The Jaguars’ remarkable season is in the books, however the debate over Blake Bortles seems to only be beginning.
In May, the Jaguars picked up the fifth-year option on Bortles’ rookie contract. At the time it was a controversial decision. Bortles struggled with inaccuracy, timing and decision-making in his first three seasons. With just 11 wins in three seasons as a starter, many questioned if he had the potential to develop into a franchise quarterback?
As the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, Bortles hadn’t lived up to expectations. Neither had the Jaguars, who were often the laughing stock of the NFL.
But things changed this season. Bortles completed 60.2 percent of his passes for the first time while throwing for 3,687 yards, 21 touchdowns. He also cut down his interceptions to 13.
Bortles’ improvement backed by the Jaguars’ dominant defense, and Leonard Fournette’s running game, led Jacksonville to a 10-6 record and their first playoff appearance since the 2007 season.
Sure, Bortles only threw for 87 yards against the Bills, but he rushed for 88, and won the game with his legs and a fourth-down touchdown pass. The 25-year-old quarterback did enough to keep the Jaguars in it, but the performance left many analysts and fans wondering if he would hold his team back from advancing any farther.
Questions about Bortles future with the team began to resurface.
In their stunning upset against Pittsburgh, Bortles did exactly what he needed to do, leading a pair of critical, fourth-quarter drives to advance his team to an AFC title game. At the end of the day, he completed 14 of 26 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 35 yards on five carries.
Bortles followed that up with a brilliant first half against the Patriots. He finished with impressive stats — a 293-yard game with a touchdown pass and no interceptions against the defensing Super Bowl champions. At one point he completed 12 straight passes and 17 of his first 21 throws overall.
For as well as he played, he wasn’t able to lead a scoring drive on the last four Jacksonville possessions, when the game was on the line.
Once again, it led to a fury of questions. Will it be Bortles or someone else under center for the Jaguars in 2018?
Bortles told the media Monday afternoon in the Jaguars locker room that he wants to be that guy. “I’ve enjoyed my four years here and Jacksonville, and I love to play here as long as they will have me.” Bortles continued, “What they (management) do is out of my control.”
If the team doesn’t offer a better long term deal, Bortles’ salary for 2018 will be approximately $19.1 million (the average of the top 10 highest-paid quarterbacks) for the one year deal.
While Bortles performed well in the AFC Championship Game, critics say he’s still extremely inconsistent, which is why the Jaguars should look at their options. Names like Alex Smith, Tyrod Taylor have been thrown around by some football analysts because of their ability to protect the ball.
However, others feel Bortles has earned the job. After all, the much-improved quarterback won a pair of playoff games. His return would also give the team another opportunity to build off a thrilling 2017 season.
Jacksonville is in a quandary and Bortles is still a bit of an enigma.
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