Monday Musings: Jaguars should have signed Kaepernick; Patriots will be fine
In a QB league, no franchise has proven more inept at drafting passers in the top 10 than the lowly Jags
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars promoted a coach from their staff to be the head coach, kept both coordinators from the end of 2016, shuffled the general manager to a lesser role under new czar Tom Coughlin and have decided to keep the same quarterback as their starter.
It's the same old stuff for a team that went 3-13 last season, which is why the fan base is testy and season ticket sales aren't all that good -- and that's being kind.
Coach Doug Marrone, who was named the head coach after serving as a the interim coach last season for two games, announced Saturday that Blake Bortles will be his starting quarterback in Week 1 against the Houston Texans.
I think that's the right decision, but Marrone and company put on a charade last week when Chad Henne started the third preseason game. Bortles was better in that loss to the Carolina Panthers, but neither lit it up.
Even so, the decision to start Bortles makes sense behind a line that is shaky and with an offense lacking skill people, at least those who have been healthy. Henne just isn't good and has little feel in the pocket, which showed up against the Panthers.
Bortles might not be good either, but he's better than Henne and he can move around and create plays. Marrone cited Bortles' mobility as one of the reasons he picked him.
If Bortles doesn't improve, and the Jaguars flop again, they will be the worst quarterback-drafting team since the AFL-NFL merger -- and they are close to that label right now.
In a quarterback-driven league, you can't blow premium draft picks on the position -- or you might never recover. Even missing on one hurts. But how about two and three?
That's what you call driving a franchise into the ground. If Bortles doesn't miraculously get the lack of confidence out of his head and improve his decision making, the Jaguars will have missed on three top-10 picks at quarterback in the past 12 years.
They took Bortles third overall in 2014, and he has a 14-44 record as a starter and has been a pick-six machine. The Jaguars took Byron Leftwich seventh overall in 2003, and he went 24-20 in his first four seasons, but was released before his fifth season, leaving with a completion percentage of 58.7.
In between those two, the Jaguars drafted Blaine Gabbert 10th overall in 2011. He was 5-22 in his three seasons with the team before being released. He's now a backup in Arizona, where Leftwich is the quarterbacks coach.
How damning is it having three blown quarterback picks in the top 10? The Jaguars would be the only team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to blow three picks on passers in the top-10 in a 12-year span if Bortles doesn't turn it around.
The Tennessee Titans used three top-10 picks on quarterbacks from 2006 to 2015, taking Vince Young third in 2006, Jake Locker eighth in 2011 and Marcus Mariota second in 2015. The first two flopped, but Mariota looks like he will be their long-term starter and a good one, which would keep them from blowing three in a 10-year span.
The Bengals used three top-10 picks on quarterbacks from 1992 to 2003. They took David Klinger sixth in 1992, Akili Smith third in 1999 and Carson Palmer first in 2003. Palmer played there seven seasons before forcing a trade to Oakland.
So both the Titans and the Bengals hit on their third top-10 quarterback in those spans. The Jaguars, so far, have not.
That's why they haven't been to the playoffs since 2007 and their record since is a terrible 42-102.
The Jaguars would take anything close to Mariota and Palmer right now.
Watching their quarterback drama play out this preseason has been a horror show. They didn't do anything in the offseason to improve the position, hoping that Bortles would take steps forward. He hasn't, which is why Marrone opened up the competition last week and started Henne on Thursday night against the Panthers.
As expected, Henne was average. He missed some open shots, had a potential touchdown dropped and looked jumpy in the pocket. Bortles came on in the second half to play with the first team against Carolina's second-team defense and threw a pick -- I think it should have been caught -- and finished 12 of 16 for 125 yards and a touchdown.
It would be nice if the team allowed whoever plays quarterback to actually throw on first down. Marrone loves to run the ball, but the lack of imagination doesn't help the quarterbacks, but instead hurts them. Marrone also has to quit pounding the turnover crap into their heads. You can't play tight. Mistakes are going to happen if you take chances, and Bortles clearly has been coached not to take those chances, and has looked gun shy this summer. He won't let it go.
The Jaguars actually ran a draw on third-and-17 with Bortles against the Panthers last week. Seriously, at a time they were trying to evaluate their quarterbacks they handed off in that situation.
"We were expecting some soft coverage back there," Marrone said. "It's a play call, trying to play it safe and get the kick away. It's third-and-17, the odds of picking it up. To say that we have throws we want to throw in that situation, yeah, we do, but also we have things that we can check to a run. It's a play call. If that thing pops, then everyone says it's a great call. If it doesn't pop, but you get sacked, again you are playing the game of field position at that point, to some extent."
So Bortles checked to the run?
"No," Marrone said.
That mindset has to change. Or Bortles' slim chances of turning his career around will be even smaller.
I am still shocked the Jaguars didn't call Colin Kaepernick and offer him a two-year deal when this thing looked like it was coming unglued. That's something I would have done, and owner if the football people pushed for that.
Instead, it's more of the same as they ready for 2017, and if Bortles doesn't play well heads will roll. It wouldn't be shocking at all to see Coughlin as the coach at some point in the next year or so. After all, he is in the middle of all team drills during practice, with the only thing missing being a whistle around his neck.
Coughlin was a proven winner when he coached in Jacksonville and then he won two Super Bowls with the Giants. At age 70, the coaching itch isn't gone. He wanted to be the coach in Jacksonville this year, but the team told him no and he accepted the football czar job.
Then again, if they don't fix the quarterback position, does it really matter who coaches the team? They haven't had a legitimate passer since Mark Brunell in the early days of the franchise.
When you're the worst quarterback-drafting team of all time, it's hard to win football games -- and it's hard to keep the fans happy.
The big mistakes at that position cripple a franchise, and the Jaguars are proof of that.
Patriots will be just fine
You hate to see players go down in the preseason, and the Pats suffered a bad one Friday night when receiver Julian Edelman was lost for the year with a torn ACL in his left knee. The Pats will miss Edelman's ability to get open inside in their passing game. He was Tom Brady's go-to guy.
But the Patriots have made do when Rob Gronkowski has missed time and they will here as well.
Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan are now the top two receivers, with Danny Amendola in the third spot. Malcolm Mitchell, who has been bothered by injuries, is also there to help. They can also use a lot of two tight end sets with Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen, which they love to do, and they have a nice group of backs with the ability to can catch the football.
Rex Burkhead, who was signed as a free agent from the Bengals, has played both running back and slot receiver in his career and we saw what James White could do catching the football in the Super Bowl victory over the Falcons. Keep an eye on D.J. Foster, the former Arizona State star who has played both receiver and running back in his career.
Josh McDaniels is a brilliant offensive mind and he will scheme up ways to get guys open. Brady is arguably the best quarterback of all time, so he will be fine. He has thrown to worse groups in his career and won. Don't worry about the New England offense.
Do Panthers have their bite back?
The Panthers had to be encouraged by what they got from Cam Newton last week against Jacksonville. I saw him throw live in two days of work two weeks ago against the Titans, and he had zip on his throws.
We saw that again against Jacksonville in his one series of work, hitting Kelvin Benjamin for a touchdown. It was Newton's first game action since having shoulder surgery in the offseason.
The Panthers struggled on offense last season after being explosive in 2015. Can they get back to that big-play offense in 2017?
"We are just solely focused on getting the most production we can possibly have going into Week 1," Newton said. "We can get jaded or kind of cloudy trying to compare this year to that year and that year to this one. This is a completely different team, a different feel. I'm just happy to be a part of it. We have a lot of talented guys on this team that can produce, but like I always say, and people say, potential is nothing. You have to go out and produce."
More musings from Week 3 of the preseason:
The Bills have to be concerned with the play of quarterback Tyrod Taylor. He was knocked out of Saturday's game with a concussion, but was just 14 of 29 for 100 yards, no touchdowns and two picks in the preseason. That's not very good.
The Cleveland Browns have apparently settled on rookie DeShone Kizer as their starting quarterback, which is the right thing to do. He has done some good things in the preseason, but it's more about finding out if he's the guy for the future. The Browns need a long-term answer and the sooner Kizer plays, and the more he plays this season, the more they will see if that's the case. Coach Hue Jackson is a bright offensive mind who has picked the right guy here.
Former Chiefs star Jamaal Charles looked good in his debut with the Broncos on Saturday night. He ran for 27 yards on four carries and appeared to have some pop left. There was some speculation that Charles would have to flash in the preseason debut to make the team, and he did just that. I still think rookie DeAngelo Henderson will play a big role in the Denver offense.
Kansas City Chiefs
Losing Spencer Ware for what looks like the season with a torn PCL in his knee will put third-round rookie Kareem Hunt in the spotlight. He has impressed so far this summer, and would have been a big part of the backfield anyway. He runs hard and tough, and ran over some Seattle defenders Friday night when he ran for 79 yards on 18 carries. But you have worry about blitz pickups with young backs. Even if they are willing to block they don't always get the right guy.
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