Benched Bortles: ‘I put myself in this position’

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles on Wednesday said he has no idea whether he has played his last game for the franchise that drafted him third overall in 2014.

All he’s concerned with now is doing whatever he can to help the Jaguars (3-8) snap a seven-game losing streak as Cody Kessler takes over starting duties.

“I think that is definitely big-picture, but not necessarily something that I’m worried about right now,” Bortles said of his future with the team. “I’m just thinking about how can I go and help these guys. How can I help Cody or help [quarterbacks coach] Scott [Milanovich] or whoever it may be and try and win a football game and let the rest of it sort itself out when the season’s over.”

Coach Doug Marrone benched Bortles and fired offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett on Monday after the team’s 24-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Bortles completed 12 of 23 passes for 127 yards — the fourth time in six games he had thrown for less than 150 yards — and a touchdown with two interceptions.

Bortles started the season playing well, throwing for 376 yards and a career-high four touchdowns during a Week 2 victory against New England. He had 388 yards and two TDs against the New York Jets in Week 4. It started to unravel the following week against Kansas City, when Bortles threw for a career-high 430 yards but also had a career-high four interceptions and lost a fumble.

He didn’t play well the following week in a loss at Dallas, and he got benched early in the second half after losing two fumbles against Houston at home.

“I put myself in this position and I didn’t play good enough,” Bortles sad. “Didn’t win football games. Couldn’t find a way to get it done. And when that happens, it’s a business and everybody understands that. I don’t think there’s anything personal involved. As a quarterback, I think you have one job and that’s to win a football game. And if you don’t do that, your time’s probably limited.

“I always felt good. I felt confident in the guys we had out there. We’ve had a ton of guys go down and that’s part of football, it’s part of the NFL. And the guys that stepped in, I think did a good job. It was never a confidence issue. It was just a lack of execution and getting it done.”

Kessler, who went 0-8 as the starter with the Cleveland Browns in 2016, will start in Bortles’ place on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts at TIAA Bank Field. Marrone said Kessler will remain the starter the rest of the season, provided he stays healthy.

Bortles would like a chance to regain his job next year, but that depends on Marrone, general manager Dave Caldwell and Tom Coughlin, the executive vice president of football operations. Prior to this season, the Jaguars signed Bortles to a three-year extension through the 2020 season. It would cost the Jaguars $16.5 million in dead money to cut Bortles before the 2019 league year begins in March.

That number drops to $11.5 million after June 1, but it’s still a hefty price to pay to admit the franchise made a mistake by not cutting him after the 2017 season, when the Jaguars reached the AFC Championship Game.

“I’m not in charge of the decisions that are made,” Bortles said. “I obviously put myself in this position and forced their decision to be made. But at the end of the day, they’re in charge of making those personnel decisions and, if it’s a competition, or if it’s ‘see you later, you’re out of here,’ whatever it is, I love playing football and would love the opportunity to play again.”

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