Blake Bortles was benched on Sunday for Cody Kessler, the same man who went 0-8 as the Browns starter in 2016. This is the latest development in a career that has been plagued by some pretty terrible football, and if coach Doug Marrone’s post-game comments are any indication, it’s unclear when Bortles might earn his job back.
“The questions are going to be, ‘Who is your starting quarterback next week?’ The focus will be on that — but for me, it’s on everyone,” Marrone told reporters, via Jaguars.com’s John Oehser, after Jacksonville fell to Houston 20-7 to drop to 3-4 on the season. … “It’s open. Who’s the starter at right tackle? Who’s the starter at center? … Everything is open. We’ve lost three straight games and we can’t stop shooting ourselves in the foot for lack of a better expression.”
Bortles was 6 of 12 for 61 yards and lost two fumbles before he was unceremoniously sent to the bench in the third quarter.
“I literally did it to try to get a damn spark from this football team, to put everyone on notice they have to focus and they have to play better,” Marrone continued. … “That’s not fair to the quarterback, but that’s the way this business is.”
Bortles, who Marrone described as “pissed” by the decision, also said he wasn’t shocked when he got the hook.
“I don’t think anything ever surprises you playing the game at this level,” he said. “I have to take care of the ball and give us a chance to score points and win at this point and try to change the field position. I didn’t do that, so they made a change. …
“You keep your head down and keep working,” Bortles said. “That’s all I’ve ever done my whole life. It’s all I really know how to do. I think it’s the only thing you can do in this situation. Show up with a positive attitude and get ready to play next week. Whether I play or not is not up to me, so I’ll be ready to go.”
But the 2018 season has not been kind to Bortles, who came into Week 7 ranked 26th in value per play, according to Football Outsiders’ metrics, just ahead of Eli Manning. While that might not get you benched in New York, where the playoffs are a distant memory, it certainly will in Jacksonville, where the AFC South is wide open.
Coming into Sunday’s game, Bortles was completing a career-best 61 percent of his throws with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions, but he’s had six turnovers in the last two games — convincing losses to the Chiefs and Cowboys — in addition to two more turnovers on Sunday against the Texans.
The Jaguars head to London to face the Eagles on Sunday and while Bortles may have earned his place on the bench, Marrone might want to wait a week before replacing him for good. Turns out, Bortles is markedly better when he plays in London.
In four games he’s thrown eight touchdowns against just two interceptions, has a passer rating of 92.9 and the Jags are 3-1. In the 65 games he’s played stateside, Bortles has 91 touchdowns, 70 interceptions, a passer rating below 80 and has lost 18 fumbles. The Jags have gone 19-43.
Kessler, who finished 21 of 30 for 156 yards with a touchdown and an interception, said he had “no idea” who would start in London.
“That is obviously up to coach,” he said. “I am just going to keep doing what I have been doing since I got here and compete, helping the quarterback room any way I can whether it’s the scout team getting some reps or whatever it may be.”