Quarterback is far from settled for the Jacksonville Jaguars, suggesting a need for a veteran like Colin Kaepernick.
Since the unceremonious departure of David Garrard, the Jacksonville Jaguars have been looking for an answer at quarterback. Chad Henne tried and failed to hold the position. Blaine Gabbert became a field smudge, struggling with broken confidence and an offensive line akin to Swiss cheese.
Like many of the Jaguars faithful, I was pleased with the drafting of Blake Bortles. Initially, he proved his high draft selection with solid play as a rookie, then a breakout 2015 season where he was well above the league average in both yards and touchdowns. 2016 was supposed to be another leap forward, but instead was a faceplant into fresh dung. Instead of a playoff run, the Jaguars found themselves at the bottom of the AFC South once again. While the defense was quite good the entire year, the offense was sporadic and frustrating to watch.
So where can Jacksonville go from here? It won’t be long before Bortles completes his rookie contract, and the Jaguars will be forced to deal with a conundrum: sign a below average quarterback to an extension or let him walk. It is not good form to let such a high draft pick leave, but getting into a bad contract isn’t good either. If the Jaguars are going to sign Bortles to a long-term extension, it better be because he regained his 2015 form! The best case scenario is that his career follows the same path as current Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. For cellar-dwellers like the Jaguars, that would be quite the improvement.
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Fortune, however, favors the bold. Going into the 2017 season, the Jaguars still have a lot of questions at quarterback. To help alleviate the uncertainty, Jacksonville should sign Colin Kaepernick to compete directly with Bortles for the starting position. This would, of course, leave Chad Henne as the odd man out, but such is the nature of the NFL – for every winner, there is a loser.
Why sign someone who is deemed to be controversial? For one, what Colin Kaepernick did last year is use his position and status to amplify his appeals for social justice. It is not difficult to see the inequality on a daily basis, and the fact that he stuck his neck out to support the disaffected and disillusioned is commendable.
In addition,his decision to not stand during the national anthem was blown out of proportion. It is his right to do so, and arguing that he is not supporting his country or military by kneeling is a straw man argument. To be fair, he did have a few public relations issues (the pig socks and Castro shirt, namely) but they aren’t insurmountable faux pas. His generous donations to several charities are enough to make amends, in my opinion. Overlooking talent, especially at quarterback, for minor issues like those is just another way of saying “I’m not about finding solutions to our losing woes.”
Let’s compare the two quarterbacks in 2016, shall we?
The 49ers had a better running back, while the Jaguars had far better receivers and tight ends. The offensive lines were pretty similar.
The statistics listed below were collected from pro-football-reference.com.
Kaepernick: 2241 passing yards. 16 TDs, 4 INTs. Also had 468 rushing yards and 2 TDs (12 games)
Bortles: 3905 passing yards, 23 TDs, 16 INTs. Also had 359 rushing yards and 3 TDs (16 games).
Doug Farrar of Bleacher Report broke down his overall performance in 2016 and believes he is capable. Like most quarterbacks, however, Kaepernick does have considerable room for improvement. On the negative side, Farrar wrote:
"This is not to say everything is peachy keen when watching Kaepernick’s tape. There are times when he regresses, especially on his reads and mechanics, and looks amateur. Three of his four interceptions in 2016 were his fault (the pick against the Dolphins was a drop by Torrey Smith), and there were clear field-reading and mechanical breakdowns at times."
Sooner or later, Jacksonville has to decide if they want to take a gamble to improve the team or languish in the basement of the AFC South. It goes without saying that making a move like this will lead to greater success. But it’s important to remember that Kaepernick has played well in the past. He has held his own in the Super Bowl. Why not roll the dice?
He is worth standing tall and taking a risk for the good of the franchise. He is worth kneeling around at the end of a hard practice. Jaguars, pull the trigger on this move. Make it happen.