Jacksonville Jaguars: Examining the Blake Bortles and David Carr narrative

Dec 18, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) looks up after a play during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) looks up after a play during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /
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Is there a little bit of wistfulness carrying Carr’s memory? What about a better comparison for Bortles?

"That’s not to say the end is nigh for Bortles, or that the team is absolutely crumbling. 2016 was the first year Bortles failed to lead the league in sacks, with “only” 34 sacks. Furthermore, the biggest hindrance critics pointed to in 2016, his mechanics, look better than they did going into 2016. Look carefully. You can see his arm go down as he throws. That’s improvement. Don’t give me that crap about him throwing poorly when he’s under pressure, either. If he’s about to be sacked I don’t expect him to throw well. Only Aaron Rodgers does that. As SBnation noted, The Jags “magically” got better immediately after dumping Gus Bradley. There are a lot of reasons for that, (before we go further I’d like to say that the Titans’ having a bad secondary was not the sole cause for a beatdown by the bank. We had played them earlier that season and done miserably.) but Gus Bradley being the worst coach in recent memory is certainly one of them. Here’s another SBnation article that effectively sums up what I was going to say. So in conclusion, is all lost for Bortles and the Jaguars in 2017? I don’t think so, but I do think that if he should fail to recapture the 2015 magic he had, the blame shouldn’t rest squarely on his shoulders. If David Carr is given preferential treatment in history, Bortles is due the same, regardless of outcome."

Going through the entire passing under pressure statistics may be impossible for the top-10 list that spans decades during which much of that information was not tabulated. But it is worth considering the thought that David Carr is given preferential treatment for his time with the Houston Texans while Blake Bortles – or some of the highly-sacked quarterbacks – is not during his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

In the case of the successful quarterbacks in this study, it is interesting to look at Ken O’Brien. O’Brien was not considered a successful quarterback by the original poster despite being a two-time Pro Bowler, having a long career as a competent starter, and holding his own in a 1983 draft class that is legendary for its quarterbacks. He gets written off because he isn’t Dan Marino or John Elway despite being sacked more in his first three seasons aside from Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham.

In fact, those three are contemporaries that quickly shot to the all-time in terms of being sacked and all three had solid careers. Until Jeff George, no quarterbacks in NFL history were sacked as much as those three to start their NFL careers. Moon and Cunningham were less prototypical passers but O’Brien is more written off than the other two, despite having a career passer rating better than both of them.

If anything, Carr is looked back on fondly in a similar way to Jake Plummer. Plummer hung up his cleats early despite getting to the AFC Championship the year before his retirement. There is always that question of “what could have been?” Similarly, Carr was no longer a starter by 2008 when he joined the New York Giants. 2006, his last year in Houston, he led the NFL in completion percentage (68.3), but his 6-10 record led him to Carolina and then New York. His final season in Houston left a lingering “what could have been?” for the Houston fan base.

Meanwhile, the Jacksonville Jaguars fans are in the midst of a quarterback quandary. Bortles is not necessarily terrible, but he leans more toward Tony Banks levels (Banks set a record with 21 fumbles as a rookie). Like Banks, Bortles is a prolific gunslinger who makes mistakes. Bortles fumbles often (leading the NFL since he entered in 2014) and he also throws interceptions on 2.99 percent of dropbacks compared to Banks’ 3.33 percent.

While Banks is considered a bust, he wasn’t a complete loss as a player. Bounced from the St. Louis Rams after three seasons, Banks played a total of nine years in the NFL and finished with a 35-43 record as a starter.

Next: If Bortles plays well in 2017, his contract could get interesting

On its face, the comparison of Blake Bortles and David Carr may be a bit comforting because both were in the AFC South and both have the same number of sacks. But it may be the questions of what could have been that keep Carr’s legacy intact despite his disastrous seasons as Houston’s starter. Meanwhile, some other quarterbacks thrown to the wolves in their first seasons saw much better success than Bortles has and at least one is a more apt comparison.

Ultimately, however, this is a bit of an academic exercise. Bortles’ career is not over and he is the unquestioned starter heading into 2017 for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Looking back at other careers, or comparing him to current successes, to compare Bortles is not necessarily the most fitting thing to do at this juncture. Bortles will be judged in due course, regardless of the speculation currently weighed upon him.

Note: Appreciation to /u/MisterFrear for the concept, a lot of the leg work, and making this an interesting concept to dive into. While I have found different conclusions (or just a lot ambiguity), it is fun to examine this. Keep on fighting the good fight!