As the Jaguars head to London with a 3-4 record, Blake Bortles’ grip on the starting quarterback job is beginning to slip for really the first time in his largely uneven, mostly disappointing, sporadically good career. Midway through their most recent loss to the Texans, the Jaguars benched Bortles for Cody Kessler. Though the Jaguars gave Bortles his starting job back ahead of their Week 8 clash with the Eagles, he’ll be on a short leash.
Despite the struggles he’s experienced throughout his career, this is really the first time Bortles’ status as the Jaguars’ starter has been questioned by the team. They stood by him during the early years of his career and again in the offseason when seemingly everyone considered them contenders to sign a free-agent quarterback or target Teddy Bridgewater in the trade market.
It hasn’t proven to be a wise move. Through seven games, Bortles has remained the same underwhelming quarterback he’s always been, averaging 7.0 yards per attempt, throwing nine touchdowns and eight picks, and posting an 80.3 passer rating — thus the benching a week ago, which was entirely deserved.
Bortles might disagree. Before he got benched, in the lead up to last week’s game, Bortles told NFL.com’s Mike Silver that he considers himself the “scapegoat” of the Jaguars.
“I’m totally at peace with that,” Bortles said. “I totally understand that I’m like the scapegoat for this team. When we play good, ‘The defense played well, the running back did good, the receivers made great plays.’ And when we play bad, ‘Blake Bortles is the worst quarterback on the face of the planet.’
“And I get it. Obviously, that’s not what I would have chosen for myself. And I’m sure it’ll never stop. But I couldn’t care less. I just want to win football games with this team.”
To a slight degree, Bortles isn’t wrong. He’s the one largely being blamed for the Jaguars’ struggles in the same way that all bad quarterbacks are blamed for their team’s lack of success. Meanwhile, the once-great Jaguars defense hasn’t been able replicate their incredible performance from a year ago while Leonard Fournette is set to miss his sixth game of the season. The problem certainly includes Bortles, but it’s not limited to just him.
That being said, it’s not like the Jaguars’ defense is playing like the defense of a 3-4 team. Through seven weeks, they’re ranked second in yards allowed per game, eighth in points allowed per game, and seventh in defensive DVOA. They haven’t been nearly as good as they were a year ago, but they’re not the reason why the Jaguars suddenly stink. The Jaguars are 3-4 because their offense is scoring 16.6 points per game. And their offense is scoring 16.6 points per game in large part because they don’t have a starting-caliber quarterback.
The thing is, Bortles shouldn’t be blamed entirely for the Jaguars’ decline, because he’s only performing the way he always has throughout his career. The Jaguars’ front office is really at fault. They’re the ones who decided to maintain the status quo at quarterback even though their quarterback isn’t good enough. He’s certainly played well in stretches — like during last year’s playoffs — but he’s never sustained that elite level of play over the course of an entire season. Expecting him to suddenly morph into a different kind of quarterback is expecting the possible. By now, we all know what Bortles is. It just took the Jaguars longer than it should’ve to reach that conclusion.
Don’t blame Bortles for playing like Bortles. Blame the Jaguars for thinking that Bortles would suddenly stop playing like Bortles.
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