JACKSONVILLE – He knows, and that's the best thing about Blake Bortles.
The Jaguars' second-year quarterback set records this season. He threw for many yards, piled up lofty statistics and became a Fantasy Football darling.
He became a star – a big one locally and a budding one nationally.
All are good things, but the best thing about Bortles came through when speaking to the media on Monday a day after a season-ending loss to the Houston Texans. He talked about his breakout second season. In doing so, he spoke about a loss a few weeks back to the San Diego Chargers.
In that game, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers owned the Jaguars' defense with the craftiness reserved for a veteran quarterback. He changed plays at the line. He changed the routes of receivers. He owned the game. Shoot, he won the game.
Bortles took note. Big-time.
"That the goal and somewhere you want to be in the future," Bortles said Monday.
That right there, folks – that's the best thing about Bortles. Not the franchise-record 35 touchdown passes or the franchise-record 4,428 passing, though those are not bad things.
No, the best thing is Bortles knows those things aren't enough.
Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley on Sunday in the wake of the one-sided loss to Houston spoke about the positives of team that finished 5-11 and lost its last three games. He mentioned Bortles, saying, "I really love our quarterback."
Discussing Bortles again Monday, Bradley talked about the need for Bortles to "take even another step and command of the offense – to change the tempo, to do some different things."
"That's what you see some of the more experienced quarterbacks in the league do, and I think that's really kind of the stride we want to make sure we take a step in that direction," Bradley said. "And when you have stronger ownership of the scheme, it allows you to play, you have more answers and it leads to better decisions."
Bortles cannot, will not and should not be expected to turn into Rivers in one offseason. Rivers is a veteran at the height of his powers, as good at the line of scrimmage as any quarterback in the NFL.
that's not the point. Rather, the point is while there is a long way for Bortles to go to reach Rivers' level of ownership he knows there is a long way to go. And he's willing to do the work to get there.
Bortles on Monday provided a glimpse into his offseason plans. He met with offensive coordinator Greg Olson Monday, and will do so again Tuesday. They will develop a plan for what Bortles and the Jaguars' wide receivers can do in the offseason while away from the facility – "within the rules," Bortles said – with the idea to further develop the continuity they began developing this season.
Toward that end, Bortles said he will alter his offseason approach. He spent two months in California last offseason working with passing coach Tom House on the footwork, fundamentals and mechanics that largely held up through this season.
While Bortles said he will visit House this offseason, he won't spend as much time there and will instead be in Jacksonville working with Hurns, Robinson, etc. That will be away from EverBank Field until the team's on-field work can begin later in the offseason.
"I think that'll be really good for us this offseason: to get as many of those guys here as we can," Bortles said.
That indeed will be good. What will be good, too, for Bortles is a chance to grow in this offensive system. Much of what he learned on the fly in his first offseason and season working with Olson should approach second-nature next season.
"The longer you're in and the better understanding you have of it, the more that allows you to understand what's going on on the defensive side of the ball and how to attack them," he said. "When you know it like the back of your hand, then you can worry about the defense and try and get the offense in the right play."
Bortles, too, knows that much of that growth depends on him. He talked Monday about the need to be more efficient, more accurate, to reduce interceptions. He talked, too, of the need for better decisions within the offense, and to have a better understanding of the goal of each particular play.
Developing a better understanding of that "will be huge this offseason," Bortles said.
And you know what? He's right. That will be huge, just as this is a huge offseason for Bortles. You don't get elite overnight, and you have to take steps to get there. Bortles took steps this season and he has a lot more to take. But he knows this, and he's willing work to make it happen.
As far as the Jaguars and his future are concerned, that without question is the best thing about Blake Bortles.