Colin Kaepernick is the solution for Jacksonville
The Jacksonville Jaguars appear to be primed for a big season in 2017. They added several nice pieces to what was an underrated defense last year, and they could have a stout running game featuring rookie Leonard Fournette. In a division where nobody seems certain to win more than nine games, it isn’t a reach to imagine the Jags sneaking away with a division title, which would be their first sniff of success since Tony Boselli was in his prime.
One little detail is missing: a quarterback. There will be a warm body under center, but right now the Jags are choosing between Blake Bortles and Chad Henne. Let’s dispense with Henne first. His career passer rating is 75.5, he had more interceptions than touchdown passes, and his lifetime completion percentage is under 60%. He’s 32 years old so this is what he is. If he has to take over in the second half of a game because the starter gets hurt, he might steal a win for you, but if he has to start for more than a month he puts a serious crimp in your playoff hopes, especially a marginal contender like this team.
Maybe the Jags got too excited by the 35 touchdown passes Bortles threw in 2015, but overall there’s not much about his career to indicate that he’s a championship quarterback. His completion percentage is also under 60%, and he turns the ball over more than anyone else in the NFL. Still, maybe the Jags figured they had other needs to address and they could ride Fournette and the defense to nine wins even if Bortles tanked.
Judging from the first two preseason games, that was a bad gamble. Sure, Fournette has been hurt, but so far the possessions Bortles has led the offense on have been devoid even of hope of a sustained drive. It’s more than the stats. It’s the fact that many of his throws look like he doesn’t know if he’s left-handed or right handed. It’s that he still reads defense like a guy who got drafted in the sixth round three months ago, not a guy who got drafted third overall three years ago.
Maybe Bortles still figures it out, at least enough to avoid sabotaging the season. Maybe Brandon Allen, the second year quarterback from Arkansas who looked better than Bortles or Henne last night, is the real deal. But if you’re in charge of the team and you have a playoff berth riding on how well your quarterback plays, are you willing to gamble on either of those things happening at this point? Not likely.
This is the point at which we are obligated to remind you that Colin Kaepernick is still available. Kaepernick is not likely to end up in Canton, and he comes with obvious baggage, but he has a 72-30 career TD/INT ratio, compared to Bortles’69/51. He is also a better runner than Bortles, and has taken a team to the playoffs, nearly winning a Super Bowl with the 49ers.
None of this is to say that Kaepernick is the answer to Jacksonville’s problems, or anyone else’s. But it seems obvious from the comments of coach Doug Marrone last night that he has lost faith in Bortles, and rightly so. He has no choice right now but to profess some degree of faith in Henne, because to do otherwise would be to concede that the season is on the verge of swirling down the toilet. But for the Jags’ front office to proceed toward the season at this point without at least trying someone else at quarterback would be borderline negligence.
And of the available options, Kaepernick is as good as the Jags can do. It’s not clear if he is making contract demands that are scaring teams off, but he probably knows that ship has sailed. Either way, Jacksonville has a ton of cap space, so a one year deal would pose zero risk.
Regardless of how you feel about Kaepernick as a person, there is no sensible person who believes that Chad Henne gives the Jaguars a better shot at the playoffs than Kaepernick. If the Jags have indeed given up on Bortles and decide not to sign Kaepernick, you have to question whether they are placing his political issues above giving themselves the best chance to win.