The Time Is Now: Jacksonville Should Start Blake Bortles at Quarterback
The Jacksonville Jaguars should start Blake Bortles, beginning with their Week 3 game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Yes, he's a backup rookie quarterback, so I won't be the only one leading off an article with a similar statement. Everyone loves backup quarterbacks, especially rookie ones. But in this case, the starter is making the decision for the Jaguars.
Chad Henne is the worst quarterback in the NFL right now, and has done nothing to prove that he's capable of bring a respectable level of competition to the Jaguars this year, let alone any victories. He is who he is, and playing him only delays the inevitable switch to Bortles, which may actually win the team some games.
The Jaguars are 0-2, but so are the Colts, a division rival. Here's why they should make the switch to Bortles ASAP to get a win over Indianapolis and try to get their season on track.
These are the names you'll find when you compare Chad Henne's 2014 passing metrics to historical examples. Our similarity algorithm compares Henne most favorably to 2003 Drew Bledsoe (he was with the Bills at this point), and 2001 Jon Kitna, who threw the most passes in the NFL, only completed 54% of them, and tossed 22 interceptions.
But what's most shocking is how far he's fallen from a respectable performance (relatively speaking) last season. Here are Henne's career numbers according to our Net Expected Points metric, including only the previous seasons in which he threw more than 300 passes.
|Year||Drop Backs||Passing NEP||Passing NEP per Drop Back||Success Rate|
His numbers improved last season as the wide receiver situation settled down a bit, and he got more acclimated to Cecil Shorts and his other targets on offense. But the ridiculous drop in efficiency and consistency is more than just "missing a wide receiver." He's flat out bad.
In fact, if Henne is allowed to drop back to pass 66 more times and keeps up his current pace, he would be the 14th worst quarterback since 2000 according to our data among those to drop back at least 150 times. The only players since 2007 to post a worst per-target NEP average are Ryan Lindley and Brady Quinn in 2012, and JaMarcus Russell in 2009.
But Henne shouldn't be allowed to drop back 66 more times. He should only see another snap if Blake Bortles is injured or if the game is out of hand, and a backup quarterback is required to make sure the valuable starter isn't hurt.
So why would Blake Bortles be a better option for the Jaguars? A lot of it has to do with how he handles pressure.
One of the excuses you'll see from many fans and writers is that Henne is set up to fail because of how poor the Jacksonville offensive line is playing. And while it's true that Henne has been sacked 13 times this year while no other quarterback has been sacked more than seven, quarterback sacks aren't always the fault of the offensive line.
Henne has done a horrible job of navigating pressure this season, and is compounding the bad offensive line by letting the pressure impact his throws. His offensive line may be bad, but so is Josh McCown's, so is Andrew Luck's, and to a certain extent, so is Aaron Rodgers'. Yet, somehow, none of these quarterbacks are ranked anywhere near Henne in our quarterback metrics.
One of Blake Bortles' best qualities in college, and something he continued to show in the preseason, is that he's fearless under pressure, as he navigates the pocket very well. These are the attributes you want in a quarterback with a shaky offensive line.
Bortles was sacked four times on 55 drop backs in the preseason, yet still managed at 63% completion percentage, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He faced the pressure that Henne is facing, and he performed well, taking care of the ball. He more than earned his chance, especially considering how poorly Henne is playing now.
A Chance to Win Games
The AFC South is the worst division in football (every team is ranked in the bottom half of the league according to our power rankings), and the Jacksonville Jaguars have a legitimate opportunity this year to win football games. Their offense has been horrible through two weeks, but that's mostly on Henne, who has been downright awful.
The defense isn't as bad as raw statistics would imply, as our Adjusted Defensive NEP ranks them 10th worst in the league, 6 spots better than their total yards allowed would rank them.
And as injured safety Johnathan Cyprien returns to health, and as the offense stops handing the ball back to opposing teams in compromising situations, it's possible that the talent on that defense will shine through. They've already began to correct one of their major issues for the past two years, currently sitting second in the NFL in sacks after finishing last two years in a row.
With a game against the 0-2 Colts this week, the Jaguars must take their shot now and try to climb back up the AFC South standings. The Titans and Texans loom on their schedule, as well, so they'll have every opportunity to earn the top spot in the division this season. But with Henne under center, none of this is possible.
If the Jaguars just want to tank and start fresh next year, they're entitled to do so. But they have a golden opportunity this year to bring victories to a franchise that has long been in need of something to cheer for during the regular season, and that happens by making the change to Blake Bortles at quarterback.