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Johnny Manziel has far and away been the most polarizing player of the 2014 NFL draft class. Teddy Bridgewater is already pushing Matt Cassel for the starting job in Minnesota.
But are we forgetting about the quarterback that flew up draft boards in the months leading up to the draft, then was chosen first of the group?
There has been almost no hype surrounding Blake Bortles this offseason. Perhaps it’s because the Jaguars brass have already pronounced Chad Henne as the team’s starting quarterback, denying the rookie even has a chance to see the field in 2014.
But the way that Manziel or Bridgewater are discussed, it almost feels like people have soured on Bortles.
There are daily Manziel updates — whether he’s getting reps with the Browns’ first-team offense, if he’s grabbing a beer with teammates or where he’s listed on the depth chart each week. Bridgewater is in a similar position, as he’s already making a case to start Week 1.
Jaguars coach Gus Bradley must have a method to his madness; otherwise he could be making a horrible mistake.
Bradley hails from Seattle, where as a third-round pick Russell Wilson beat out $26 million free-agent quarterback signee Matt Flynn as a rookie. Bradley already knows what Henne’s limited ceiling is like. But unless his goal is ultimately to buck the trend of thrusting quarterbacks into starting jobs in their first NFL seasons, he’s not putting his team or Bortles in the best position to succeed.
Bortles made his preseason debut last Friday, completing 7-of-11 passes for 117 yards. Nothing too eye-grabbing on a stat sheet, but nothing too terrible that makes you re-think drafting him. And Bradley said the quarterback displayed “good poise and good command,” outstanding attributes of a young player at that position.
It was arguably the best outing of any of the three quarterbacks drafted in the first round. But after the game, Bradley refused to give Bortles an opportunity to start the second preseason game.
If Jacksonville doesn’t want Bortles to start a single game his rookie season, that’s obviously their right. There’s no exact science when it comes to starting rookie quarterbacks, because for every Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson there’s a Geno Smith or worse, a Blaine Gabbert.
Perhaps the latter is why the Jaguars are hesitant to trot out Bortles. The organization can ill afford to have another Gabbert on their hands, another swing-and-miss with a first-round quarterback to again set the franchise back a few years.
But as much as the team can’t afford another first-round bust, it cannot afford to leave perhaps their best option under center on the bench simply because “that’s the plan.”
If Bortles is the best quarterback in Jacksonville, he deserves to start. It doesn’t have to be Week 1 or Week 2, but if the team is already struggling by Week 6 then why not try and boost spirits with the rookie?
There doesn’t have to be this set plan in place, one that was devised back in May. It should be flexible, depending on how well Henne performs and if Bortles shows the moxie he needs to earn the starting job.
Nobody is talking about Bortles because the Jaguars don’t want them to. No quarterback can garner attention like Johnny Football can, but there’s another quarterback competition taking place in the Twin Cities where fans are just rooting for the best man to win the job. In Jacksonville, why wouldn’t they root for the same thing?
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