At times it seems like Blake Bortles has been in the league forever, but its only been three years. He was drafted with the third overall pick of the 2014 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars and, by many indicators, they regretted that decision up until fairly recently.
According to his draft profile at NFL.com, Bortles was tabbed as a young Ben Rothlisberger prior to the draft. He was also compared favorably to fellow University of Central Florida alum Daunte Culpepper. Positive phrases like prototype size and outstanding stature litter his analysis chart. For all those whore surprised by Bortles seemingly newfound athleticism, his draft profile did mention him being deceptively quick and how he plays faster than timed speed.
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The first quarterback selected in the NFL draft always faces high expectations. Most expected him to be at least good, hopefully great. The fact that Bortles was selected with the third overall pick adds exponential weight to the matter. Drafted ahead of such notables as Sammy Watkins, Khalil Mack, Odell Beckham Jr and Ryan Shazier, Bortles was anything but solid in his first three years under center down in Jacksonville.
Prior to this season, the Jags lost at least ten games each year with Bortles as the playcaller. But, to be fair, he had very few weapons, and the coaching wasnt exactly the most quarterback-friendly in the league.
Over the last two years, Super Bowl-winning head coach Bill Cowher and I discussed the possibility of a breakout by the Jags.
Heres what Cowher told me about the Jags prospects of a winning season back in September.
They (Jacksonville) have to get the quarterback position settled, get a quarterback in place, find out if Blake Bortles is the guy. The next best thing you can do right after they figure out whos going to be the starter down there working on ability to run the football.
Tom Coughlin going down there is going to be great for them. Hes an offense coordinator who has won two championships with Eli throwing the play action pass and they have a good running game. The questions revolve around the offensive line. But theyve got a lot of really good players, theyre continuing to build, and theyre in a division they can win in. But, it all comes down to the quarterback position.
Even though the Jags have a winning regular season record, Bortles was consistently used as an example of a quarterback undeserving of a starting position relative to, say, a Colin Kaepernick. Indeed, it is true that Bortles play has not wowed anyone, it is also a reflection of his leadership abilities how his teammates have consistently supported him throughout the season.
However, even as we gear up to see the Jacksonville Jaguars head up to Foxboro to play the New England Patriots for a chance to go to the Super Bowl, there are news stories being printed that decry Bortles as nothing but a stop-gap quarterback. A New York Post story, for example, says his play is indicative of the Jags need to get Eli Manning in the offseason. Geez, thats as resounding a lack of confidence as one can get.
A solid running game, a solid defense, a grizzled veteran of postseasons’ past like Tom Coughlin calling the shots from upstairs, and a player’s coach like Doug Marrone on the sidelines, Jacksonville is in the most unique position in the history of the franchise.
Luckily for Bortles, he appears to be built for criticism and doubt. Throughout his career, he has never thrown anyone under the bus, never openly criticized a teammate, never second guessed a coach and never boo-hood about his predicament to the media.
He just went out there and played. For that, a tip of a mug, a pound of the fist, and whole lot of positive energy are Bortles to claim. Other than that, hes going to need the game of his life if he hopes to continue his rise from a borderline draft bust to unlikely postseason hero.