the field:

Bortles: 90-132 (68.2 percent), 778 yards, 4 TDs, 1 Int, 90 passer rating

Kessler: 43-57 (75.4 percent), 272 yards, 2 TDs, 0 Int, 91 passer rating

  • When passing the ball 15 or more yards to the left side of the field:

Bortles: 11-24 (45.8 percent), 282 yards, 1 TD 3 Ints, 64 passer rating

Kessler: 2-10 (20 percent), 58 yards, 0 TDs, 0 Ints, 51 passer rating

  • When passing the ball 15 or more yards to the middle of the field:

Bortles: 3-10 (30 percent), 67 yards, 0 TDs, 2 Ints, 15 passer rating

Kessler: 1-1 (100 percent), 21 yards, 0 TDs, 0 Ints, 119 passer rating

  • When passing the ball 15 or more yards to the right of the field:

Bortles: 9-27 (33.3 percent), 322 yards, 3 TDs, 1 Int, 101 passer rating

Kessler: 1-4 (25 percent), 17 yards, 0 TDs, 1 Int, 5 passer rating


Red Zone Passing:

Bortles: 17-39 (43.6 percent), 106 yards, 7 TDs, 2 Ints

Kessler: 6-13 (46.1 percent), 41 yards, 2 TDs, 0 Ints,


Successful Play Rate (Sharp football stats defines a play as successful “when a play gains at least 40 percent of yards-to-go on first down, 60 percent of yards-to-go on second down and 100% of yards-to-go on third or fourth down.”)

Bortles: 44 percent success

Kessler: 41 percent success


Football Outsiders Metrics:

DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement)

Bortles: -220 (32nd in NFL)

Kessler: -457 (worse number than Bortles, but doesn’t have enough attempts to qualify for a ranking)

DVOA (Defense Adjusted value over average)

Bortles: -18.9 percent (31st in NFL)

Kessler: -59.6 percent (worse number than Bortles, but doesn’t have enough attempts to qualify for a ranking)

*Note: DYAR means a quarterback with more total value, while DYAR means more value per play

Total QBR:

Bortles: 45.7 (32nd in NFL)

Kessler: 27.4 (worse number than Bortles, but doesn’t have enough attempts to qualify for a ranking)


What does it all mean?

Well, quite frankly, that both quarterbacks were confirmed bad in 2018. Football Outsiders has Bortles ranked close to dead last in all categories, yet highly favors his metrics over Kessler who didn’t qualify for ranking in the categories.

Sharp Football Stats confirms what we already knew — Kessler works almost exclusively in the short passing game, and only attempted 15 total passes of more than 15 yards. He was highly effective in the short passing game to the right side of the field. Bortles, meanwhile, did most of his damage in the short right side of the field, but also found some success in the short left and deep right areas. Bortles really struggled when passing to the deep left or deep middle.

Basically, Bortles and Kessler proved they are not NFL starting-caliber signal callers, and along with failing the eye test, these advanced metrics make it clear. The Jaguars have to make a move at the position — or a couple of moves — via free agency, draft and/or trade if the team plans on competing in 2019.