Blake Bortles’ down year in 2016 still among Jacksonville Jaguars’ best

2015 Blake Bortles is the only other quarterback better than 2016 Blake Bortles in Jacksonville Jaguars history, even with Mark Brunell throwing for more yards back in 1996.

1996 was a magical season for the Jacksonville Jaguars but even Mark Brunell wasn’t as good as Blake Bortles was in 2016. Brunell beat Bortles in one key statistic – yards (4367 to 3905) – but was comparable in most every other way and actually a bit worse in many.

2015 was a legendary year for the Jags offense. Bortles broke franchise records while passing for an impressive 35 touchdowns and 4425 yards. He still threw 18 interceptions but it was clear he had the talent to do some major damage as a quarterback. His positives far outweighed his negatives.

In light of his 2015 performance, 2016’s Bortles looked lackluster. He finished the season with just 23 touchdowns (tied for second-best in franchise history) and 3905 yards (third best in franchise history) while throwing 16 interceptions. There was regression from 2015, but it probably wasn’t fair to expect him to hit on so many jump balls and improve on one of 2015’s best quarterback performances.

In fact, 2016’s regression seems perfectly fine in retrospection. Yes, the interceptions hurt and his pick-sixes were especially dreadful, but Bortles’ statistics weren’t terrible. It’s worth considering that some of it was “garbage time” stats but it’s also worth considering that some of his mistakes came from being forced to throw and force balls, too. This is a narrative that has followed Bortles since last season, which Alfie Crow and Big Cat Country rebuffs well in a piece from last offseason.

If the mistakes in down situations count, then so do the “padded” stats. This is the big leagues and players play until the final whistle. The good comes with the bad in those situations. It is certainly concerning that he has similar numbers of pick-sixes and wins but some of that also comes during those tougher times.

What we are left with, no matter which way we look at it, is still one of the most prolific passing seasons in Jags history. He may have thrown for less yards than 1996’s Brunell, but he had a higher (and positive) TD:INT ratio. Either of them could really be number two in the conversation of best Jags seasons at quarterback. Of course, a 3-13 season under 2016 Bortles is a lot less palatable than the playoff-rocking 1996 season.

Expect some of the criticism of Bortles to cool as this sinks in through the offseason. Yes, Bortles has a lot of room to grow. Yes, Bortles cost the Jags some wins in 2016 (and other seasons) but he is also showing he could be the best quarterback this team has ever seen. 2016 wasn’t terrible. Not great, but not terrible.

RELATED: WHAT COULD BORTLES DO WITH BETTER PROTECTION?

In fact, it was pretty damn good based on Jags history (at least statistically).

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