Blake Bortles Speaks Out After Being Benched

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After starting the season 3-1, including a 31-20 victory over the New England Patriots, it seemed as though the Jacksonville Jaguars picked up right where they left off last season when they advanced to the AFC Championship Game.

Then the bottom fell out.

Jacksonville has since lost seven straight games, which is the longest losing streak for any team this season. The whole team has struggled, but quarterback Blake Bortles has seemingly become the scapegoat with his six touchdown passes against seven interceptions over that span.

As a result, Bortles was benched on Monday; former USC star Cody Kessler will be the team’s starter for the foreseeable future. This comes after Bortles signed a three-year extension this offseason that guaranteed him $26.5 million.

Bortles weighed in on the benching and his prospect with the team going forward.

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“I think that’s definitely a big-picture thing but not necessarily something that I’m worried about right now,” Bortles said of his future with the team. “I’m just thinking about how can I go and help these guys. How can I help Cody or help (offensive coordinator) Scott (Milanovich) or whoever it may be and try and win a football game and let the rest of it sort itself out when the season’s over.”

In addition to Bortles losing his starting job, Jags offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett lost his job outright. He was fired on Monday, and Milanovich was named the interim offensive coordinator.

Bortles’ 81.9 quarterback rating is fifth-worst in the NFL among qualified players. Everyone below him is either a rookie or a second-year player.

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Bortles admitted that he didn’t do enough to keep the starting job. His stats are one thing, but a quarterback’s main job is to win and that didn’t happen often enough.

“I put myself in this position and I didn’t play good enough,” Bortles said. “Didn’t win football games. Couldn’t find a way to get it done. And when that happens, it’s a business and everybody understands that. I don’t think there’s anything personal involved. As a quarterback, I think you have one job and that’s to win a football game, and if you don’t do that, your time’s probably limited.”

With this season essentially over for him, the next question surrounding Bortles is next season and specifically where he will be playing.

If the Jags release him after this season, they would have $16.5 million in dead money for the 2019 salary cap. If they designate him a post-June 1 cut, that number would drop to $11.5 million.

Bortles said he’s willing to compete for the starting job in Jacksonville but is also aware he might not even get that opportunity.

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“I have no problem with competition or anything. I’m not in charge of decisions that are made,” Bortles said. “I obviously put myself in this position and forced their decision to be made. But at the end of the day, they’re in charge of making those personnel decisions, and if it’s a competition or if it’s, ‘See ya later, you’re outta here,’ you know, whatever it is, I love playing football and would love the opportunity to play again.”

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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