Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles couldn’t get the offense on track Sunday as the Jaguars lost their third consecutive game falling to the Houston Texans by a score of 20-7 and dropping to 3-4 on the season. They are now 0-2 in the AFC South division.
Bortles completed six of 12 passes for 61 yards. He did not throw a touchdown and fumbled twice which allowed the Texans to score 10 points. He has not been able to spark the Jaguars’ offense and as a result Jacksonville has been shut out in the first half for the third straight game. Bortles is in the first year of a three-year $54 million contract according to Spotrac.com. He has been unable to play up to the expectations placed on him this season.
Head coach Doug Marrone had seen enough on Sunday and made a quarterback change in the third quarter calling on backup quarterback Cody Kessler. He completed 21 of 30 passes for 156 yards, one touchdown and an interception against the Texans in his Jaguars’ debut.
“The thought process behind [the quarterback change] was, you could take all eleven out, but you don’t have enough people to put in. So, the thought process was, ‘Hey, listen. I’m going to take the quarterback out. It’s not like he played worse than anyone else out there.’ He did have the two fumbles,” Marrone explained to reporters in Jacksonville. “At the same time, 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.”
When asked who the starting quarterback is right now Marrone answered bluntly.
“It’s open. Who’s the starter at right tackle? Who’s the starter at center? Who’s the starter at receiver Who’s the starter? Everything is open. We’ve lost three straight games and we can’t stop shooting ourselves in the foot for lack of a better expression,” Marrone added. “For us, the focus is going to be on that, but if you’re that side of the football…everything, special teams. We’ve got to do something, but the first thing we’ve got to do is stop turning the damn ball over. Period. That would be the positive of how we can build.”
Bortles, who has started the last 68 games for the Jaguars, met with reporters after the humiliating loss.
“After the second fumble, Doug (Marrone) let me know that Cody (Kessler) was going in,” 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 added he obviously didn’t want to hear those words from his coach but he understood the move and explained it was a familiar situation for him. He was the backup who replaced former Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne.
“I think he (Henne) handled it with the utmost professionalism and that is what I tried to do. I tried to be there for Cody (Kessler). Be there for the guys in any way,” Bortles added.
The Jaguars acquired Kessler from the Cleveland Browns in March. He signed a four-year, $3,389,082 contract with the Cleveland and is in the third year of that deal according to Spotrac.com. Kessler told reporters he appreciated the support from Bortles during the game.
“Every time I came off the field he was helping me out, telling me what he saw and kind of talking through it. Every time before I went out there he came over and gave me a pat and said, ‘Let’s go, go lead them.’ You couldn’t ask for a better guy or a better quarterback room,” Kessler said.
When asked about the idea of competing for the starting job this week, Kessler said that is up to his coach and he will continue to prepare to be ready to go.
Bortles answered frankly when he was asked if he expects to start next week.
“I have no idea,” he admitted. “I’ll do the same thing I’ve always done. Show up, work, prepare and get ready to go and work as hard as I can. If I play, I play. If not then I’ll do whatever I can to help this team.”
Jaguars defensive lineman and captain Calais Campbell weighed in on the ensuing quarterback controversy.
“I still believe in Blake. I understand Coach’s decision, and I respect it. At the same time, I believe in Blake. He’s just got to take care of the ball,” Campbell explained. “It’s as simple as that. Cody came in and played a great ball game. I wish we could have won the game and it would have been incredible. But he did bring a little spark. I have seen that in practice, and I was confident in him.”
The Jaguars will be looking for that spark again next Sunday when they travel to London, England to play the Philadelphia Eagles at Wembley Stadium.