In a put-up-or-shut-up year in Jacksonville for head coach Gus Bradley and general manager Dave Caldwell, the Jaguars have been a shrinking violet to this point, in the cellar of the worst division in football after the team’s latest loss, a 33-16 drubbing at the hands of the ascending Oakland Raiders at EverBank Field.
To make matters even worse, the Raiders young quarterback, Derek Carr, completely outplayed Jacksonville signal caller Blake Bortles, both from a statistical standpoint as well as the eye test.
That of course, is a big problem because Bortles was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft while Carr was selected 33 spots after that by Oakland and it’s pretty clear to most who got the better option at this point.
“Obviously not playing good,” Bortles told reporters after his latest loss. “I couldn’t tell you. I wish I knew; I’d fix it. It’s just a continual thing and hopefully, we can find a way to turn it around and solve some problems.”
To be fair, quarterback play is not in a vacuum and supporting casts obviously have to do with the success or failure with anyone under center but the Raiders were every bit as dreadful as the Jaguars when both of these processes started and play in a much tougher environment, the always difficult AFC West.
Meanwhile, as Oakland assembled significant talent around Carr like receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, Caldwell has down the same for Bortles with wideouts Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, as well as tight end Julius Thomas.
And that’s why things are starting to wear thin in Jacksonville as the long-suffering fan base waits for the light to go off for Bortles.
At this stage, there is nothing more that Bradley, the coach on the hot seat, and Caldwell, the GM who hitched his wagon to Bortles by taking him so high, other than to cross their fingers. Veteran backup Chad Henne is a stopgap at best and rookie Brandon Allen is a developmental type light years behind even Bortles.
For that reason, Bradley is doing everything necessary to protect Bortles’ psyche because that’s all the coach has.
“I firmly, firmly believe in Blake Bortles,” Bradley said on Monday. “Without a doubt. I think it was a challenging day (against the Raiders) about some of the situations we were in, but as far as the competitor … and what he brings to this team, there is no doubt [about Bortles].”
Actually, there is plenty of doubt and about the only hope is tied to the fact that despite being in last place in the dismal AFC South at 2-4, the Jags are only one game back in the loss column behind division leader Houston. Furthermore, Andrew Luck remains the only real consistent option at QB in the division and he’s a one-man band in Indianapolis.
So, two-plus years into the Bortles era, the Jaguars have won just 10 of 38 games and Bradley himself is a dismal 14-40 as an NFL head coach in Northeast Florida.
And that probably means we are now down to a 10-game window in the Bradley-Caldwell era. Either the Jaguars rebound to win a bad division, or it’s time to reboot again.
“I think what I feel in the locker room is where we are at is unacceptable,” Bradley said. “That is a good thing. …there will be more accountability from teammates. That is a good thing. All those things where they challenge one another. (The Oakland game) is not who we are. We have something here.”
If that’s true, put up or shut up.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.