The Jacksonville Jaguars are wasting an opportunity to rattle off consecutive Super Bowls because Blake Bortles is about as useful as a promise from a liar.
You see, the NFL is about rebuilds. But that’s all to do with analytics, some trickery when it comes to accounting and understanding the game. If a team is really bad, you’re far better off clearing your players’ contracts, gaining cap space and growing a competitive roster from scratch.
In 2016, the Jags were 3-13. They were one of the worst teams in football. But through clever manipulation of their budget, they managed to build a championship-worthy roster in just two seasons.
Well, almost anyway. From the 2016 team, Malik Jackson was a really noteworthy pickup. He has impressed in Denver, but they were coming off the back of a Super Bowl and couldn’t retain everyone due to increased wage demands.
Enter David Caldwell.
Jackson’s signing was more a statement of intent of what was to come as single players can do very little, even when they’re premier players like the defensive tackle. If 2016 was the spark, 2017 was the blaze.
Caldwell went out and picked up three of the best free agents on the market in A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell and Barry Church. On top of that, their ill-form the previous year meant they would have the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Ahead of them: Cleveland, Chicago and San Francisco.
Myles Garrett went to Cleveland, which looks a fine selection. Mitchell Trubisky is starting to show signs that he belongs at the elite level, and Solomon Thomas has been somewhat underwhelming to date for the Niners.
So, as Jacksonville sent in their pick, many expected a quarterback to come off the board. But instead, they opted for Leonard Fournette – the bulldozing running back from LSU. And to his credit, he has been a revelation, but he can’t be a wrecking ball when he isn’t healthy and that’s been an issue.
You see, drafts aren’t about picking the best players available, no matter how much that cliché is spouted. It’s about filling needs and maximising value.
Patrick Mahomes is breaking all sorts of records. So, in retrospect, Jacksonville could have traded back in the order, picked up more real estate and then still gotten their signal-caller of the future.
But, they went running back – in what is probably the deepest running back class in memory.
Instead of Fournette at 4, they could have had at least one of: Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt, James Conner, Tarik Cohen, Marlon Mack, Aaon Jones, Chris Carson, Austin Ekeler, Corey Clement or Matt Breida.
And they probably could have most of them while also getting a quarterback of the future.
Retrospect is a great tool, but bad scouting has landed them in the situation they’re in now.
Given how bad Blake Bortles is, the fact they could and should have been in a Super Bowl last year in spite of him just goes to show how talented the group is.
Right now, they’re in a world of trouble – because they’re too good to be in a position to draft a top tier quarterback unless they sacrifice their long-term future by trading away future draft picks and they’re not good enough to win a Super Bowl.
You have to remember, this team won’t be around forever.
Their contracts will expire and some will have to move on. They’ve done a sub-par job with their recent draft classes, too.
If we look ahead to next year’s draft, there’s currently only one quarterback worthy of a first-round selection and that’s Oregon’s Justin Herbert.
There won’t be a multi-quarterback rich class until at least 2020, when half the league will be trying to trade up for Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.
By then, it could be too late and Blake Bortles will be an even richer man in spite of his lack of ability.
The Jags should have been a notable dynasty. Instead, they’re going to be a less-than-remarkable footnote who opted to back their commodities instead of accepting their mistakes.