COMMENTARY – I’m not sure whether Blake Bortles dodged a bullet, or the Jacksonville Jaguars are just biding their time until the end of the season. After three days of the NFL Draft process, Bortles’ footing is a bit firmer since the team did not draft his successor. By doing nothing, this team, mainly Executive Vice President Tom Coughlin, made its biggest statement since the former head coach rejoining the team.
In Bortles They Trust.
While watching the draft unfold, I waited just like everybody else. I was sure this team would take a signal-caller in Round Four. It never happened. Round Five – nothing. Round Seven, with two picks, they stood pat. It’s either an indictment on the fact this team didn’t think there was somebody they could take to push the UCF product, or the majority of the issues with this team were really Gus Bradley’s fault.
I’m in the minority in this city. A team that looked ready for a breakout season in 2016, everything fell apart with its passing offense. Heck, it fell apart with the run offense as well. After a year that saw Blake Bortles throw for 4,400 yards and 35 touchdowns, we all drank the Kool-Aid. Jacksonville was the team on the rise, and No. 5 was taking them there. Somewhere along the way, the wheels came off. He can’t be held harmless, but he can’t take the blame for everything.
The smokescreen that the Jacksonville Jaguars would take Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson was just that. The notion some signal caller like Nate Peterman or Josh Dobbs would be “the guy” to unseat the incumbent became the chess move the Jags never played.
Bortles now has every reason to play like it’s 2015 all over again. A decision has not been made yet as to whether this team will pick up his fifth-year option. Honestly right now, the organization should make him work for it.
There is still a belief within the hierarchy at EverBank Field Blake Bortles will be a franchise quarterback. I believe that as well. However, I think in certain situations, it takes time. Also, I think the erratic coaching style of Bradley and his staff helped set Bortles up for failure. Bortles must prove he is a better practice player. He’s going to have to spend more time in the film room. He’s going to have to spend more time in Jacksonville with his receivers and his coaches. Those are the marks of a franchise player. He is not there yet.
Much has been made in this off-season about signing the young players on the roster to long-term deals. Allen Robinson, Telvin Smith, Brandon Linder and Marqise Lee all have something to prove this season. So does the most scrutinized player in Jacksonville.
The Jacksonville Jaguars brass indirectly gave Bortles a vote of confidence Sunday afternoon. He should embrace it but only for a minute. He is still under a microscope in the city and with this team. The media will watch his every move, listen to every comment, and hope he has improved from year three to year four. If he does, the lack of a rookie draft pick was warranted. But if he stumbles just the slightest, the whispers will start again, and people will wonder, including myself, why didn’t the team make a move to find his successor when it had the chance.