As the dust settles on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ third preseason game, the team is left trying to answer the same question it has had for some time: is Blake Bortles “The Man”?
Man oh man, those guys over at our friendly competitor site Big Cat Country just do not like Blake Bortles!
I mean, BB5 hasn’t “lit it up”, but I dare say he’s hardly been a bum. The problem with Bortles, as far as I can see, is that he has great upside but extreme (read: pick-six) downside, all of which leads to an average QB. It’s exciting, but it is also head-shaking and nail-biting.
Henne, on the other hand, is just average. No high highs, no low lows. Just average. That’s fine, but the quarterback basically disappears on teams with this kind of player.
But I want to wax peeved for a minute on how vicious they, in particular Ryan Day, can be towards Number 5. During Thursday’s game, Ryan specifically posted:
"10:00 PM: The decision has been made. It’s obvious. Chad Henne is the starter. Blake Bortles is going to be cut. This year is going to be an unmitigated disaster."
Now, we have our naysayers here at Black And Teal regarding the team’s starter for the past three seasons, but when you read their articles it is more “…dang, wish he was better but…”. However, it is becoming harder for me to read our competitor’s writings because they are so…apocalyptic.
Yep, I’m an optimist. Once upon a time, I believed Blaine “ex-49ers” Gabbert could turn it around while still with the team. However, he left and went on to be a semi-serviceable backup with the 49ers and is currently serving as 3rd QB for the Arizona Cardinals. He may suck as a starter, but he has been able to stay in the league for six-plus seasons. Can the same be said for Johnny Manziel, JaMarcus Russell, or any other of a long list of first-round QB picks who lasted only a few seasons in the NFL?
Now, many of you are soured on Bortles, and that’s fine, which is to say that I won’t convert you to fans in these few hundred words. But is he worse than these guys? Let’s flip the script a bit for comparison. Obviously, I’m about to reference some NFL greats.
Second Season as starter(1993): 19 TD/24 INT/60.9 Cmp (Winning season)
1998: 31/23/63.0 (11-5 season)
1999: 22/23/57.3 (8-8 season)
Don’t show these to Big Cat Country… they may call for having Favre removed from Canton.
“Well, Brett Favre had the benefit of a Hall-Of-Fame coach in Mike Holmgren and great receivers. Plus, Bortles has been in the league for four seasons. He should have it together by now,” you might be thinking.
You have a point. However, you may be missing a very critical point. The same point most people in the info-at-your-fingertips tablet/iPhone/Android generation suffers: some people just take a bit longer to master something than others. It’s just a fact. Just because the league and fans have become accustomed to superstars being put into starting roles during their rookie seasons doesn’t mean that players can only be great if they are great from the get-go.
Consider Pittsburgh Steelers great Terry Bradshaw, who only in once season broke a 60-percent completion percentage (final season-14th season) and whose first season with more TDs than INTs did not happen until 1975, when he was in his sixth season. By this point, he’d just finished the 1974 season with a Super Bowl win, despite throwing 7 TDs and 8 INTs.
“But that was a waaaaaay different era and things are different now,” you might respond.
Okay, I’m with you: keep it recent. Let’s look at Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints’ QB who is widely considered to be headed to the Hall Of Fame. Did you know that during his early years at San Diego, he wasn’t that great a QB, according to the statistics?
2002 (second season): 17 TD/16 INT/60.8 Cmp (8-8)
2003: 11/15/57.6 (4-12)
2004: 27/7/65.5 (12-4)
Look at that…in his fourth season he turned it around. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about his 2003 season:
"After a disappointing start to the 2003 season, he was replaced by Flutie, though he regained the job by the end of the season."
Or perhaps Alex Smith, quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, whose first three season with the 49ers reads as follows: 1 TD/11 INT/50.9 Cmp (4-12), 16/16/58.1 (7-9), 2/4/48.7 (IR in December). Now, he’s been in Kansas City for four seasons had has had a winning season every year under Andy Reid and has only had 7-8 interceptions while posting greater than 15 TDs each year.
“Okay, so what’s your point?”
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My point is that Bortles is still figuring it out. He’s had a Walking Hug head coach for the past three years in Gus “Care Bear Stare” Bradley and now he’s being held to account for the first time in three years. It’s messing with him, and it shows on the field. However, tonight’s game shows that he is still the better option for the Jacksonville Jaguars at quarterback.
He’s had turnover at QB coach, at Offensive Coordinator, and now at Head Coach. Are we so neurotic as a fanbase and as a culture that we simply cannot allow Bortles to grow into the QB he has the tools to become?
Why do we have to run him out of town?
Look at Thursday’s stats.
Bortles: 1 TD/1 INT/75 Cmp.
Henne: 0 TD/ 0 INT/ 57 Cmp.
Are you kidding me? Cut Bortles and start Henne?
I think you need your head examined. Last season, the Cowboys knew well enough to keep Romo as backup while Dak Prescott lit up the league as a rookie. And no amount of swooning by Ryan Day or any of the fans is going to magically make Jaguars’ 3rd QB Brandon Allen better than Bortles. Not even as a backup.
“But Bortles played against a bunch of second-stringers!”
Fair enough, but that means that Bortles is better than second string but not elite as a first stringer.
So what? We already knew that.
You want to flush the season away just because you have no mercy on Bortles to overcome some admittedly trying circumstances, such as having Greg “Oley Oley Oley Says I’m Free” Olsen as coordinator for a season and a half, and having to change coordinators every season. That’s unrealistic. Name a QB you think will have an easy time overcoming that.
Maybe Blake needs to sit a few games, and be given a chance to regroup. This has happened to many future HOF QBs, including both Brees and Bradshaw. But is he that far gone in the fan’s eyes that he should be released only to find success as a solid and maybe elite starter for some other team, a la Brees, Favre and Smith?
Let’s get our fan heads together and look at this more reasonably. Let’s do better than those who simply don’t like Blake just because he’s not a superhero who can be ‘elite’ no matter what happens around him.
Special note to Blake, if you’re reading:
Dude, settle down. Take a deep breath. You can do this, you know it. Take care of business, dude.