The tale of two Blake Bortles

While he has his inconsistent days, Quarterback Blake Bortles isn’t the most crucial part of the Jaguars offense. Photo: James Crichlow/Jacksonville Business Journal

By George Daugherty |

This season for the Jacksonville Jaguars is a great example of the team’s offensive inconsistency, as well as Blake Bortles’, the team’s controversial quarterback. There are those who say he’s not good enough to lead this team to a Super Bowl ring and those who say he is.

The strange thing is that he doesn’t really have to lead this team to a Super Bowl ring. In fact, this team isn’t really designed that way. Tom Coughlin, the former New York Giants head coach, is the executive vice president of football operations for the Jaguars. As a Giants fan, I remember Coughlin as the head coach of the New York Giants. I also remember Eli Manning leading those teams to two Super Bowl Championships against the New England Patriots.

Check out these numbers:

Player A: 90 Career Touchdowns. 64 Career Interceptions. 14,928 Career Passing Yards.

Player B: 92 Career Touchdowns. 65 Career Interceptions. 13,580 Career Passing Yards.

Player A is Bortles. Player B is Manning. The numbers reflect their first four seasons as a starting quarterback.

They’re very similar quarterbacks with similarly structured rosters that have been led by Coughlin. Manning, before winning his first Super Bowl title, was often debated between fans and pundits alike as to whether he’s good enough to lead the New York Giants to the promised land. Similar to Bortles’ situation now, Manning didn’t really have to lead them to a championship. Sure, he made some fantastic plays in those two Super Bowl runs and was a key component, but like this Jaguars team, they were not built around the quarterback. They were built by Coughlin’s philosophy that football games are won at the line of scrimmage.

This philosophy has proven to be sound and it makes sense. If the offensive line can win the battle and protect the quarterback, he will have time to make the throws and the running back will have holes to run through to gain yardage on the ground. Add this with your defensive line breaking through to the opponents’ quarterback and you’ve got a winning formula.

These last two weeks had its peaks and valleys, no question, and Bortles has gotten the praise and the blame for that. However, to rest all the failure and success on Blake Bortles would be ignoring the inconsistent offensive game plan that Nathaniel Hackett, the Jaguars’ Offensive Coordinator, has put together this season. At times, Hackett seems to know exactly the weaknesses of the defenses the team is playing against and other times, he seems like he has no idea what he’s doing.

Take the game against New England. New England’s got two main weaknesses on defense. They’re very susceptible to crossing routes and they have trouble getting to the quarterback. Hackett played crossing routes all game long and shredded that defensive with more holes than they do in five pounds of Swiss cheese.

Then the following game against the Titans, Hackett played into the Titans strengths all game long, hurting his team’s offense. The Titans are adept at defending the edges of the field, but not quite as strong in defending the middle of the field. Yet, Hackett insisted on doing run and pass plays designed to go to the edges of the field. It’s puzzling that he would craft such a game plan so unlikely to work in his favor. More than Blake Bortles’ inconsistent play at times, Hackett and the rest of the coaching staff’s game plans will have a great impact on whether or not they win a Super Bowl.

Against the Chiefs, Bortles threw four interceptions. But that’s what happens when you don’t put him in a position to succeed. Their philosophy is pure smash-mouth football. They run the ball and play great defense. They win games in the trenches. Not airing it out. Bortles had 61 passing attempts on the day. That’s not the key to success. That’s not your philosophy. The Kansas City Chiefs defense is not very good at the run. Most defenses in today’s NFL is not that great against the run due to the pass-happy era the NFL is in. That’s the Jaguars’ advantage. The pattern of success for the Jaguars’ offense is clear: Establish the run.

The term “establish the run,” is quite frankly overused and misused. Establishing the run doesn’t mean that you always start your drives with a run. What it means, specifically for this team, is to have your formations in such a way that it always looks like it could be a run play. This team should be doing play actions on 95 percent of their passing plays. They did very little of this against the Chiefs and the Titans. It’s a pretty simple formula. Run the ball. Have your formations seem like they could be running the ball on any given play. This makes the opposing defense predictable and when defenses get predictable, it’s much easier to learn what they’re doing defensively. When you know what they’re going to do defensively, it becomes very easy to run an offense.

Despite all the offensive woes, this team is really built on the back of this Historically great defense. When this defense is done, they will be remembered as one of the most fearsome and relentless defenses in NFL History. Even the Giants’ defense back in 2007 and 2011 weren’t this good. This is one of the few defenses that can cover any and all of the mistakes that the offense makes. If they didn’t have such great depth at every position on defense, this would be a very dangerous game to play.

Blake Bortles doesn’t need to be good enough, but he’s shown to have a resiliency that very few Quarterbacks in this league have and he continues to go back onto the field, determined to do better next time. His mental and physical toughness probably even exceeds Eli Manning. It’s both Quarterback’s greatest strengths.

If the Jaguars, like the New York Giants before them, can win the battle on the trenches, they can beat anyone.

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