It has become the mantra no one in Jacksonville wants to hear, but appears to be the company line in terms of who opens the 2014 NFL season behind center.
“Chad Henne is our starter.”
At the beginning of the offseason, it seemed like a good idea. Re-sign the veteran to lead the offense, draft a rookie and let him develop. The Jaguars did just that, but the results were not what team general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley had in mind. Now, dare we say it, there is thing called a quarterback controversy in of all places Jacksonville, which honestly could mean the difference in five and seven wins this season. And all the while, the corporate stance is the clock manager is starting instead of the rookie who has progressed with each preseason contest.
For some reason, I am scratching my head at this one and wondering what the Jaguars are so afraid of?
I got the answer I was looking for while reading over the Jaguars website, Jaguars.com. Within moments, it made sense. While the team understands the future of the franchise is wrapped up in No. 5’s arm, timing is everything.
Jaguar’s senior writer, John Oehser explains…
A primary reason Jaguars coaches are staying with Henne over Bortles for now comes down to what Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley talked about after Friday’s loss to Detroit as Henne “playing fast.” The Jaguars believe Henne is still seeing things faster than Bortles and that it leads to better decisions.
That’s why their confidence level in Henne is high. Also, don’t forget the near-interceptions by Bortles Friday. Those sorts of plays are signs Bortles perhaps isn’t *quite* ready, public perception and growing demand notwithstanding, and for now the Jaguars want to make absolutely sure he’s ready before he starts. This isn’t about the Jaguars being stubborn, and it’s not about not wanting to play the best player. There’s no question Bortles is the franchise quarterback of the future.
But for right now, they still believe Henne is the better option. Right now, they don’t believe Bortles is ready. I absolutely believe Bortles will play sometime this season, and it might even be before the bye. But it won’t be for the regular-season opener.
Now that timing is important to the progression of the team, the media will now ask, “When does the team take the shackles off and let the rookie play?”
That is a question that cannot be answered right now. Some local media figure it could happen as early as Week 6, some say after the team returns from London and others (who have given the team seven wins this season) figure it will happen in Week 14 after the team has been eliminated from playoff consideration. Yes, the word playoffs and Jaguars were used in the same sentence.
In my opinion, Blake Bortles gives the Jaguars the best chance to win. Henne may be a leader in the lockerroom and a great guy and the one salvaged a dismal season last year, but giving the good guy a chance to be a starter only takes you so far. Bortles came into the game against Detroit and outperformed Henne in less than 90 seconds.
Obviously, my opinion does not matter, but tame this into consideration. The situation with the Jaguars is not unlike the Dolphins over 30 years ago.
I wrote a column on 1010XL.com this past week, which explains the comparison. Dan Marino was the Dolphins first pick in 1983, but sat on the bench behind David Woodley (Yes, David Woodley) for the first six games of the 1983 season. Now, the Dolphins were a better team and the NFL was a different league back then. But the premise was the same.
Woodley was an average NFL quarterback who was more a game manager than anything else. While Chad Henne is a better passer, leader and manager (much like Don Strock), he still gives you something in the huddle.
But he was no Dan Marino.
As a rookie, Marino set several records: he posted a 96.0 passer rating, he was selected to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, he had the lowest percentage of passes intercepted with 2.03, he was the only rookie quarterback to lead a conference in passing, and he had the highest passing completion percentage with 58.45. The Dolphins finished the season with a 12-4 record and advanced to the AFC divisional playoffs, where Marino threw two touchdown passes in his playoff debut. However, he also threw two interceptions as the team lost to the upstart 9-7 Seattle Seahawks, 27-20.
Bortles isn’t anything like Marino (expect for maybe that wicked fake spike in the second quarter he tried to pull off), but there are comparisons. Those comparisons are enough to make us all sit and think and wonder.
When the sitting stops and the Bortles Era begins is when we will get the answer we really want.