JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Benching a quarterback you drafted third overall, only four months after picking up his fifth-year option, seems like a heck of a bungle.
Well, not really. The Jacksonville Jaguars have botched quarterback situations way worse than what has happened with Blake Bortles and Chad Henne over the past few months. In fact, this one comes in near the bottom of the top five instances of QB mismanagement in franchise history:
No. 1, 2011: Coach Jack Del Rio is adamant throughout training camp and preseason that David Garrard would be the starter. Yet the Jaguars cut Garrard five days before the season opener -- and two hours after they introduced him as the starting quarterback at a kickoff luncheon at the Jacksonville chamber of commerce. Del Rio turns the job over to Luke McCown, and he starts the first two games of the season, but he gets benched in fourth quarter of the Jaguars' 32-3 loss to the New York Jets in Week 2. Blaine Gabbert, whom the Jaguars drafted 10th overall, starts for the rest of the season.
No. 2, 2007: Del Rio names Byron Leftwich the starter in February, but Garrard outperforms him throughout training camp and the preseason, and Leftwich is cut nine days before the season begins. Del Rio never said there was a competition for the starting job in camp, but Leftwich has been bothered by injuries throughout his career with the Jaguars and missed 15 games combined in 2005 and 2006.
No. 3, 2003: Mark Brunell started all but one game in 2002 and threw for 2,788 yards and 17 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. The Jaguars select Leftwich seventh overall in the 2003 draft. Brunell begins the season as the starter but injures his elbow in Week 3. Leftwich starts Week 4, and first-year coach Del Rio announces that Leftwich will remain the starter for the rest of the season even though Brunell has recovered from the elbow injury. Because Brunell was on the roster for the first week of the season, his entire $6.75 million salary is guaranteed because he is a vested veteran.
No. 4, 2017: Executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin puts Bortles on notice in February about cutting down on turnovers (an NFL-high 63 over the past three seasons) yet fails to bring in any competition in free agency or the draft. The team moves forward with Bortles as the starter, but he has a five-interception practice on the third day of training camp. He struggles in joint practices with New England and Tampa Bay, then delivers a lackluster performance in a preseason game against the Bucs, which includes three misfires on throws to Allen Robinson. Coach Doug Marrone opens up competition for the starting job with Henne, who earns the start against Carolina in the Jaguars' third preseason game (this Thursday night). Bortles' status with the team is uncertain because of his fifth-year option, which guarantees him $19.053 million in 2018 for injury only. This leaves open the possibility the team cuts him if the coaches decide to make Henne the full-time starter, to avoid any chance of Bortles getting hurt on the Jaguars' watch.
No. 5, 2013: Gabbert suffers a fractured right thumb in the Jaguars' second preseason game, but first-year coach Gus Bradley names him the starter over Henne two days after his injury. Gabbert's injury heals well enough for him to start in the season opener, but he suffers a severe cut on his right hand late in the 28-2 loss to Kansas City. Gabbert misses the next two games, then starts the following two but suffers a strained left hamstring in a loss to St. Louis. The Jaguars stick with Henne as the starter even after Gabbert's injury heals.