JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Despite featuring Chad Henne in the third preseason game, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone picked Blake Bortles as his starting quarterback for the season opener against the Texans in Houston.
The head coach said he made the decision after watching game film Friday. Marrone said he told the quarterbacks Saturday morning before practice.
“I just think that I had enough information," Marrone said. "I think we have to get ready. I think that the ability to keep going on for me was going to stop the progress of the team. I think that one thing that I have said before – nothing is really status quo on the team, meaning you have to go out there and perform at every position, not just the quarterback position."
Marrone wanted to see what Henne could offer in a starting role after playing just one snap over the last two seasons. Henne's performance clearly wasn't enough to unseat the incumbent starter.
On Thursday, Henne completed 8-of-14 passes for 73 yards in the first half against Carolina. Following halftime, Bortles completed 12-of-16 passes for 125 passing yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
Bortles served as a backup for the first time since his rookie season. A poor performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers led to his temporary demotion.
Marrone said Bortles and Henne handled the depth chart shake up with professionalism, supporting each other despite the competition.
"I always watch how players respond," Marrone said. "I think that, again, you want to see that, you want to see the competitiveness, you want to see him go out there like I said you have a problem if they don't respond. Then it makes it easy to make a decision. I was happy with the way both quarterbacks went about it."
Bortles said his experiences with Henne as a rookie helped him craft his attitude toward the competition.
"Going through this all and having the experience of seeing how Chad handled it three years ago when the same thing happened to him, so I kind of had that in the back of my head," Bortles said.
"[Seeing] how well I thought that he handled that whole situation, so I think being able to see that definitely helped me in handling it. I think our relationship, being supportive of him and obviously wanting the team to do well and be successful, is all I could really do. Be a cheerleader on the sidelines when Chad was out there.”
Henne was sacked three times in the first half against the Panthers. The offensive line was also flagged for a handful of penalties.
Marrone said the offensive line's performance factored into the decision to shift the more mobile Bortles back into the starting role.
"It all goes into play, it really does," Marrone said. "That was my point before when I mentioned everything of how we have to play and what we have to do. All of that stuff does get factored into the decision. It’s not necessarily one against the other.”
Marrone said Bortles impressed him with his communication on the sideline against the Panthers. The head coach said his one-on-one communication with the quarterback was clear, which was an improvement.
"I think one thing that I was definitely conscious of was obviously of the situation that had happened and it was making sure that nobody can tell that this is affected me, was kind of the biggest thing," Bortles said.
"Make sure there’s not a guy on this team, there’s not a coach or there’s not a person in the crowd that says, ‘Wow, he looks upset that he’s not starting,’ or, ‘He looks jealous that Chad’s playing,’ or ‘He looks like he’s not rooting for the team,’ or some of those things. So that was the only thing I wanted to do, was be supportive for Chad, be supportive of the offense and root them on, and when they let me go play it was my opportunity and I was going to go try and make the most of it.”
Bortles has started 45 straight regular season games for the Jaguars. Over the last three seasons, he has thrown for 11,241 passing yards, 69 touchdowns, and 51 interceptions.
Bortles said he is motivated to continue his work as the starting quarterback and leader of the Jaguars. He said he won't let the week of adversity impact his outlook moving forward.
“I think you can look at it as, you can sit there and say, ‘Well, it’s happened once already, it could happen again,’ and worry about that and kind of let that consume your thoughts, or you can say, ‘I’ve had to go through this once and there’s no way I’m going to ever let them do it to me again,’" Bortles said.
"I’m going to go play as hard as I can. I’m going to do everything I can to help this team win and play as hard as I possibly can so I don’t have to go through that again.”
Marrone said he hadn't decide whether or not he would play Bortles in the preseason finale against the Atlanta Falcons. The Jaguars still have a few other starting competitions to figure out before facing the Texans in Week 1.
With those battles still open, there's a chance Bortles and the first team offense will play next week.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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