JACKSONVILLE – The story is the story until it’s no longer the story.
The story around the Jaguars, of course, is quarterback. And if the last few days are indication, it’s going to be that way for a while around EverBank Field.
That’s the tricky news for the Jaguars, that with rookie
The good news for the Jaguars:
It appears that the two players who will be at the center of the quarterback conversation in the coming weeks or months – or however long it is until Bortles becomes the starter – are well-equipped and perfectly prepared to handle their roles.
That certainly was the topic in the Twittersphere, with everyone with an opinion weighing in on how soon Bortles should be the starter. That’s to be expected. He looked good – very good – in a scrimmage at EverBank Field a week and a half ago and looked even better in the preseason-opening 16-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Friday.
Bortles looked poised. He looked confident. He threw to the second level of the defense. He made plays. He was just, plain exciting and the fan base responded with cries of, “Start him … now!”
The thing is, the Jaguars see this differently.
They have seen it differently since drafting Bortles No. 3 overall in May, and they saw it differently long before that. The team re-signed Henne last March in part because there was a strong possibility the team would be in this situation this season: with a young quarterback on the roster who was absolutely, positively the future but not as absolutely, positively ready to start immediately.
Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley and General Manager David Caldwell were clear in May that the idea was to start Henne. They were just as clear in June and July, too, and two public performances – as impressive and as exciting as they were for a fan-base starved for impressive and exciting quarterback play – aren’t going to sway them from a long-term plan.
So it was that Bradley said Friday that Henne remains the starter. And so it was that he reiterated it Saturday.
And even with all of that, guess one of the questions Monday: Will Henne start the regular season?
We don’t yet know the future of this story. We don’t know if Bortles’ light will continue to shine so brightly this preseason that he will force his way into the starting lineup sooner than expected. Is that possible? Sure. Bradley and Caldwell have said all along that Bortles will start when ready, and if ready is sooner rather than later, they won’t close their eyes to that. At the same time, their timetable and criteria will have nothing to do with the buzz currently around Bortles. Nor will it have to do with consensus among fans or media. The decision will come when the Jaguars believe it’s time, which is as the decision should come.
What we do know, and what it critically good news for the Jaguars, is the two key players in place – Henne and Bortles – continue to seem ideal for their roles.
Bortles understands he’s the backup until he’s not and has offered no quotes or comments to the contrary. He appears to legitimately understand that a few good preseason performances don’t mean an automatic start, and he doesn’t appear to think it’s an affront to his ego if it doesn’t happen.
That’s refreshing, and bodes well for his future.
As for Henne, all we have seen in the last few days is what anyone who has been around Henne for any period of time should have expected to see: a professional quarterback handling the situation professionally.
Henne spoke to the media Monday, and as expected, Bortles was a topic.
“I thought he did a really good job,” Henne said of Bortles. “I felt like he was a really good decision-maker and moved the chains.”
Henne also was asked about fans perhaps wanting to “see the kid start.” Henne, a veteran of quarterback competitions in Miami and Jacksonville, noted that he has been in the situation before, and answered without a hint of sarcasm or resentment.
“I’m not the guy to be jealous,” he said. “I’m happy for him. I’m happy for every player to do their best and play well. When it’s my opportunity, I have to take advantage of my opportunities.
“When it’s not, I just cheer on the player.”
Henne likely will answer some version of that question often in the coming weeks and months. That question will be a question until the story is no longer a story. And the thing with Henne is it’s hard to imagine him ever not taking the right approach, the professional approach. He will be the guy until he’s not, just as Bortles won’t be the guy until he is.
At some point, some time, the roles will reserve. We don’t know yet when that will be. That’s the tricky news. The good news is it’s apparent they have the right guy for both roles.
If so, the short-term will be easier than it might have been otherwise, and the long-term might be very bright indeed.