We may have seen the end of Blake Bortles's season before it even started. After a particularly rough performance, even by Bortles’s standards, head coach Doug Marrone announced after the game that the quarterback job was “up for grabs.”
Bortles finished the Jaguars’ 12-8 loss to Tampa Bay Thursday night 8-of-13 for 65 yards, while Chad Henne finished 6-of-10 for 44 yards. The stat lines may look uninspired, but it’s the tape that should strike fear into Jaguars fans’ hearts.
Allen Robinson had Bucs corner Javien Elliott beat so badly on this throw you could have fit an entire Hard Knocks camera crew between them. Working from flawless pass protection, Bortles underthrew Robinson by 5 full yards, though Robinson was so open that the corner still barely got his hand on the ball. This is ugly by college standards, and probably some Florida high school standards, too. Sadly, throws like this from Bortles come with an alarming consistency.
The writing to replace Bortles has been on the wall all training camp (if not the last two years), but it has been impossible to ignore this week. Bortles badly overthrew Robinson at training camp on Tuesday, and the receiver had some colorful advice for his quarterback after barreling into someone on the sideline trying to make the catch.
Robert McClain on Allen Robinson. Plays him well, ball thrown too far out of bounds (unfortunately for one man too close to the sideline) pic.twitter.com/9iBQd0Iq03— PewterReport (@PewterReport) August 15, 2017
The next day, Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, one of the two best players on the team, liked this on Instagram:
Backup quarterback Chad Henne was the man who replaced Bortles on Thursday. Marrone had previously emphasized that Henne was the backup quarterback, but he had a change of heart during the game and sent Henne out with the starting offense at the end of the first half, a clear message to Bortles. After the game, Marrone verbalized that message, saying of the Jaguars starting quarterback job, “It’s right up there for grabs, and either person can take it.” (If only Bortles could throw footballs up for grabs that his receivers could take.) Even the eternally optimistic Jon Gruden suggested during Thursday’s broadcast that Bortles should sit for at least the beginning of the year and fix his mechanics. Fourth-year quarterbacks shouldn’t need to relearn how to throw a football, but such is the plight of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
And yet if you squint really hard and use your imagination, there is hope. One of the few bright spots for Jacksonville on the night was Brandon Allen, the Jaguars’ 2016 sixth-round pick out of Arkansas, who finished 10-of-15 for 144 yards and a touchdown and added 27 yards on three rushes. Allen showed some impressive poise when the righty rolled to his left and found Marquez Williams at the pylon for the Jaguars offense’s only points of the night. Marrone said that Allen is in consideration for the job, and with the paltry level of competition, he just might earn it.
No matter who wins the Jaguars’ quarterback battle, just opening up the competition signals the beginning of the end of the Bortles experiment in Jacksonville. Nothing in Bortles’ 2016 indicated he could lead an NFL team, but Jacksonville executive vice president of football operations and organizational Godfather Tom Coughlin didn’t sign or draft any notable signal-callers in the offseason (passing on now-division-rival Deshaun Watson). Now the team boasts what should be a decent defense and some talented skill players with a black hole at quarterback. The Jags appear to be back to square one under center (or more accurately, have finally admitted they’ve been there for a while now).