JACKSONVILLE – Doug Marrone answered succinctly.
The Jaguars’ head coach replaced quarterback Blake Bortles in the second half Sunday, so naturally Marrone after the game was asked the quarterback’s reaction.
“He was pissed,” Marrone said.
And Marrone said that was OK.
“That's good,” Marrone said following a 20-7 loss to the Houston Texans at TIAA Bank Field Sunday, the Jaguars’ third consecutive loss and second loss in as many AFC South home games this season.
“He should be pissed. He's pissed at me, and he should be. I have no problems with that. If it was any other way, that would be a problem.”
Bortles, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft and the Jaguars’ starting quarterback in the last 68 games, completed six of 12 passes for 61 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions Sunday. The offense produced 121 yards in a little more than a half with Bortles playing.
But it was a turnover that prompted Marrone to replace Bortles, with Bortles losing his second fumble of the game when trying to scramble for a first down on the Jaguars’ first possession of the third quarter. That was Bortles’ eighth turnover in the Jaguars’ three-game losing streak.
“I don’t think anything ever surprises you playing the game at this level,” Bortles said. “I have to take care of the ball and give us a chance to score points and win at this point and try to change the field position. I didn’t do that, so they made a change.”
Bortles was asked if he was trying to do too much. He also lost a fumble on the first series of the game when trying to scramble for a first down on third down.
“Of course,” Bortles said. “Nobody wants to play losing, bad football so I am going to try and do whatever I can to make a play. Obviously sometimes that doesn’t go well.”
Backup quarterback Cody Kessler played the rest of the second half after replacing Bortles, completing 21 of 30 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown with an interception. Kessler’s six-yard touchdown pass to running back T.J. Yeldon cut a 20-0 halftime led to 13 points, but the Jaguars failed to score in the fourth quarter.
Marrone afterward said of the quarterback position, “It’s open.”
Kessler afterward said he had “no idea” if he had a chance to start when the Jaguars play the Philadelphia Eagles at Wembley Stadium in London next Sunday.
“That is obviously up to coach,” said Kessler, a third-year veteran who the Jaguars acquired in an offseason trade with the Cleveland Browns. “I am just going to keep doing what I have been doing since I got here and compete, helping the quarterback room any way I can whether it’s the scout team getting some reps or whatever it may be.”
Bortles faced a similar situation during the 2017 preseason when he competed with then-backup Chad Henne during a Preseason Week 3 game before being named the starter. He quarterbacked the Jaguars to the AFC South title and a spot in the AFC Championship Game that season.
“You keep your head down and keep working,” Bortles said. “That’s all I’ve ever done my whole life. It’s all I really know how to do. I think it’s the only thing you can do in this situation. Show up with a positive attitude and get ready to play next week. Whether I play or not is not up to me, so I’ll be ready to go.”
CB Jalen Ramsey on the Jaguars’ defense: “If I had the recipe, if I knew what was going on, we would all be sharing it with each other. We wouldn’t continue taking L’s, but I don’t know. We taking L’s and we gotta figure out. I don’t know what’s going on.”
Ramsey: “You all walk in here, you all see how it is in here, you all see how we vibe with each other, you all see how we vibe towards the coaches, you all see how it is. It is no secret what’s going on here right now. Ain’t nobody going to say it because we can’t, but it ain’t no secret what’s going on and it ain’t right right now. It is what it is.”
Bortles: “It is not what anybody wanted or how we expected to play.”
Marrone on replacing Bortles with Kessler: “I just literally did it to try to get a damn spark from this football team, to put everyone on notice that they have to focus, and they have to go out there and play better… That’s not fair to the quarterback, but that’s the way this business is… The one thing you do with that position, doesn’t matter the name, doesn’t matter who it is: when you make a move to get a spark, everyone goes on notice. Everyone.”
Marrone: “I'm focused on how we stop turning the ball over. It's hard for me, in my mind, to sit here right now and try to say, ‘If we can do this, we can do...’ We can't do [expletive] until we stop turning the ball over. Period. That's just how it is. … I can get up here and give everyone a million things, all this stuff, positive and negative, but if you’re minus-three [takeaway-giveaway] and you’re minus-two, minus-three, game-in and game-out, you are not going to win, no matter what positive thing you try to find. That’s just the way it is. It’s been that way from the beginning.”
DE Calais Campbell: “We let a team in our division come into our house and beat us, and that’s never good.”
Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.: “If we win out, we’d be 12-4 and that’s a really good record, so everybody has to come together and be ready to move forward together as a team and pick each other up and understand that we will have adversity. Once we find a way to get through this, we’ll be fine.”
DT Abry Jones: “There are too many grown men in here so there’s no panic.”