JACKSONVILLE – One era began, another ended.
That was the feel around TIAA Bank Field Thursday, with the Jaguars’ decision-makers introducing a new quarterback and making a point to emphasize something about their old one.
They don’t regret their actions regarding Blake Bortles.
“Not at all,” Jaguars Executive Vice President Tom Coughlin said Thursday.
That was consensus of Coughlin and General Manager David Caldwell, who on Thursday while discussing the team’s decision to make Nick Foles their franchise quarterback also addressed the oft-criticized decision to do the same with Bortles last offseason.
Bortles last offseason signed a three-year contract through 2021. The Jaguars released Bortles Wednesday shortly after signing Foles.
The move left the Jaguars with $16.5 million dead money on the 2019 salary cap.
“It was the right thing to do,” Coughlin said. “The guy took us to the AFC Championship Game [following the 2017 season] and there wouldn’t have been anybody who would have disputed the fact that he deserved the opportunity. We played well behind him and the defense played well.
“What we did at that point in time was try to fortify our team around him. Obviously, we wish it was better, but I have no regrets about that.”
Caldwell, who selected Bortles No. 3 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, said Bortles worked out at TIAA Bank Field daily throughout the offseason. That’s not uncommon; players often use the facilities of their teams until they are officially released.
Caldwell said he informed Bortles Friday a release was possible. He said Bortles wasn’t surprised, and then Caldwell informed him on Monday his release was imminent.
He said Bortles said his goodbyes at the facility Tuesday.
“If all of our players handled their business the way he did, we’d be in good shape,” Caldwell said, adding, “I told Blake that I don’t regret drafting him, I don’t regret giving him the extension. He earned that extension. I do regret that it didn’t work out.”
Coughlin said Bortles’ performance in the postseason following the 2017 season solidified “what we thought was a guy who was going to be able to play at that level.”
“He had an outstanding playoff,” Coughlin said. “He didn’t turn the ball over. He did all of the things he had to do to help us win, including run. He was an unfortunate inadvertent whistle from being in the big game. I’ve settled that one myself, mentally. Obviously, we feel bad that it didn’t work.”
Coughlin said the Jaguars never seriously considered retaining Bortles as a backup. He added of the release, “Obviously, it wasn’t all Blake. But something had to be done, obviously.”
LIKING HIS NUMBER
Speaking of Foles, he couldn’t have been happier Thursday. One reason: an opportunity to be the starter, which he hasn’t been since 2015 with the St. Louis Rams. Another: a chance to wear No. 7, something he hasn’t done since he played at Austin Westlake High School in 2005 and 2006. “No. 7 has actually always been my number,” Foles said. “Since I was a kid, I always wore No. 7. I went to Michigan State and [Brian] Hoyer was No. 7, I went to Arizona, Willie Tuitama was No. 7. Philadelphia – Mike Vick [was No. 7]. It was retired in St. Louis. Kansas City – that was an interesting year. I was really coming back to football. Aaron Murray was No. 7 at the time, but I wore No. 4 to honor my wife. She was No. 4 in college. When I went back to Philadelphia, I wore No. 9. This was the first opportunity where I could go back to my roots – my high school and my childhood and I was just playing free like that – and wear my No. 7. I’m very honored to wear No. 7.”
FINE WITH THE PRICE
Coughlin on Thursday addressed criticism over Foles’ contract that paid $88 million over four years with $50.1 guaranteed. While many believed the contract too high because of a belief the Jaguars were the only team pursuing Foles, Coughlin called the contract “part of the financial strategy going in.” Had the Jaguars paid less, the theory went, Foles and his agent could have been prompted to return to Philadelphia or seek offers from another team. “We recognize the fact that he’s a very talented player,” Coughlin said. “He deserved the opportunity that he was given. We were always leery that someone could come out of the woodwork with all the publicity that was being sent our way. We also wanted the man to come here and play feeling good about the opportunity.”
A FINAL WORD
Caldwell on Bortles’ career in Jacksonville: “We played him originally when we weren’t going to play him [as a rookie in 2014], and I told him Friday if I had to do over again I would have stuck to my guns on that. We put him out there with a team that wasn’t ready to compete. A lot of people wrote the book on him [as he struggled that season]. He came back in his sophomore season and had a really good year; although we weren’t winning at the time, it wasn’t much fault of his own. He had a down year the following year and the next year (2017) it worked. We were four minutes away from the Super Bowl. This past year we were 3-1 and he had two 350-plus-yard games. He was doing some really good things. We got beat up and he just couldn’t do it by himself. Too much pressure on him to try to get it done on his own. It couldn’t happen and things fell apart.”