He was a punchline. And that may be putting it nicely.
Jadeveon Clowney called him “trash”. Earl Thomas deemed him “subpar”. Just two months ago, perhaps those depictions of Blake Bortles would have been accurate. After all, he entered this season as the unquestioned face of terrible passers everywhere, a former high draft pick with 11 wins and 51 interceptions to his name, whose greatest value was as a garbage-time fantasy scorer.
By almost every statistical measure, he did not deserve a starting job, and the Jaguars, unsurprisingly, did not sign him to a long-term contract before the season, opting to let him play out his fifth-year option, instead.
But suddenly — and pretty much inexplicably — the Jaguars quarterback is no longer a bad quarterback being propped up by a great defense. In fact, as the year winds down with the Jaguars bound for the postseason for the first time in a decade, Blake Bortles has, quite simply, been excellent.
And it’s time to give credit where credit is due.
In the hours before Clowney’s “trash” comment, Bortles absolutely eviscerated Clowney and his Texans defense, completing 72 percent of his passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns. Thomas’ comment came a week earlier, fresh after Bortles led the Jaguars to a narrow win over the Seahawks, in which he threw for 268 yards and two scores.
“If how we’re playing and how I’m playing is trash, then I’m fine with being trash,” Bortles told reporters on Wednesday.
The last three weeks constitute the first three-game stretch of Bortles’ career in which he hasn’t tossed away at least one ill-advised turnover. But it’s not as if he’s playing conservatively, in hopes of avoiding mistakes. Without his best wideout, Allen Robinson, and with Marqise Lee limited, Bortles has actually been airing it out. His yards per attempt is just short of 10 yards over this recent hot stretch, and his accuracy down the field has improved all season.
In June, Jaguars…