A year ago, my friend Rick Ballou made a bold statement. The sports talk show host of Midday Chalk on 1010XL AM and 92.5 FM said Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles could be a top 10 quarterback if he improved his decision making and reduced his interceptions. The statement was made after Bortles had the greatest season a Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback had ever experienced. After 4,400 yards and 35 touchdowns, it looked like Bortles was well on his way toward stardom.
The 2016 season told everyone, including Ballou and myself a different story.
Bortles threw two less interceptions (18 to 16) but his decision making was suspect and of course, he threw too many pick-6s. While other quarterbacks like Bret Favre, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers may be able to get away with such an error. They have a pedigree of success. Bortles is still the neophyte learning to swim in the deep end of the pool.
Now, armed with a guarantee if he plays well in 2017 he will be around for the foreseeable future in North Florida, it looks like the puzzle pieces may start to fit into place for Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars. If Bortles is to make the “turn” for home, he will have to again cut down on his errors, but other things have to happen.
“With the arrival of Tom Coughlin in the front office and a new head coach and Doug Marrone, the clock is seemingly ticking for Bortles. If he doesn’t take a step forward in the 2017 season, he’s going to be searching for a job outside of Jacksonville. And to be clear, it’s going to need to be a massive step given the 2018 quarterback class knocking on the league’s door,” said Cody Williams of foxsports.com.
“Thus, the addition of Fournette and even [Cam] Robinson has to be done with the notion of giving Bortles the best chance to succeed. Since coming into the league in 2014, Bortles has never had an effective or consistent running game. By all accounts, the two incoming rookies will help to provide that. Therefore, Bortles can work in play-action and against less dropped-back defenses able to sell out against the pass.”
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ running game has been little more than a slight job the past few seasons. Everything has fallen on Bortles’ arm. If Bortles throws for 23 touchdowns this coming season, but only tosses 12 interceptions and Fournette breaks free for 1,200 yards on the ground and 10 touchdowns, then the less is more theory has been proven.
“In that way, the arrival of Fournette is indeed going to help Bortles. He’s going to take defensive focus off of the quarterback, which will afford the quarterback every opportunity to succeed — especially with weapons like Allen Robinson on the outside,” Williams added.
Because of Bortles’ decision making and lack of a running game, Robinson and Allen Hurns (although injured) had poor seasons in 2016.
The running game directly correlates to offensive success. Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl in Indianapolis with Joseph Addai in the backfield. Brett Favre only won one Super Bowl because he could not carry the team on his back. John Elway didn’t win NFL titles until Terrell Davis joined him in the backfield.
Dan Marino never had a solid running game, thus no Super Bowl title added to his resume.
There is still time for Bortles to turn this around. The running game should still be better. The offensive game plan should play to his strengths. Jacksonville Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone knows what he has with his signal caller. Now, it’s time for the running game to help make Bortles the quarterback he can be.
If it fails, the Jacksonville Jaguars fail. And in the end, the plan to make him a top 10 quarterback fails as well.