Blake Bortles came into the season on shaky ground, generated negative headlines during training camp and, on Thursday, had a dismal preseason outing televised to a national audience. Afterward, Jaguars Coach Doug Marrone said the starting quarterback job was “right up there for grabs” between Bortles and backup Chad Henne.
Meanwhile, more than a few online observers had another suggestion: How about Colin Kaepernick?
As has been widely noted, the former 49ers quarterback has been out of work since entering free agency in March, even as a succession of quarterbacks with much poorer résumés have been signed. Many believe Kaepernick is essentially being shunned by NFL owners for fear of fan backlash following his national anthem protests last season, but Jacksonville may have to worry about some angry fans if it keeps putting Bortles under center.
A couple of plays, in particular, brought out the boo-birds at Jacksonville’s EverBank Field during a preseason game against the Buccaneers. Both of them involved throws that badly missed the Jags’ top receiver, Allen Robinson, reminding everyone of video from a recent practice in which a frustrated Robinson muttered that his errant quarterback needed “keep that s— in bounds.”
— FanSportsClips (@FanSportsClips) August 18, 2017
Robert McClain on Allen Robinson. Plays him well, ball thrown too far out of bounds (unfortunately for one man too close to the sideline) pic.twitter.com/9iBQd0Iq03
— PewterReport (@PewterReport) August 15, 2017
As Bortles was completing eight of 13 passes for 65 yards, ESPN noted that his four drives Thursday resulted in punts and that he had led the Jags to three points in six total preseason drives. Others preferred to make the case that Kaepernick would be a far superior option.
Now imagine arguing that Bortles’ BACKUP QB is better than Kaepernick.
— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) August 18, 2017
The team, above all others, that should sign and start Colin Kaepernick is the Jags. Always has been; more Bortles plays more obvious it is
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) August 18, 2017
Colin Kaepernick is 29 years old, fresh, and infinitely better than Blake Bortles
— Jordan Zirm (@clevezirm) August 18, 2017
Can’t tell me Bortles is better than Kaepernick. But I’ll shut up.
— Justin Tinsley (@JustinTinsley) August 18, 2017
Somewhere, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman may have been laughing, given that, earlier this month, he said, “Blake Bortles has shown you enough to where you don’t think Kaep would be a solid fit? Kaep has won games.”
Kaepernick has a lifetime record of 28-30 as an NFL starter, including 1-10 last season, but he has also taken teams to two NFC championship games and a Super Bowl. The best Bortles has done in Jacksonville was a 5-11 mark in 2015, and he has an 11-34 career record after going 3-13 last season. Bortles’s career marks in adjusted yards per attempt (6.1) and passer rating (79.6) are also lower than Kaepernick’s (7.3, 88.9).
One Jags fan at the game didn’t need to say a word to make his feelings on the matter perfectly clear.
Henne fared slightly better Thursday, completing six of 10 passes for 44 yards, with a few drops, and he was given a couple of series with Jacksonville’s first-team offense. After the game, a 12-8 loss to Tampa Bay, Marrone said he was “looking for someone that’s going to lead this offense.”
“I’m not happy with the performance today,” Marrone told reporters (via ESPN). “I’m not going to sit here and BS anyone. Everyone saw it out there. Whatever you want to call it, I’m still trying to evaluate who the best person is at that position.”
Marrone’s comments gave some, such as NFL Network’s Gregg Rosenthal, the impression that the coach was very likely to bench Bortles and go with Henne. Unfortunately for Jags fans, ESPN also offered a dispiriting statistic for that scenario.
Worst Total QBR since 2008 (min. 1,500 attempts)
Mark Sanchez: 43.4
Chad Henne: 45.5
Blake Bortles: 46.4 https://t.co/Nm7qlADPtl
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 18, 2017