The Jacksonville Jaguars are sitting the third overall draft pick, Blake Bortles, for one whole season behind incumbent starter Chad Henne. After a superb preseason campaign where Bortles appeared poised, confident, and in command of the offense, this decision is looking more and more like a head-scratcher.
Before the preseason we all understood and could get behind the logic: the Jaguars are going to bring along the future of the franchise slowly, not overwhelm him and get him in a good position to succeed. But after making the world turn toward Jacksonville a bit during the preseason, there is some second guessing going on – especially outside of Jacksonville. Fansided’s Bryce Olin had this to say in his piece on the best backup quarterback spots in the NFL for this season:
The fact head coach Gus Bradley is set on Henne as the starter is baffling to me. Obviously, Bortles can play, as he’s shown this preseason. If there’s any scenario in which a team should start their rookie quarterback, it’s Jacksonville! What do they have to play for other than the future?
I must admit, it’s tough not to agree with the logic. The Jaguars are only playing for the future in 2014. Bortles isn’t walking onto a playoff-caliber team in his first season, so why not see what he has? It’s not like Bortles is sitting behind a future Hall of Famer like Aaron Rodgers did behind Brett Favre.
What this ultimately comes down to is a difference in philosophy.
As Daniel Lago pointed out in his piece on the 27th, head coach Gus Bradley wants to play fast and experience is a major factor in that. Bradley’s mantra which can essentially be boiled down to “keep getting better” and “compete, compete, compete” has no room for playing for the future. It only has room for doing the best he can with what he has in the cupboard. If that means Henne can play faster than Bortles, then that’s who Bradley will go with.
The line between Henne and Bortles will likely become blurred as the season develops. As Bortles continues to emerge as more of a professional and pushes Henne in practice I think we will see more of an ability to command the offense the way Bradley wants it to be run. If Bradley feels that Bortles can “play fast” at a level that exceeds Henne, then don’t expect him to stick by his prescribed one year of sitting his franchise quarterback. But until that time, it’s all about competing in Jacksonville and and Bradley will run with the
hot experienced hand and see where it takes him.