Pragada: The ballad of Blake Bortles

Nov. 29, 2018, 3:04 a.m.

If you were to show the last two volumes of this paper to a Stanford outsider (and they had the ability to instantly read all of it) they might notice an unusual number of references to the Jacksonville Jaguars. No, this is not because of the NBC’s “The Good Place” (although Jason Mendoza’s antics have contributed greatly to the visibility of the Jaguars), but rather because I’ve been in charge of the sports section for the past year. I’ve written on the Jaguars a multitude of times, and my teal fandom has equally inspired my sports writers to take as many shots as possible at my team in their writing. Seriously, I edit a lot of them out, but they get pretty mean sometimes. Thanks guys.

My last Jaguars-related column came a few weeks ago, when I said that they were making me sad. At that time, a lot was going wrong. We gave huge plays to the Dallas Cowboys; we had been bested in London. And we were going into our bye week with injuries piling up, and our record at 3-5 (with four straight losses). Things were ambiguous as to what specifically was the problem with the team, but the media and the fanbase were turning on the quarterback, Blake Bortles. And I, like a fool blinded by love, defended him.

The team is now 3-8. They have lost seven games in a row, the longest streak in the NFL. In the three weeks since I wrote that column, the Jaguars have somehow gotten WORSE. And I cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, sit here and tell you that it was not Blake Bortles’ fault.

If Optimistic Bobby was killed off in the last column, this column is the introduction of completely hopeless Bobby. Or as I like to call him, 2019 NFL Draft Bobby.

Blake Bortles is my favorite player in the NFL. I want him to succeed so badly that it physically pains me to watch Jaguars games and have my head tell my heart the thing that I have likely known all along. Blake Bortles is not a good quarterback. The Jaguars would be better off without him.

Note: This doesn’t mean that the organization is perfect besides Blake. I think the defensive coordinator, Todd Wash, is completely incompetent and is wasting the most talented defensive grouping in the NFL. I think that our players are suffering from a lot of injuries, I think our draft classes have been questionable, and I think the atmosphere in the locker room is not amazing at the moment. However, these problems are overshadowed by the massive issue of continued poor quarterback play. And that’s what I’m focusing on today.

The last three weeks have been horrible. Let’s relive them together, shall we? First we have an away game against the Colts. The best part about this game is that right before the game started, our best player, Jalen Ramsey, had a rumor leaked saying that he wanted out of the team. He denied it later, but that’s not an auspicious sign. With just a few minutes remaining, Blake and the crew were driving up the field down three points, when eighth-string wide receiver Rashad Greene caught a pass on the five-yard line, took a step and “fumbled” the ball. The game was over.

This moment wasn’t directly Blake Bortles’ fault. In fact, Blake played decently well this game. But it highlights something that has plagued his career–turnovers. Blake has an incredibly long windup when he throws, something that has been criticized for years. As such, it takes him much longer to release the ball than someone like Drew Brees, who has a very quick release. This lets linebackers and defensive linemen get hands on passes, it lets defensive ends get their hands on the ball for strip sacks and it lets defensive backs recover on routes and pick off balls. It also gives his balls loose spirals, which results in less accurate throws and harder catches for receivers.

Since he entered the NFL in 2014, Blake Bortles has led the league in interceptions, total turnovers and pick sixes. I cannot overlook that fact.

Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Blake looked awful. The entire offense couldn’t get anything going, except in the run game, which let the team put up 16 points. But the issue with running the ball is that teams don’t respect Blake throwing, so they just stack an extra safety in the box. Leonard Fournette faces the highest percentage of runs with eight or more men in the box. The team had a massive lead, but they couldn’t string together any offensive drives to kill the clock or expand the lead, letting the Steelers pull off an improbable comeback. Blake also took a lot of sacks in this game, six to be exact, fumbling twice.

And then the Buffalo Bills, where things got so bad that the offensive coordinator wouldn’t even call passing plays at all, resulting in abysmal offense. Blake made some awful decisions, missed some wide open throws and threw two interceptions. It was clear that something needed to change.

As of yesterday, November 28, the Jaguars have decided to fire their offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, and bench Blake to start Cody Kessler (formerly of USC–there’s a vague Stanford connection for you to make this article seem somewhat relevant). I’m glad there’s change, but I’m really sad that Blake may have seen his last snaps in a Jaguar uniform.

I supported him for so long, and I really really wanted this to be the season where Blake showed everyone he had the capability to be the franchise quarterback we needed. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

When I watch other football teams play, like the Kansas City Chiefs, or the New Orleans Saints, I think, “Wow, they’re moving the ball so easily, it’s like they’re not even trying! Passing plays function normally! Running plays get consistent gains and aren’t just up the middle.” I think that I want a quarterback capable of doing that, making the game look fun and easy. Supporting Blake has almost gotten too tiring. I’m sorry, my friend.

I’m in full draft mode now. I’ll be actively rooting against the Jaguars for the rest of the season to improve our position in the 2019 draft. I think Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins would be the best fit for the Jaguars of the future.

But I’m sure that somewhere in the incompetence of our coaching staff, something was hurting Blake Bortles’ development. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was traded or cut and signed with another team where he had an incredibly prosperous career. And if that happens, you can bet I’ll be supporting him. Especially because I won’t have to deal with the repercussions on my team if he fails.


Contact Bobby Pragada at bpragada ‘at’

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