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Some of the hate for Blake Bortles should tone down after Sunday

Olivia Stacey

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Blake Bortles seems to be the quarterback everyone loves to hate. Unless you’re a Jaguars fan, of course.

Entering Sunday’s playoff game against the Steelers, Bortles faced some harsh criticism — he was called “trash” among other names that aren’t worth repeating.

After Bortles rushed for 88 yards and threw for only 87 in the Jaguars’ wild-card 10-3 victory against the Bills, many thought the 25-year-old quarterback would hold the team back from having a chance against the Steelers.

Some analysts, opposing players and football fans said he would choke. But he didn’t.

Instead, he calmly took the field, doing exactly what any franchise quarterback would need to do. He made several big plays, avoided turnovers and didn’t panic — leading the Jaguars to a 45-42 win in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.

He was especially productive in the fourth quarter, converting several key third downs.

At the end of the day, Bortles was 14 of 26 for 214 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 35 yards on five carries.

“I’m just happy to win,” the quarterback said after the win, via USA Today. “I have no animosity against anyone who said anything. I’m happy to be able to come here and do this with this team. There are a lot of guys home on the couch watching this. I’m sure they are wishing that they could play. I know in years past I have been. So the opportunity to be able to continue to play feels awesome. … Everybody is in the NFL here. It’s the highest level of football there is in the world. It’s tough to say that someone is not a good football player or is trash. Everybody is a professional football player and is able to do it for a living. I will always be respectful of everyone we play.”

Sunday’s win was a moment Bortles, and Jaguars’ fans have waited on for quite some time. In his first three seasons, Bortles didn’t perform up to the expectations of a No. 3 overall draft pick. His ability to develop into a franchise quarterback was questioned by many, as the Jags were quite often the laughing stock of the NFL.

As fans and media analysts debated if Bortles was the one for the job, the organization had a chance to make some moves last year. With the number four pick in the 2017 NFL draft, Jacksonville could have drafted Deshaun Watson, who had just led Clemson to a national title or Patrick Mahomes out of Texas Tech who had outrageous college stats.

However, the Jaguars stood by Bortles, and chose powerful running back Leonard Fournette last April. And as Jacksonville prepares to face the Patriots in the AFC Championship, it’s looking like more and more that was the right move.

While Bortles still has his work cut out for him, he’s shown he can do enough to support a team with a dominant defense. He’s limited his mistakes and remains confident enough to take big shots when needed.

“I like to watch a lot of NFL Network and ESPN, and when you talk about defense and Ben (Roethlisberger) all week and the only thing you have to say about Blake is negative, one thing I learned is when you talk negative about him, he just comes out and proves you wrong,” cornerback A.J. Bouye told USA Today. “I got a lot of respect for him.”

After yesterday’s upset over the Steelers, maybe others will have some respect for him too.

Olivia is a multi-faceted sports reporter based in Tampa Bay where she has covered events from the College Football National Championship to the Stanley Cup Final. A native Floridian, she grew up rooting for Tampa’s sports teams, and graduated from East Lake High in Tarpon Springs. Olivia continued her education at the University of Florida where she received her broadcast journalism degree.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. crosseyedlemon

    January 15, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    As a coach would you rather have a hard working QB with no sex appeal such as a Billy Kilmer and Blake Bortles or some prima donna who is more interested in his public image than making a commitment to his teammates?

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