Kaye's Take: Benching Blake Bortles would be a mistake

Oakland beats Jacksonville 33-16

Inadequate performance is typically grounds for demotion or even dismissal in most professions.

The Jaguars have clearly seen a regression from quarterback Blake Bortles this season and his downgraded play has caused concern for spectators, analysts and even some folks inside EverBank Field.

However - in the NFL - you'd better be sure that your young quarterback isn't "THE GUY" before you set him straight with a benching.

Clearly, this is a do-or-die season for head coach Gus Bradley (on the surface) and several notable pieces (Marcedes Lewis, Paul Posluszny, Roy Miller, Sen'Derrick Marks) aren't getting any younger. The Jaguars need to win now.

Moving on to veteran Chad Henne seems like an option. He has been in the NFL for years and has as much experience in the offense as Bortles does. He also has 52 starts in his career.

That said, his teams are 16-36 in those games and he hasn't played in a regular season game since Week 3 of the 2014 season.

Bortles has been an issue, there is no doubt about that. Nonetheless, his lack of a companion running game, instability on the offensive line and inconsistency from his wide receivers hasn't helped him either. The offense as a whole has ceased to function as a unit or find individual success from within.

A lot of that is on the quarterback, some of that is on play-calling and some of it is on everyone else. That said, benching Bortles would send a clear message to a young locker room that the Jaguars are losing confidence in him.

You could argue all day that it's about taking a step back to take a step forward, but benching a young quarterback in his third season - when he showed a lot of promise in his second year - could be cause an even bigger issue. 

Former Eagles quarterback Nick Foles had a similar regression from his second to third seasons in the NFL and he has never recovered. Perhaps, Bortles is in for a similar rodeo, but now is not the time to determine such trajectory.

Bortles has played against his strengths this season, he hasn't taken the deep shots he did last season. He hasn't shown a lot trust in his offensive line or his receivers. He has never been an accurate quarterback, but his skittishness in the pocket has led to some horrific throws.

You would have thought corrections would have been made during the early bye week, but the problems still persist heading into Week 8. Bortles is on pace for 24 interceptions, which would be the most the NFL has seen since Eli Manning threw 27 in 2013. 

(Take a breath)

There are still 10 games left this season.

That's a lot of football to turn this around. While it may seem bleak, Bortles should have every opportunity to make amends. His second season in the NFL earned him 16 games of "THE GUY" tryouts.

The talk of the offseason - nationally and locally - was the inevitable extension for Bortles. Right now, the only thing inevitable about the Jaguars commitment to Bortles is that he will be in Jacksonville next summer. 

With a relatively cheap fourth-year salary and little risk beyond forcing a lame duck quarterback onto the field next season, it makes sense to test his value for the rest of Year 3. 

If you trot out Henne and they go on a run, but still finish at 8-8, what have you accomplished?

One might argue that the record would save Bradley's job and prove the team just needs a competent quarterback to be successful. The issue is that you've taken a small sample size (six games) to theoretically decide that Bortles isn't your franchise quarterback. You know Henne isn't, that's why you signed him to be an expensive insurance policy.

Some of the folks in the back of the class will call for rookie quarterback Brandon Allen to get a shot. It's a nice thought - really it is - but wouldn't you like to see Allen with a year of knowledge under his belt? You threw Bortles to the fire after sitting and watching for three games as a rookie and the results were rough, to be polite.

Allen has potential, but throwing him out there after he has seen you quit on another young quarterback - who just set franchise records - probably isn't the smartest move for his confidence or the stability of the offense.

Bortles - whether you like it or not - needs to play out this season. He has been a problem, but he has been joined by a plethora of other issues on the Jaguars roster.

The team is 2-4 in a wide open AFC South. If Bortles can find a way to turnaround his putrid play, the Jaguars could make a run. If he continues to fall into the NFL's abyss, you know he - at the very least - needs competition for the starting job next season.

Bortles was the No. 3 overall pick in 2014 NFL Draft and is probably the most important selection of general manager Dave Caldwell's career. Decision-makers don't typically give up on their prized possessions like one would with an outdated version of Madden 14.

Bortles may not be the quarterback of the future in Jacksonville, but he needs to be the focus of the next 10 games.

*Kaye's Take is an ongoing editorial feature by Jaguars beat writer Mike Kaye.

Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.


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