Stop Comparing Blake Bortles to Blaine Gabbert
General manager David Caldwell and the Jacksonville Jaguars stated what fans already knew to be true when they traded away former first round pick Blaine Gabbert to the San Francisco 49ers last March – it was time to move on from the Blaine Gabbert era and start a new chapter at quarterback. Over the course of 3 seasons and 3 head coaches, the Jaguars gave Gabbert every chance to come in and show he could develop into a franchise quarterback. Not only did Gabbert fail to show any promise or development in his 27 starts, but he actually regressed and became worse until finally the Jaguars just couldn’t trot him out on the field anymore.
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While several Gabbert apologists have attempted to rationalize his historically horrific play by blaming the situation he was thrust into, there really aren’t enough excuses on the planet to explain how awful he really was during his time with the Jaguars.
Just as Jaguar fans thought they could move on from Gabbert, the national media decided to bring him up in the laziest context possible when the team drafted Blake Bortles with the 3rd overall pick. I first noticed it with Bill Barnwell over at Grantland when he was analyzing the first round of the draft.
"Bortles… looks far more like a traditional quarterback than his compatriots in this year’s Big Three… that was the defining characteristic of Jacksonville’s last failed quarterback, Mizzou product Blaine Gabbert. The 6-foot-5 Bortles has the prototypical size and arm talent you associate with classic pocket passers… The problems with Bortles, instead, lie with his rawness. He has managed to whip the ball around despite exhibiting inconsistent mechanics, which have been especially noticeable and problematic against a heavy pass rush. An NFL team sees that and imagines what he can do if he gets with a professional-caliber coach, but there are guys who just never find a way to handle the rush without having their mechanics break down. Gabbert was one of them, which is why a guy who looked like a superstar quarterback in shorts did stuff like this when teams got pressure on him. The Jaguars fired Jack del Rio and brought in a respected quarterback guru in Mike Mularkey to “fix” Gabbert, and he couldn’t do anything."
So Bortles and Gabbert are both big, strong, and white… that’s it. Yes the concerns about Bortles’ mechanics and footwork were valid heading into the draft, but his pocket presence and ability to play well in the face of a pass rush were strengths, not weaknesses of his game. That’s the biggest difference between Bortles and Gabbert – poise in the pocket. Gabbert had been playing quarterback and working on his craft since he was a kid, while Bortles played a little in high school and was recruited by more colleges as a tight end than a quarterback.
So Bortles and Gabbert are both big, strong, and white… that’s it.
They are absolutely different players and the comparison between the two is lazy if not downright ignorant.
Additionally, why on earth should this comparison even be made? Anyone associated with the selection of Blaine Gabbert in the 2011 draft is no longer with the organization. Why would a catastrophic pick made by a completely different regime at all affect the team now when the ownership, front office, coaching staff, and roster are completely different?
More recently, Greg Bedard over at MMQB talked about why it’s a good idea for all the teams to sit their rookie quarterbacks.
"The work done by the Jaguars and Bortles has been very impressive to this point. The mechanical problems he had have been cleaned up quicker than most people, including me, thought was possible. But that doesn’t mean that he should play. Playing the best guy is not always the right thing when you’re talking about the future franchise quarterback… Why put Bortles out there in that situation? What if he reverts back to all his bad habits and regresses (a likely scenario)? … This was the mistake the Jaguars made with Blaine Gabbert. He never had a chance to make needed improvements before he hit the field."
To be clear, the mistake the Jaguars made with Gabbert was selecting him at all in the first place because he is a terrible quarterback. No amount of sitting and learning was going to teach Gabbert how to stand in the pocket and throw the ball with pressure bearing down on him, or teach Gabbert to not bail the pocket when there was a clean pocket for him throw in. Gabbert was horrific by every metric, especially analytically. He is the worst quarterback ever according to Football Outsiders since they started tracking DVOA.
And why is it a likely scenario that Bortles reverts back to his old habits if he goes out there and the team struggles? Isn’t it a lot more likely he’ll revert back to his old habits if he’s sitting on the bench and not practicing his craft in live action? I get that people are reluctant to start rookie quarterbacks, but Bortles is already miles of ahead of Chad Henne as a downfield passer and as a guy who can move in the pocket and extend plays.
Let the kid play. And stop bringing up Blaine Gabbert.