The Jacksonville Jaguars’ unlikely path to the AFC Championship has raised the possibility that Blake Bortles could start for the team again in 2018. But five months ago, when the Jaguars were preparing to begin the 2017 season, it wasn’t even clear if he’d be able to hold off veteran Chad Henne for the job.
After struggling through the first weeks of August, including two preseason games, Bortles was benched in favor of Henne for the third preseason game of the year.
Why was Blake Bortles benched? His temporary demotion was due more to his 2016 season than his rough start to August.
After throwing 35 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 2015, he had just 23 touchdowns in the following season and his passer rating dropped from 88.2 to 78.8. The Jaguars opted not to add a quarterback in the offseason, but Bortles didn’t look like he was ready to bounce back when he did nothing in the first two preseason games.
Luckily for Bortles, the other option was Chad Henne. If the Jaguars had a different quarterback on the roster, he probably would’ve taken the job with ease. But Henne couldn’t seize the role.
That’s not exactly shocking considering Henne has solidified his place as an NFL backup and nothing more. In nine NFL seasons, he has a career passer rating of 75.5, which would land 29th among starting quarterbacks in 2017 — just behind Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky who had a 77.5 rating.
In Henne’s only preseason start of 2017 he passed for 73 yards on 14 attempts and was sacked three times. Bortles got the job Week 1 instead.
Blake Bortles held the job by winning. This wasn’t a bad season for Bortles, but it wasn’t exactly like he carried the team either. He finished with 21 touchdowns and a career-low 13 interceptions, allowing the team’s excellent defense and powerful running attack to lead the way.
What Bortles can say is that he showed up in the biggest moments.
Blake Bortles is 4-0 head-to-head against Super Bowl-winning QBs this season, with the Jaguars averaging 37.3 PPG in those games (Flacco, Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson) pic.twitter.com/9rBXHuFxZz— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 19, 2018
The Jaguars picked up the fifth-year option on his contract last offseason, which means Bortles is due to make just over $19 million in 2018. That price tag coupled with his play in August made it seem like a foregone conclusion that he’d be cut after the season.
Now here he is, one more win away from starting in the Super Bowl. Outdueling Tom Brady, hand injury or not, is a tall order. But even getting to this point for Bortles is wild considering how close he was to starting the season watching from the bench.