Bye, bye Bortles? Jaguars open up quarterback competition
By MARK LONG
Aug. 18, 2017
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Blake Bortles may have started his last game in Jacksonville.
Coach Doug Marrone opened up the team's quarterback competition Thursday night after another inconsistent performance from Bortles, the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
Bortles completed 8 of 13 passes for 65 yards in a 12-8 exhibition loss to Tampa Bay. All four of his drives ended with punts. The first-team offense now has three points in Bortles' six preseason possessions.
He misfired to Allen Robinson twice Thursday, including a woefully underthrown pass down the seam that drew boos from the home crowd and caused some head-shaking on the sideline.
"It's hard to not hear people booing," Bortles said. "But if they're cheering or booing, it's kind of irrelevant, at least for me it is. I think you've got to treat adversity and prosperity the same way. They're not booing for no reason. They're booing because you didn't do your job."
Bortles hasn't gotten it done in three-plus seasons.
The former Central Florida standout has 11 wins and 11 interceptions returned for touchdowns in 45 career starts.
His mechanics have mostly been a mess. His decision-making has been dreadful at times. And his confidence sure seemed crushed after an awkward few weeks of training camp.
Bortles had a five-interception performance during the team's first practice in full pads last month and has been up and down since. He seemingly got benched last week after throwing two picks early in practice.
Marrone said Bortles' "arm looked tired." Bortles denied having any issues. That was the first indication that Bortles' job security was in jeopardy.
The Jaguars probably should have seen this coming. After all, Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett watched Bortles up close the last two years and knew all his flaws.
But instead of drafting a quarterback or bringing in a veteran to compete with Bortles, Jacksonville publicly supported him. Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell even picked up the fifth-year option in Bortles' rookie contract, which would pay him $19 million in 2018. The deal is guaranteed for injury only, meaning the team can part ways with Bortles and not owe him anything beyond this season.
Still, putting Bortles on the field could be considered a financial risk.
Marrone surely doesn't have money on his mind.
"I'm looking for someone who is going to lead this offense," Marrone said. "I'm not happy with the performance. I'm not going to sit here and BS anyone. Everyone saw it out there. Whatever you want to call it, I'm still trying to evaluate who the best person is at that position."
It could be Chad Henne.
The 10th-year pro and former second-round pick by Miami completed 6 of 10 passes for 44 yards against the Bucs. Henne's first pass should have been a touchdown, but rookie Keelan Cole dropped it at the goal line.
Henne started 22 games for Jacksonville between 2012 and 2014, but has backed up Bortles since. He has completed 59 percent of his passes for 12,931 yards, with 58 touchdowns and 63 interceptions.
"I always took it as I'm always competing and never really said I'm the backup even though that's the way it was," Henne said. "I still study hard and try to prove in practice what I can do. All I can do is to try to get myself better prepared each week."
Henne isn't a long-term solution. So Jacksonville surely will start over at the all-important position in 2018 by selecting a quarterback in what appears to be a strong draft class or signing one in what appears to be a solid free-agent fold.
"We're going to figure this thing out," Marrone said. "It's just simple. I'm not going to try to make this thing complicated. I'm looking for the best person to lead our offense."