Jacksonville Jaguars players named quarterback Blake Bortles one of the team captains this week. It is a bigger deal than some football fans may think.
This time last season, part of the buzz around the Jacksonville Jaguars was that quarterback Blake Bortles wasn’t named one of the team captains for the 2017 season. Although it wasn’t covered as greatly as some of the other stories surrounding the team, there as an underlying message the team sent in not naming the starter one of their leaders.
It’s something Bortles, who now enters his fifth season in the league, had to earn. Apparently, the former first-round draft pick has done just that, being named one of the team captains for the 2018 season as head coach Doug Marrone announced earlier this week.
This is just another step in the journey Bortles has traveled as one of the most maligned quarterbacks in the NFL. More members of the national media may have jumped on the bandwagon this offseason, pumped the breaks a bit on their transparent assessments of No. 5. But there is still a veiled tone that many think the Jaguars may have to win in spite of their signal caller, not because of him.
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It’s a message Bortles is aware of. It’s a constant topic of conversation this organization is all too familiar with. Marrone has seen a difference in HIS quarterback this offseason and has discussed it on many occasions with the media since OTAs began.
He mentioned how Bortles has improved in his decision making on Aug. 23 when he met with the media.
"“For a quarterback, obviously, last year was the first year in this system that we’re running. To be able to see better decision making or better command is really expected,” Marrone said. “That’s where we are. Like I said before from the beginning, we saw some growth last year and we’re looking for growth again this year out of Blake. He’s working hard to attain that. At the end of the day, really what matters is what you do on the field, what you do when you are out there on game day.”"
Had Marrone been this team’s full-time head coach two years ago, he may not have said the same thing. That’s how much improvement there has been from the quarterback position. There are still times when poor decisions are made, but the better play certainly outweighs the bad.
For the majority of last season, the locker room spent time with the local media defending “THEIR” quarterback. While national pundits, local fans and even NFL players took jabs at Bortles, he remained silent, blocking out the onslaught of attention. His teammates, especially the defensive side of the ball, were quick to stick up for him.
Linebacker Telvin Smith was doing it again earlier this week in his meeting with the media.
"As Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com wrote, “Smith was in the midst of making a point that there are numerous quarterbacks who haven’t even won a playoff game, yet alone reached a conference title game, when he stopped talking, paused for a moment, and said quietly: ‘That’s my quarterback.'”"
Hopefully, he and other players won’t have to do that too often in 2018. The honor being named a captain shows his team’s commitment to him this season. The belief that Bortles is a leader both on and off the field. That’s why he wears the “C” on his jersey this season.
That’s why he could help this team make it to the Super Bowl. Not in spite of him as many thinks, but because he has improved his play enough to take that next step in the journey. It might be enough to silence more critics in 2018.