After being benched with 10:50 left in the third quarter of the Jaguars week seven divisional home loss to the Texans, Blake Bortles had to watch as his backup, Cody Kessler, led the offense on the only scoring drive by the Jaguars on the day. Kessler looked far more competent that did Bortles. He completed 70% of his passes and regularly was able to, at the very least, keep the offense on the field.
Jump to Doug Marrone's post game press conference. The head coach tells the media that the starting QB position is "open".
Let's jump again, this time to just about 24 hours later. Doug Marrone and the Jaguars announce that Blake Bortles will retain the starting position, albeit with a short leash.
Many, including myself, are having trouble figuring out just why Doug Marrone and the Jaguars decision makers would come to such a conclusion. 24 hours after proclaiming that reducing the turnovers was key, Doug Marrone elected to keep the man responsible for most of the turnover in the starting line up. Bortles' play has been abhorrent in all but two games in 2018. The memorable final two months of last season (including the playoffs) seem like a life time ago for Bortles. In the last three weeks he's guided the offense to exactly ZERO first half points. The Jaguars finished with 14 points against the Chiefs, 7 against the Cowboys, and ZERO (with Blake Bortles at the helm) against the Texans.
Why was this decision made?
Here I'll try to make sense of it, by offering some possible reasons that Doug Marrone could have for starting Blake Bortles against the Eagles in week eight.
1. Playing in London is a unique task and Blake Bortles has plenty of positive experience across the pond.
In every season of his NFL career the Jacksonville Jaguars have played a game at Wembley Stadium in London. Playing in London presents several unfamiliar challenges for NFL players. There's the massive difference in the time zones -- The Jaguars will be playing at 9:30am next Sunday. There's all the travel and jet lag that comes with a 10 or so hour flight. Cramming in practice in a unfamiliar setting and knowing how to handle all that comes with playing a regular season game in London is no easy task. The Jaguars have won three in a row in London with Blake Bortles taking the snaps and he's had his share of big time games at Wembley Stadium. He's intimately familiar with handling this trip across the pond and to Doug Marrone that might mean quite a bit.
2. The offensive line isn't playing well enough to keep a much less mobile Cody Kessler clean.
The Jaguars offensive line is a walking, more like limping, dumpster fire. There are injuries across the board and they are struggling to pass protect in a major way. Perhaps Doug Marrone doesn't feel confident in the idea of trotting Cody Kessler - who isn't a statue like Eli Manning or Matt Ryan, but lacks the athleticism of a Blake Bortles - knowing that the offensive line has no chance to keep him protected. After all he was sacked four times in less than a half against the Texans. Blake Bortles certainly has more escapability than Cody Kessler. Perhaps the Jaguars feel that Cody Kessler's lack of big time athleticism will limit his ability to be successful against an Eagles pass rush that has registered an absurd 174 pressures in seven games.
3. Blake has shown the ability in the past to break out of slumps for big offensive outputs.
This has probably been the worst slump of Blake Bortles career. In four of the last five games the Jaguars haven't been able eclipse 14 points with Blake Bortles at QB. Of course, he's not the only one to blame, but his poor play has crippled the Jaguars aerial attack. But Blake has shown, at times, throughout his career that he can look adversity in the eye and come back to have big time performances. Prior to his prolific run in December of 2017 Bortles had two straight games with over 30 passing attempts that each netted less than 175 passing yards. In the first playoff game of last season Bortles had more rushing than passing yards, yet was able to come back the next week against the Steelers in Pittsburgh and put up a QB rating of 94.1, while guiding the Jaguars to victory. I'm not saying that it seems likely for Blake to break this streak against a tough Eagles defense, I'm just saying it wouldn't be unprecedented.
4. The team is financially tied to Blake Bortles.
Admitting that Blake Bortles isn't the best answer at QB for the Jaguars right now, would be admitting to a poor investment this offseason. If the Jaguars do elect to move on from Blake Bortles, whether it be later on during this campaign or after it, the team will still owe their much maligned QB a pretty penny. Despite what Ian Rapoport may have you believe, the Jaguars are pretty much stuck with Blake Bortles through 2019, that is unless they want to eat $16.5 million worth of dead cap next season. The team can elect to opt out of the deal after 2019, but even that will cost them $5 million in 2020. Like it or not the deal the Jaguars gave Blake Bortles earlier this year is not one that will be easy to get out of should the team decide to move on from the BOAT.
There you have it. Those are the best reasons that, after racking my brain for hours, I could come up with as to why the Jaguars would start Blake Bortles in week eight.
Like I've said before, I'm not a fan of the decision. It's not like Bortles' escapability helped the Jaguars at all against the Texans. In fact, it hurt the team. He fumbled the ball twice while scrambling, giving Houston the ball at the Jaguars 36 and then the Jaguars own 12 yard line.
What do you think of the Jaguars decision to start Blake Bortles in week eight? Let us know in the comments below.
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