For the first time in a long time, there was hope for Jacksonville Jaguars football headed into this season. All the pieces were in place for a team that came a questionable call from representing the AFC in the Super Bowl. But this season has been a train wreck, with suspect conductor Blake Bortles driving it.
The oft-criticized but still contractually extended quarterback was benched during Jacksonville’s 20-7 home loss to the Houston Texans in favor of Cody Kessler. Bortles, not expected to be a world-beater, hasn’t even been a decent game manager. He’s been careless with the football, accounting for more turnovers than touchdowns.
His status as the starter going forward is tenuous at best. It’s possible team brass will do something dramatic via a trade. Rumors of Sam Bradford and Tyrod Taylor and Colin Kaepernick abound. These could just be rumors.
But it’s possible that Bortles has lost the confidence of his teammates. Here’s insider Ian Rapoport talking about what Jags players are saying behind closed doors and at peak volume.
And here’s ESPN reporting on details of the tense situation.
Tempers flared in the postgame locker room at TIAA Bank Field after the team’s third consecutive loss. No punches were thrown but players were yelling at each other and at one point — when the locker room doors were opened prematurely to allow the media to enter — defensive end Calais Campbell was seen restraining defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, and players could clearly be heard shouting.
It’s a clear sign that the Jaguars’ recent struggles run deeper than just injuries, poor quarterback play, a supposed elite defense that suddenly can’t stop the run, and turnovers.
“You all walk in here, you all see how it is in here, you all see how we vibe with each other, you all see how we vibe towards the coaches,” cornerback Jalen Ramsey said. “You all see how it is. It is no secret what’s going on here right now. Ain’t nobody going to say it because we can’t, but it ain’t no secret what’s going on and it ain’t right, right now.
“It is what it is.”
That sounds like a team trying to fire itself up for the second half of the year. Or it sounds like a team that has irreconcilable issues and an offense incapable of winning anything meaningful.
It does feel like the Bortles benching was more of a motivational tactic by coach Doug Marrone. Then again, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Jaguars get — perhaps rightfully — desperate and pull the trigger in the trade market.
Jacksonville is one game behind Houston and Tennessee in the AFC South. They’ve lost head-to-head games against each, though. It will be a tough path to the playoffs without wins in each of the second meetings.
Something stinks in North Florida. And it could be the desperation.