Blake Bortles has been benched in favor of Cody Kessler. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has been fired. This is a lost year for Jacksonville, after appearing to have so much promise following a victory over New England that moved them to 2-0.
But while Blake Bortles is being scapegoated, nothing about his play this year should be a surprise. Well, scapegoated is probably a bad word there. Bortles’ play at quarterback is a major factor for Jacksonville, and he’s an anchor on the offense, but nothing has really changed in that regard over the last few years. Last year, they overcame those deficiencies and this year, the rest of the team is no longer doing that. Blake Bortles is who he has always been. In fact, here is a comparison:
2017 Blake Bortles, through first 11 games: 58.3% completion percentage, 6.5 Yards per Attempt, 12 TD, 8 INT
2018 Blake Bortles: 60.4% completion percentage, 7.0 Yards per Attempt, 13 TD, 10 INT
You’d have to squint very hard to find evidence that Bortles was better last year and the difference in the two seasons is him regressing. The difference is that Jacksonville was 7-4 last year, and 3-8 this year. The difference is that the defense is not as dominant when it comes to making the huge plays, and is not creating the turnovers and big plays that make up for Bortles. The difference is that when Blake Bortles has a typical game now, they lose, and last year, it was enough to win because of all the other parts picking up the slack.
After 11 games a year ago, Bortles had five stinker games (passer rating under 75) and three great games (passer rating over 90). That’s the exact same number of each type as this year.
No, he is who he is. Jacksonville knew, or should have known, this. They could have made a move to address the position, or at least bring in some realistic competition, recognizing that he was holding them back. They may have lost the defensive clubhouse by not doing so. And now, they are finally making the move, with Bortles just being who he is and always has been all along. It’s too late to be realizing that now.