Whoever becomes the next coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars won’t be tied at the hip to Blake Bortles.
Anointed to find a successor for Gus Bradley — who was fired on Sunday — retained general manager Dave Caldwell made it clear that he remains open to a fresh opinion on Bortles, the struggling quarterback who Caldwell hand-selected with the No. 3 overall pick in 2014.
“There won’t be any mandates for anybody that comes in,” Caldwell said. “I think there (are) no untouchables in this organization, including myself and any player, no matter how they got here, whether it was through a draft pick or a high-priced contract.”
Caldwell interrupted the following the question, though, to back his young signal-caller.
“I do still believe in Blake very much,” Caldwell said. “But the head coach will have a lot of input into who the quarterback will be.”
For now, that means the embattled Bortles will remain under center heading into Sunday’s game with the Tennessee Titans.
Interim head coach Doug Marrone emphasized as much, saying: “I’m sticking with Blake.”
Bortles has been an on-field mess this season, displaying faulty mechanics and ranking 28th in Total QBR above just Ryan Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum. Serving as a dangerous turnover machine, the third-year passer has comprehensively regressed.
It’s a sticky situation that might scare off certain candidates, but Caldwell emphasized that no starting position is set in stone.
“I would encourage a different kind of perspective. I want the right perspective,” Caldwell said, adding of Bortles: “I know we’re very close to him and we hold him in high regard in terms of what we think his capabilities are. I still believe he has a very high ceiling, but I want to be realistic about it, too.”
Caldwell acknowledged that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the next coach’s take on Bortles sits “somewhere in the middle,” saying: “Blake, yeah, he does have to play better, but we also have to play better around him, too.”
Caldwell knows that forcing a broken quarterback on a flock of candidates is no way to go about a coaching search. If Bortles can’t be fixed, it’s time for the Jaguars to start over at the most important position in sports.