JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Ryan from Denver, CO:
Alright, O: I wanted Blake Bortles to work out as much as the next person, but I think we're all seeing the end of an era. If people keep saying he's the best quarterback on this team, that's fake news. Let Chad Henne and Brandon Allen battle it out.
John: You raise a couple of pressing issues, which makes your email a good place to start on this First Day of the Rest of Our Jaguars Lives. This indeed feels like a flashpoint moment for this franchise because there was a seismic shift in the Jaguars' quarterback landscape late in the second quarter Thursday when backup quarterback Chad Henne took repetitions with the first team. If there was any doubt how seismic, Head Coach Doug Marrone put it to rest immediately following a 12-8 preseason loss to Tampa Bay. That's when he said that he had spoken to both Henne and Bortles after the game, informing them the best quarterback to lead the offense would start moving forward. The job, to quote Marrone, is "up for grabs." That's seismic stuff in NFL terms, and although Marrone was pointed in saying that Bortles could still be the team's quarterback … if that is to happen, there must be a serious change in momentum – and fast. I never thought Bortles had the dramatic regression last season many observers believed, but he looked on Thursday like a quarterback to whom the "R" label fit. There was little life in the performance, and there were two bad throws to Allen Robinson that seemed to define the evening. Although Henne wasn't statistically better, his two second-quarter throws into the end zone – while dropped by Robinson and rookie Keelan Cole – were the sort of throw Bortles hasn't made often enough in camp: aggressive, confident throws to the right receiver. As for letting Henne and Brandon Allen battle it out … I'm not sensing that. Allen looked good late in the game Thursday but he was playing against third-teamers. This feels like a Henne-Bortles conversation, with Henne having all the momentum.
Derek from Jacksonville:
Is Blake Bortles done as a quarterback in Jacksonville? If not, why not?
John: Done in Jacksonville? No – not absolutely, anyway. Marrone on Thursday was pointed in saying Bortles could still be the Jaguars' quarterback, but that he had to earn it. Still, this does have the feel of an era ending. There's no doubt about that. And it's true that once quarterbacks lose a firm grasp on a starting position, it's extremely difficult ever to grasp the same position as tight. If Bortles isn't done, he's got some serious earning to do. And fast.
Dave from Glass Half Empty:
Zone, glass is half empty. I think I'll just top it off with straight scotch after this one. Are the fans just supposed to get used to this from the home team again this year? Is it tired arms, or tired legs? I just know I'm tired of watching this movie. Tell me this is just a blip. Is this just a blip?
John: It wasn't a blip, but it wasn't good. I asked middle linebacker Paul Posluszny afterward if it was a case of tired legs from a grueling training camp, and he wasn't buying it – though he said without question the team didn't come out fast Thursday. A couple of other possible factors? It was the second game of the preseason without the top three corners; that didn't help defensively. It was also a game without running back Leonard Fournette … but yeah, there was some troubling stuff Thursday. It wasn't a blip, but it was stuff that has to get fixed.
Fred from Orange Park, FL:
John, cut to the chase: Does Blake Bortles start the regular-season opener?
John: My answer a month ago would have been "absolutely." But as I have said throughout the week, the overarching storyline of this week is this: Bortles has not performed well enough in training camp to make the questions, speculation and "noise in the system" go away. This storyline obviously took a major, major uptick Thursday. Marrone has made it clear he's going to play the best players who give the team the best chance to win. I believed until Thursday that would be Bortles. Now, I think it will be a tough task for Bortles to start again. He looks like a quarterback who has lost confidence, and his struggles seem to have nothing to do with the mechanics issues that were everyone's offseason focus and everything to do with … pressing a bit too much, not wanting to make a mistake and just being off-kilter. That's speculation, but that's how it feels. I honestly am surprised we're here this quickly with Bortles this season. He was serviceable late last season, and I thought he showed some good signs late last season and in organized team activities. I also saw some encouraging things in training camp. But we haven't seen enough of those things, and neither have the Jaguars' decision-makers. So, to cut to the chase: Does Bortles start the regular-season opener? As of right now – Friday, August 19 – it's hard to see it happening. We'll see.
Paul from Jacksonville:
So, for the love of Pete … if they were going to change quarterbacks, why not get someone in the offseason? Why, Zone? Why?
John: This is a legitimate question that likely won't be definitely answered to the satisfaction of fans anytime soon. And I don't have a great answer other than the offseason options weren't dazzling at the time, nor are they dazzling in retrospect. The Jaguars' decision to give Henne repetitions Thursday doesn't change the fact that the Jaguars didn't like any of the available quarterback options enough to spend the draft selection or money necessary. Perhaps they believed Henne as good an option as anyone available. Perhaps they believed Bortles would improve – or at least maintain. It's all speculation at this point and likely will remain as such. Do they need Bortles or Henne to perform well to alleviate some criticism? Yeah, probably, but hey: What's a little criticism?
Cory from Madison, WI:
You included a quote from Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone in your article last night, something to the effect of "It's better to have a quarterback competition in Week 2 of preseason than during the regular season." True as that may be, bringing in guys in the start of the offseason to create a real competition would have been better.
John: Those who made this point throughout the offseason have reason to feel good about themselves as Friday dawns.
Dave from Duval:
Dear Mr. O: it's time for Bortles to go. He has "Steve Blass Syndrome." It's in his head. Henne gives the Jaguars the best chance to win. Also, Westbrook is the real deal!
John: Your "Steve Blass Syndrome" reference is interesting. Blass was a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the early 1970s who suddenly and inexplicably couldn't control his pitches. I haven't seen Bortles' accuracy go quite as awry as that, but there have been inexplicable moments in this training camp. It's baffling, and it's too bad. This is a good guy who showed promise early in his career. He also worked hard this offseason to prepare for a critical year. Now, no sooner than it began, he has lost what was once a firm grip in the starting job. As for Westbrook, Thursday was a good sign. He played extensively in the second half, which means he's currently running behind young players such as Keelan Cole and Shane Wynn on the depth chart. But he showed up big-time Thursday. We'll see if it earns him some more immediate opportunity.
Jeremy from Newport, RI:
Blake Bortles is not an NFL-starting caliber quarterback and this team lacks heart. Yes, they lack heart. Why does every other team always have more effort/heart?
John: Bortles struggled Thursday. He had a couple of bad throws – and there really was nothing outstanding to counteract that. He hardly was the only Jaguars player with a rough outing. As for the "heart" thing … nah. That's not an issue. There were other issues, to be sure. But not heart.
Tom from Section 141 and the Mean Streets of Nocatee:
At night I drink myself to sleep and pretend I don't care that we don't have a QB...
John: It's not as though I really need you.
Ryan from Apopka, FL:
So who is on the bigger hot seat: Bortles or Myers?
John: I wouldn't touch either right now.
Anthony from Columbia, SC:
Bortles has more talent, athleticism, and upside, but given the talent on this defense and commitment to the run game, Henne gives the Jags the best chance to win. My guess is Bortles' confidence is gone. He's not making the throws we've seen him make before. Do you agree the Henne gives the Jags their best chance to win at this point?
John: Henne's making a strong argument. His first two throws on Thursday were aggressive, accurate throws that should have been touchdowns. They were dropped by Cole and Robinson, but they were the right throws. Henne's making a strong argument. A strong argument.
O-Zone: An argumentative guy
JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Ryan from Denver, CO: