Blake Bortles isn’t quite ready to focus on his future with the franchise.
For now, the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback is trying to be supportive teammate.
Bortles will start a regular-season game on the bench for the first time since Sept. 14, 2014, serving as Cody Kessler’s backup against Indianapolis (6-5) on Sunday.
“I put myself in this position and didn’t play good enough,” Bortles said Wednesday, two days after getting demoted. “Didn’t win football games, couldn’t find a way to get it done. And when that happens, it’s a business and everybody understands that. I don’t think there’s anything personal involved. As a quarterback, I think you have one job and that’s to win a football game, and if you don’t do that, your time’s probably limited.”
Bortles sounded like someone who knows his time with Jacksonville is nearing the end.
Bortles signed a three-year, $54 million contract in February and will count $21 million against the salary cap in 2019. If the Jags cut him before June 1, they would still take a $16.5 million hit against the cap.
The fifth-year pro and third overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft seemed resigned to — at the very least — having to compete for the starting job next year.
“Yeah, I have no problem with competition or anything,” he said. “I’m not in charge of the decisions that are made. I obviously put myself in this position and forced their decision to be made, but at the end of the day, they’re in charge of making those personnel decisions. And if it’s a competition or if it’s, ‘See you later; you’re out of here,’ whatever it is, I love playing football and would love the opportunity to play again.”
Coach Doug Marrone benched Bortles and fired offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett on the same day. He promoted Kessler and will have quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich call plays.
“It’s always going to be a difference,” Marrone said. “Obviously, we have the same system. We aren’t going to be changing the terminology in a week. Cody played in this system and now he gets a full week of (practicing). I think that Scott knows what Cody can do obviously; he was his position coach. We’ll see when we get out there and see things during the week of what we’re going to be able to use.”
Kessler hasn’t taken many first-team reps since training camp, so he needs to develop some chemistry with his offensive linemen and receiving corps.
He also won’t have running back Leonard Fournette (suspension) or three starting offensive linemen: left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Andrew Norwell and center Brandon Linder. All three are on injured reserve.
“There is a reason that every single player is here,” Kessler said. “You obviously want to have every guy out there that you can, but when you can’t, it is the same thing. Next man up, and we have guys that are going to be ready. And whoever is out there, everyone is competing and everyone is given an opportunity. I am excited. Everyone is here for a reason, and we are going to be ready to go.”
Bortles took the benching in stride, saying and doing all the right things in his reduced role. He said he learned from longtime Jaguars backup Chad Henne how to handle getting benched and being a career backup.
“One thing I’ve always said that I thought was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen is how Chad handled going from being the starter to the backup and how he was able to maturely handle that and be there for me and do whatever I needed or help me out in any way,” Bortles said. “Anytime I’ve ever been in that situation, that’s all I’ll try and do is kind of what he did and what I witnessed him do.
“It’s be a professional and handle it the way you should. It’s a job, and our job is to be here and try to win football games, and as a backup quarterback or any quarterback that’s not the starter you job is to help the starter and help the rest of the offense score points and win.”
Source: The Associated Press