Bortles Out, Kaepernick In? Jaguars Need a Real QB to Save Once-Promising Season

Bortles Out, Kaepernick In? Jaguars Need a Real QB to Save Once-Promising Season
JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 21: Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks at the scoreboard during the second half against the Houston Texans at TIAA Bank Field on October 21, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Yes, the Jaguars have talked too much trash and it’s coming back to bite them. Corner Jalen Ramsey had never met a microphone he didn’t like before he and the Jaguars defense got roasted against the Chiefs and Cowboys, and now he suddenly doesn’t want to talk except to complain about media coverage.       

And yes, the Jaguars are injured. They have a bevy of hurt players, the biggest being running back Leonard Fournette, who’s spent most of this season on the sideline with a hamstring injury.

But all the talking and all the injuries aren’t why the Jaguars’ season is going down the toilet. There is one and only one reason for that: Blake Bortles.

Whatever else is right, whatever else is wrong, they cannot win unless they get a real quarterback. And, with a real quarterback out there waiting to be had, in Colin Kaepernick, it raises the question: Is this franchise willing to throw away an entire season—a season in which people were picking it to be a threat to win the AFC—out of stubbornness over its past faith in Bortles and narrow-mindedness about Kaepernick?

Bortles has been so bad, so awful, so absolutely putrid that in Sunday’s humiliating 20-7 loss to the Texans, he was benched for Cody Kessler…a former Browns quarterback. Kessler once went 0-8 as a Browns starter. When you lose your job to him, it’s time to re-examine your place in the universe.

Bortles fumbled twice Sunday, the 26th time in the past five seasons he committed at least two turnovers. It’s the most giveaways by any player in the NFL during that span.

But it wasn’t just the fumbles. He looks like he’s never played the position before, like he’s playing quarterback the way a toddler operates the television remote. Clueless, inept and incapable of running an NFL offense.

One of the true tells was how defensive players looked on the sideline. Some of them just looked stunned as they watched Bortles and the offense. They looked like they wanted to lock the offense in a chest, burn it and then bury the ashes in a hole.

When Kessler threw for a touchdown, the defensive players mobbed him with glee. It was as if the players hadn’t seen their quarterback make a good throw in months. They were starving for something.

You could see: The Bortles Era is over. In terms of eras, it was one like when the dinosaurs were nuked by an asteroid or The Great Depression.

There is no way the Jaguars can ever trust Bortles again. If they do, they are complete fools. Chasing good money after bad.

Handing Bortles a three-year, $54 million contract extension will go down as one of the worst decisions Tom Coughlin has made in his Hall of Fame career. Bortles was bound to Bortles. It was inevitable. And now we’ve seen it: three turnovers in his past two games, eight in his past three, 6-of-12 for 61 yards before being benched Sunday.

But as bad as that decision was, sticking with him now would be so much worse. 

Coughlin might still defend that contract—say Bortles was the quarterback for a team that went to the title game and hung with the Patriots at Gillette, say Bortles deserved to be paid. But standing by him now would be indefensible.

The team knows it can’t win with Bortles. It absolutely knows it. And the players in that locker room know it, too. The Athletic’s Daniel Popper reported that after the game, Jaguars players were screaming at each other and had to be separated.

So what do the Jaguars do?

Even in the mediocre AFC South, they cannot win with Kessler any more than they could with Bortles. They have to trade for someone or sign someone and do it now. It’s the only thing that can stabilize a rapidly decaying season.

They could try to get lucky on trading for Tyrod Taylor out of Cleveland or Jacoby Brissett out of Indianapolis. Or could try to pry Teddy Bridgewater out of New Orleans. It’s unclear what it would take to get those players (or if they’re even available, in Bridgewater’s case), and those aren’t proven winning NFL quarterbacks, but those are calls the Jaguars have to make.

But the first call they should make is to a quarterback who has proved he can win in the NFL and is definitely available. Kaepernick.

It wouldn’t cost the team much. It wouldn’t give up draft picks. And I think Kaepernick would play there. 

They would have to give him time to get up to speed, but Kaepernick is a genius and can learn any offense. The team could stick with Kessler for next week’s game against Philadelphia and then, following a bye week, insert Kaepernick and bring back Fournette.

Unfortunately, all of this will probably never happen. Coughlin would probably rather drink battery acid than sign Kaepernick.

But if it did, the change in the team’s momentum would be monumental.

So the Jaguars, and Coughlin, have to ask themselves: Do they want to throw away a season over pride? Or over contractual commitment to Bortles? Or even to the lie propagated over the true intention of Kaepernick’s protests?

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 1: Eric Reid #35, Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eli Harold #58 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline, during the anthem, prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Santa Clara, Calif

Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

The Panthers needed a safety, and they signed Eric Reid, the man who started the protests with Kaepernick. When Reid signed, Earth kept spinning through the solar system unaffected. The same would happen with Kaepernick.

The Jaguars can still win this year. And Coughlin can still fix his mistake. But only if he doesn’t let pride or stupidity get in the way.

Oh wait. Hold on.

Another fumble.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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