JACKSONVILLE – Blake Bortles is the NFL's hottest quarterback.
That's undeniably and statistically true – and Bortles said it doesn't particularly bother him that a recent opponent or two may still not agree.
Criticism? Skepticism? The Jaguars' ascending starting quarterback has endured heavy doses of both in four seasons as a starter. And if he's still dealing with a little of both…
Well, he can deal with that, too.
"I could care less," Bortles said Wednesday as the AFC South-leading Jaguars (10-4) prepared to play the San Francisco 49ers (4-10) at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, Sunday at 4:05 p.m.
"If how we're playing and how I'm playing … if that's trash, then I'm fine with being trash."
Bortles in that quote was referencing a statement made this past Sunday by Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who referred to Bortles as "trash" following the quarterback's three-touchdown, no-interception performance in a 45-7 Jaguars victory over Houston.
A week earlier, Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas referred to Bortles as a "subpar" following Bortles' two-touchdown, no-interception performance in a 30-24 Jaguars victory over Seattle.
Bortles, after struggling at times with accuracy and interceptions in his first three seasons, has completed a career-high 61 percent of his passes this season for 3,147 yards and 19 touchdowns with eight interceptions for a career-high 89.7 passer rating.
"The quarterback is rolling," Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson said Wednesday. "This is a dangerous football team."
Bortles in three December games is the NFL's highest-rated passer with seven touchdowns, no interceptions and 903 yards in three victories, and said he doesn't feel markedly different now than he did in the first 11 games of the season.
"I've felt the same all year long," Bortles said. "Obviously the results and numbers have been a little better here recently, obviously. I feel good. I feel the same. I don't feel as though I'm pressing or doing more than I have in the past. I think guys are making really good plays and helping me look good."
Bortles has said several times this season he believes he is improving in the first year under coordinator Nate Hackett, and he reiterated that point Wednesday.
"You only get more comfortable and confident within the offense," Bortles said. "We're all in it for the first year and each week you feel a little better about the plan, better about the stuff you're doing. That allows you to go and play free."
Bortles also on Wednesday was asked how he specifically felt about comments made in recent weeks by opposing defensive players.
"I think everybody's different," Bortles said. "I was always taught and thought you praise who you're playing when they beat you or you beat them. But guys are taught and believe different things. Not everybody's the same.
"They have the right to voice their opinion and do all of that, so they can do what they want."
Bortles said it's continuing that level of play that concerns him rather than proving critics – past or present – incorrect.
"We've talked about it before – when you spend time or brain space or start saving information on all of those guys who have said bad things about you it's a waste of time," Bortles said. "It's a waste, thinking about that stuff. I have a couple of people I have to prove right for putting me in the position I'm in.
"As long as I'm doing that and we're finding ways to move the ball and score points, I'm happy with what I'm doing and where I'm at."