Jaguars turning to Blake Bortles for season finale at Texans
It could be his last.
Coach Doug Marrone announced Wednesday that Bortles will start the season finale at Houston (10-5), giving the embattled quarterback a chance to close out a subpar season on a positive note.
“The toughest part about it is you have no idea,” Bortles said about his future with the franchise. “It’s not like anybody tells me anything or talks to my agent or tells him what they’re going to do with me, so it’s kind of just unknown. I would imagine most people that go through situations like this or anything close to it, there’s just a lot of unknown.
“Obviously, here, right now, got one more chance, one more opportunity to play this week and finish this year out and then kind of they’re in control of what happens for me next, so whatever happens I’ll be ready.”
Marrone said Bortles’ mobility gives the Jaguars (5-10) a “better chance” against the Texans.
Bortles came off the bench at Miami last Sunday and led Jacksonville (5-10) to the go-ahead score in a 17-7 victory . He completed 5 of 6 passes for 39 yards and carried four times for 25 yards, including scampers of 14 and 13 yards on a field-goal drive that broke a 7-all tie.
Bortles looked considerably better than Cody Kessler, who was sacked five times and lost a fumble for the third consecutive week.
Bortles has been up and down in five seasons, posting a 24-48 career record. Because of his inconsistency, it seems unlikely he will return to Jacksonville in 2019. The third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft also is due to count $21 million against the salary cap, and the Jags can save $9.5 million by cutting him with a post-June 1 designation.
“I signed a contract here for three years so I’ve got every reason and purpose in my mind to play here for that amount of time or until they let me go,” Bortles said. “Then I’ll figure that out.”
Jacksonville is expected to select a quarterback early in the draft and sign a veteran to start until the rookie is ready.
Nonetheless, it will be Bortles under center against the Texans, who can clinch the AFC South with a victory.
“I’m excited to see him take advantage of the opportunity,” Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell said. “Who knows what’s going to happen in the future, but this is an opportunity to go out there and show what he can do.”
Although Bortles would welcome another year with the Jaguars — he recently bought a $3.75 million home in Jacksonville — he acknowledges what many around the league and inside the team’s facility believe to be true: that his tenure in Jacksonville is coming to close.
“Nobody knows what’s going to happen next year so I think most importantly just enjoying this,” Bortles said. “It’s obviously not the year, the season everybody expected or wish would have happened. But we get one more opportunity and we’re going to make the best of it.”
Bortles never developed into a franchise quarterback, but he fooled top decision-maker Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell by playing turnover-free football in the 2017 postseason. That earned him a three-year, $54 million contract in February that ranks high on Coughlin’s list of poor decisions.
Bortles struggled early this fall, especially after losing a number of starters on the offensive side of the ball. He was without his top receiver, his top two tight ends, several offensive linemen and played six games without running back Leonard Fournette. Bortles lost seven consecutive starts before Marrone made the move to Kessler.
Now, he’s back to Bortles — for one more game.
“Giving him this opportunity to go out there and start Sunday, giving us the best chance to win — nothing against Cody — it’s awesome for a guy like him because, obviously, when things go good he doesn’t get enough credit and when things go bad he gets all the blame,” Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson said. “I’m just excited for the guy. He’s truly a good dude.”