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Jaguars need to find a better quarterback than Blake Bortles NOW

The Jaguars should operate as though their quarterback suffered a season-ending injury.

Jacksonville Jaguars v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Blake Bortles went from a promising, but unrefined talent in 2015 to a dumpster fire in 2016. The Jacksonville Jaguars have played two preseason games now. That trend appears to be continuing in the wrong direction.

The Jaguars starter finished his preseason game against the Bucs just 8-for-13 with 65 yards, but the stats don’t tell the full story. Bortles was off the mark all night with stunners like this one.

Or this one.

And so on, and so forth.

It’s clear Bortles is a problem.

If it wasn’t already frustrating enough for fans who have watched him throw 51 interceptions and get sacked 140 times in his 46 career games, it’s apparently frustrating Jaguars players now, too.

On one pass that sailed out of bounds in practice Tuesday, receiver Allen Robinson’s exasperation was caught on video by a nearby reporter.

Did you miss that?

Robinson said, “Fucking keep the shit in bounds, bro. Goddamn.”

It wasn’t much different than the reaction Marcedes Lewis had when a pass sailed over his head early in camp.

It’s not just a couple of bad throws, either. Those reactions from his teammates are an accurate reflection of how most have described Bortles’ entire camp. On Sunday, he was benched in practice after a pair of interceptions, but Jaguars coach Doug Marrone had an explanation for that.

“I just saw that his arm looked tired,” Marrone said, via the Associated Press. “Rather than push him knowing he was going to get all the reps that we needed for these next couple of days, I just said, 'Hey, it's my decision.' He said, 'Hey, I'm good. I can go.' I said, 'Look, let's just be smart.’”

Marrone is right about one part of that: It’s time for the Jaguars to be smart. Starting Bortles is not smart.

The Jaguars are set up to win if they get a competent passer

If there’s one reason to believe Bortles won’t tank an otherwise good roster, it’s that Marrone seems determined not to let him.

He said as much in June, via

Marrone, asked how many times a game quarterback Blake Bortles will ideally throw next season, said his answer was simple: “Zero.” He said he wasn’t joking about this, and he wasn’t smiling when he said it. “For me, I’d like to run the ball every play,” Marrone said. “I want to go back to the old way. I want to change the game.”

After drafting Leonard Fournette with the No. 4 pick in the 2017 NFL draft, the Jaguars’ game plan looks like it will be leaning heavily on the rookie running back.

While the Jaguars won’t literally run on every play, the team ran the ball 37 times against the New England Patriots in a preseason game last week and threw the ball 18 times.

For context, the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills were the only teams that finished the 2016 season with more rushing attempts than passes. The Cowboys finished with 499 rushes and 483 passes, while the Bills had 492 rushes and 474 passes.

If Jacksonville leans on the ground game in the regular season anywhere close to the way it did in its preseason opener, the team just needs a quarterback who can avoid turnovers and occasionally take advantage of defenses crowding the line of scrimmage.

Bortles has proved himself incapable of the former, and his ability to do the latter is certainly questionable at this point, too. He was second in the NFL in touchdown passes in 2015 with 35, but that number dropped to 23 in 2016. His performance in training camp doesn’t indicate a bounce back is on the way.

And that would just waste what looks like a very good defense. The team was No. 6 in the NFL in yards allowed last year even though it had to contend with one of the league’s worst average starting field position. The Jaguars defense looks even better after adding Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye, and Barry Church in the offseason.

So stop wasting away with the NFL’s worst starting quarterback. There are other options out there.

There are trades and free agent signings that can fix this

When the Minnesota Vikings lost Teddy Bridgewater for the season a year ago, they were faced with finding an emergency replacement. The Jaguars should treat their situation the same exact way.

Jacksonville does not have a viable starter and needs to get one as soon as possible. The team needs to act as though it lost a starter to a season-ending injury.

Colin Kaepernick

Let’s get the obvious option out of the way first. Colin Kaepernick is a better quarterback than Bortles and would likely jell in an offense that doesn’t ask him to do too much.

But Kaepernick’s free agency has little to do with his skills on the field. Teams have shied away from signing the quarterback after he kneeled during the national anthem throughout the 2016 season to protest of the oppression of people of color. Marrone, Tom Coughlin, and Shad Khan have stayed silent about Kaepernick, so it’s hard to know the franchise’s thoughts on the possibility of adding him.

Fans, as is the case with every NFL market to varying degrees, would be divided. There are at least a few — including SB Nation’s Jaguars blog, Big Cat Country — who think it would be a good idea:

After Kaepernick, the market for a free agent is thin. There’s Robert Griffin III, but it’s hard to confidently believe he’s a better option than Bortles or current backup Chad Henne.

AJ McCarron headlines trade options

Last week, there was a report that the Jaguars were among the teams that showed interest in trading for Cincinnati Bengals backup AJ McCarron. The price tag, according to the rumor, was a second-round pick.

McCarron, 26, has appeared in just eight NFL games in three seasons with six touchdowns and two interceptions. His only significant time came in 2015 when he replaced an injured Andy Dalton as a starter for three games.

It’s tough to gauge what exactly McCarron could bring to the table. But a second-round draft pick isn’t much to acquire a potential upgrade at quarterback and a 26-year-old who could try to prove he’s a long-term solution for the team.

The same argument could be made for other young backups, including the PackersBrett Hundley, who was reportedly on the trade block during the 2017 NFL draft.

Finding other potential starting talent on the trade market can be hard to forecast (who in the world saw the Sam Bradford trade coming last year?), but the Jaguars have to be aggressive if one comes available.

Bortles is dragging down a good roster, and the Jaguars are just being silly at this point if they don’t look elsewhere.