JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars’ new quarterback probably isn’t going to see the field in 2014.
That’s the plan, anyway, and he’s fine with it.
That’s the reason to like, and dislike, the Jaguars’ selection of Blake Bortles with the third overall pick on Thursday night.
General manager David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley have been adamant that Chad Henne will be the team’s starter this season and that a rookie was going to spend the year developing on the bench. They’re not backing off from that approach. Bortles is going to start, and likely finish, the season on the bench.
"It’s such an important position in this league and you want to do it right," Caldwell said. "That’s what we’re about. … We have to make it work. We can’t just throw him out there. We’ve seen what happens when that happens."
Caldwell was speaking in general, but he just jettisoned an example of what happens when a QB is rushed on the field when he traded Blaine Gabbert to San Francisco for a sixth-round pick. Gabbert was thrust into the starting role as a rookie in 2011 after the team cut David Garrard days before the season began and backup Luke McCown struggled. Gabbert went 5-22 as a starter and was bothered by a string of injuries.
So the Jaguars don’t want to rush Bortles on the field and he supports the decision.
"I would have no problem with it, but I would go into practice every day and prepare every day like I’m a starter," Bortles said. "I think that’s the kind of mindset you’ve got to have when you’re in that position. But I would have no problem doing that and taking a full year to learn and soak up as much information as I can."
Bortles played in a spread offense at Central Florida and he has experience under center. But he’s going to have to adjust to a pro-style offense. He’s got to improve his footwork, his feel in the pocket, and adjust to the speed of the game. He’s perhaps the most physically gifted quarterback in the draft, standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 232 pounds. He’s got a big arm, extends plays with his mobility, and is strong enough to bounce off contact, too.
Caldwell said the coaching and scouting staffs were unanimous in support of Bortles being the Jaguars’ pick. The Jaguars were so enamored with him that Bradley said the team would have taken him even if Jadeveon Clowney was still on the board.
Bortles may turn out to be a very good quarterback -- possibly even elite -- but it won’t happen until at least 2015. And if that happens, it will be a home run pick, the kind that turns a franchise around. But there’s a negative to the choice: the Jaguars need immediate impact players, especially on offense.
The Jaguars scored just 15.4 points per game last season and ranked 31st in total offense, 31st in rush offense, and 22nd in pass offense. Bortles won’t make a dent in those numbers in 2014. That job falls again to Henne, who has never thrown for more touchdown passes than interceptions in his six seasons in the NFL.
"This is not a quick journey, a race to the end," Caldwell said. "It’s a marathon. Well, hopefully not a marathon. We want to build for the long term."