When we caught wind the day before the draft of the possibility that the Jaguars would pull off the surprise of the night by taking quarterback Blake Bortles with the third overall pick, it was explained that the team could go elsewhere for a player who would make an immediate impact with Chad Henne at quarterback.
They didn’t, but that doesn’t mean Henne will be benched.
Appearing on NFL Network’s Total Access, coach Gus Bradley explained that the Jaguars hope to give Bortles some time to watch and learn.
“[W]e really felt comfortable with him coming back, with a another year in the system,” Bradley said. “And I think it gave us flexibility. Then when Blake was there available for us, we really wanted to capture that opportunity. We do feel good about where Blake’s at, but we feel like this time that he has under Chad — a year to develop — will be really good in the end result.”
Bradley echoed comments made the day after Bortles was selected by Jaguars G.M. Dave Caldwell. “We’d like to give Chad this whole year and go with Chad this year,” Caldwell told ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning.
Whether they’d “like to” and whether they will are two different things. If the team doesn’t contend this year, it makes sense to give Bortles game reps once it appears that hope is lost — or at the earliest when it seems hope is close to being loss.
Especially as the fans continue to clamor for the Florida native.
Moreover, Bradley worked for the Seahawks two years ago when the organization had given $10 million guaranteed to Matt Flynn in free agency, picked Russell Wilson in round three, and then handed Wilson the starting job right out of the chute.
In Seattle, it was obvious that Wilson deserved the job; the rookie came in and took over. If Bortles does that in Jacksonville, Bradley and Caldwell could change their minds.
Installing a first-round quarterback as the backup remains the best play. If he hits the ground sprinting, he can always be elevated. But if he’s handed the job from the moment he’s picked and struggles, benching him could be viewed as a concession that maybe the pick should have been used on someone else.