Column: The Blake Bortles effect

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) scrambles out of the pocket during the second half of an NFL divisional football AFC playoff gameagainst the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

We’ll start this week’s column off with a few facts.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are one win away from Super Bowl LII.

Coincidentally, Blake Bortles is one of only two quarterbacks in NFL history to start more than one postseason game and remain undefeated. 

Sure, talk about the elite defense down in ‘Sacksonville’ led by rookie corner Jalen Ramsey along with the likes of A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell and Telvin Smith. They’re dangerous, and as a Patriots fan I’ll be honest when I say that defense makes me very nervous for next Sunday. But like it or not, Blake Bortles will continue to be the deciding factor in the postseason fate of the Jags.

Jacksonville’s wild-card game against Buffalo was ugly to watch, there’s no debating that. Neither quarterback was throwing the ball relatively well despite the ‘wind’ Tony Romo kept blaming the poor play on. But Bortles won that game with his feet, rushing for 88 yards to go along with 87 passing yards and a touchdown in the 10-3 victory.

The rushing yards shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody, Bortles is a very underrated mobile quarterback. The former UCF star broke the Jacksonville record this season for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season. With the performance against the Bills, Bortles joined the one and only Mike Vick as the only other quarterback to rush for more yards than he threw for in a playoff victory.

The next week, Bortles led the Jaguars into Heinz Field and upset the Steelers for a date in New England for the AFC Championship. The Jaguars offense marched into Pittsburgh and hung 45 points on a red-hot Steelers defense.

Bortles did everything Jacksonville needed him to do. The game plan is simple, let the defense dominate the game so all that he needs to do is play just well enough to secure the victory. But things didn’t go exactly according to plan, the Steelers put up 42 points on the Jags defense, which is the most Pittsburgh has ever scored in a home playoff game. Bortles answered the bell, throwing for 214 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions.

The purpose of this column isn’t to convince you Blake Bortles is an elite, or even above-average quarterback. He’s not.  The point is that he doesn’t have to be, and that’s fine. The Jaguars don’t need him to be great, they need him to be good enough.

If Bortles can continue to be average, Jacksonville just might have a date in Minnesota.


Connor Donahue is the digital editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at connor.f.donahue@uconn.edu. He tweets @conn_donahue.