Making sense of Blake Bortles

Despite a playoff berth, Blake Bortles may not be the solution to the Jaguars’ quarterback woes.

Patience is something the Jacksonville Jaguars have a lot of. Until this year, they hadn’t had a winning season in a decade, but with their newfound success, their patience for Blake Bortles may be running thin. Had Blake Bortles been drafted by any other team, he’d likely be an unsigned free agent sitting on his couch at home now. Instead, he plays for the Jaguars, who just found themselves in the AFC Championship game. Many teams would have given up and released him.

In his final season at the University of Central Florida, Bortles led the Knights to a Fiesta Bowl victory and a 12-1 record, losing only to Jadeveon Clowney-led South Carolina by a mere field goal. Draft experts including ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay were in awe of Bortle’s skillset and constantly compared him to Cam Newton and Ben Roethlisberger because of the rare combination of size and athleticism he possessed.

In dire need of a quarterback who could elevate the franchise, the Jaguars drafted Bortles third overall in 2014. In the first few weeks of his rookie season, he and Chad Henne took turns starting. After showing spurts of potential, Bortles emerged as the quarterback of the future, so he finished the rest of the season as a starter. To little surprise, Bortles ended the season ranked last among all starting quarterbacks in total QBR, a measure of a quarterback’s efficiency and contribution to his team.  

The Jaguars’ executives were patient with Bortles and then-head coach Gus Bradley. Between the 2014 season, when Bortles became a starter, and the conclusion of the 2016 season, the duo posted a 10-43 record with double-digit losses each season. The losses culminated in the Jaguars’ front office firing Bradley and questioning if Bortles was indeed the answer to their quarterback woes.

This year, the Jaguars hired Doug Marrone as head coach and the franchise’s fortune began to change. The addition of free agents Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye, and Barry Church gave Marrone the pieces he needed to run a stingy defense which propelled the Jags to a 10-6 regular season record and a playoff berth, despite occasional disappointment on the offensive side. In the preseason, there were rumors that Bortles would lose the starting job to Henne. Bortles started for the entire season but was not called upon to do much as the team relied heavily on running backs Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon for offensive production.

The Jaguars may have an amazing defense now, but the clock is ticking for them to capitalize on it. To complement their stingy defense, they need a capable quarterback to lead their offense now. The Jaguars’ success in the regular season helped Bortles gain the support of general manager Shad Khan, who says Bortles is the quarterback of the future. Bortles played well in the AFC Championship, completing 17 of 33 passes with 2 touchdowns and one interception, and was by no means at fault for the Jags’ narrow loss to the Patriots. But, contrary to Khan’s statement, it appears as though they are still a quarterback away from a Super Bowl appearance.

In 2017, Blake Bortles’ 60.2 percent completion rate ranks him 24th amongst all starting quarterbacks and his 84.7 quarterback rating ranks him 20th. In short, Blake Bortles’ inconsistency is a liability. The Jaguars need an accurate passer that can utilize wide receivers Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Dede Westbrook, Keylan Cole and Marqise Lee to compliment their brutal rushing attack and unrelenting defense. From USC’s Sam Darnold to Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield to North Carolina State’s Ryan Finley, there is no shortage of accurate passers in the 2018 NFL draft class that can foreseeably replace Bortles in a year or two. Nothing lasts forever, especially not great defensive units. The Jaguars’ patience may be running thin.

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