Starting quarterback is the most important position in all of American professional sports because it is the most important position in the most lucrative and popular league this country has. The fortunes of these teams rise and fall with quarterback play, and finding a trustworthy signal caller is the core of any NFL scouting department's mission.
The Jaguars have struggled in recent years to draft a franchise quarterback. Byron Leftwich had a cannon and he was tough as nails but his mechanics were off and he never could get it going here in Jacksonville. Blaine Gabbert has all of the measurables, but Gene Smith and company never put a decent team around him. He's not a great quarterback, as evidenced by what he's done in San Francisco, but I think things could have gone much better for him if we could have surrounded him with even an average offensive line and receiving corps.
Blake Bortles is an interesting case study in this subject. He had a rough go of it as a rookie, piled up some fine stats in his sophomore year en route to breaking the Jacksonville touchdown record, and then seriously regressed last year. But even in that regression, he played two strong games (including one with around a 70% completion percentage) with a new coaching staff. Did Doug Marrone pull something out of Blake that Gus never could have, or is that sample size too small for any meaningful analysis?
I think it was wise of the Jaguars to pick up the option on Bortles because I believe that he can be a top-twelve NFL quarterback. I also see it as relatively low risk and high reward, as outlined in this rundown from the Florida Times-Union. Blake has some major financial incentives to put this team on his back and improve his play, but I don't even think those incentives are the end-all and be-all of why he will succeed here in town.
Blake is tough. His teammates appreciate that and they play for him, even if he doesn't always throw the best ball.
Blake is mobile. Yeah, he's had 23 and 22 combined turnovers in the last two years, but his critics rarely discuss the many times that he has scrambled for first downs and touchdowns.
Blake can get the ball downfield. He led the league in 2015 in passes of longer than twenty yards.
He needs to take better care of the ball and improve on his touch and accuracy, but I think he's a smart guy and a great athlete. I really hope that he is improving his mechanics and training hard in California, or all of this will be for naught. I'll let those rumors of Blake's bar habits out at the beach alone--the man is 21 and can do what he pleases, but he needs to follow the example of players like Brady, Brees, Winston, Mariota, and Newton, who all take exemplary care of themselves in the offseason.
I would say that, for Blake's career, he has been above average 75% of the time. He has been bad 25%. He has never been great.
Can he get there? Which Blake will lead the Jags in 2017? I'd like to think we'll see the great version of Blake Bortles, and it's not just because I'm a UCF alum. I love my Jaguars and I don't want to go back to square one. I want Blake Bortles to be the man here, make that option pay off, and take this team to the postseason.
I am pulling for you Blake. Make it happen...