Blake Bortles’ five-year run as Jacksonville’s starting quarterback was all but confirmed as over when he was benched last season and replaced by backup Cody Kessler.
Having guided the Jaguars to the conference championship game the year before, Bortles failed to build on that and instead has become something of a scapegoat for one of the NFL’s most exciting young teams transforming into an irrelevant 5-11 afterthought.
The franchise kicked off Free Agency with the big-money acquisition of Nick Foles, who, it is hoped, will help set Doug Marrone’s side on the road to success once again in the coming campaign.
But Foles has not always been thought of as a leading signal-caller in the NFL and had to overcome a similar fall from grace to the one his predecessor is now encountering.
This week, Bortles signed a one-year deal with the Rams, taking him to Los Angeles to offer back up to starting quarterback Jared Goff.
The somewhat-surprising move is actually a perfect fit for both the franchise and the 26-year-old Florida native.
Bortles has spent five years as the starting quarterback in Jacksonville, but his career has reached something of an impasse in recent months.
Critics quickly jumped on the former University of Central Florida star as the Jags struggled through the 2018 campaign – with the quarterback managing just 13 touchdowns and throwing 11 interceptions in the process.
And yet just a year earlier, he took them on an incredible playoff run, with the not-inconsiderable help of his side’s impressive defence.
The juddering halt of a once promising looking career is something Foles, 30, is not a stranger to.
Having seen early success and a playoff run with the Philadelphia Eagles – in a somewhat disjointed spell thanks to injury – the University of Arizona quarterback came unstuck in St Louis.
During their early careers, both men battled with turnover woes which led to them ultimately being benched.
So far, Bortles has thrown 75 interceptions and fumbled the ball 46 times, losing 13 of those, in his 74 starts.
Foles started less than half of the games Bortles had when he was reduced to a backup, throwing 17 interceptions in the 35 starts and fumbling the ball 31 times.
After starting just one game and appearing in a total of three in the 2016 season for Kansas City, Foles has openly admitted he was ready to quit the game completely.
However, in the last two seasons he has shown an incredible ability to revive his career while serving as Carson Wentz’s backup in Philadelphia.
With the starter struck down by injury, Foles stepped up, winning a Super Bowl and being named MVP in the 2017 season and again picking up the Eagles and guiding them to the playoffs in 2018.
In securing his own starting role in Jacksonville for the upcoming campaign, he showed his time with Andy Reid at the Chiefs and Reid-disciple Doug Pederson at the Eagles that he has not only rediscovered his early career form, but also become a leader.
Foles’ resurgence is proof that taking a step back and committing to learning under the right coach can do wonders for a starter no longer deemed a viable option by their own franchise, or indeed numerous others.
Bortles and Rams need each other
After it was confirmed Bortles had put pen to paper on a one-year deal in Los Angeles, many mocked the move on social media and questioned just why Sean McVay and Les Snead would go for him.
Yet the deal is in fact perfect for each of the parties involved.
In signing an experienced starter to back up Goff, the Rams are primed to make another run to the playoffs and even possibly the Super Bowl – whatever surprises may occur throughout the 2019 season.
Financially, the deal also suits the Rams. Jacksonville will be paying him $6.5million this season, whether he plays or not.
The Jags will only be let off paying him whatever the Rams have actually given him this year, meaning he is a low-cost, experienced choice backup.
It is not just the Rams who benefit from the move.
Having struggled last season, Bortles now gets to spend at least a season learning from McVay, one of the league’s most respected offensive minds.
Already, McVay has transformed Goff from a struggling starter to overseeing their Super Bowl run last season.
Just as his replacement in Jacksonville did, Bortles, who has so far never completed more than 60 per cent of his passes in a season, is looking to develop himself.
In 12 months time, Bortles will be hoping he has done enough for a needy franchise to take a chance on him once more, fresh off a year of personal development in LA.
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