What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Before we embark on another example of critical thinking, in order to understand this analysis, we may need to remind you who the players here are. The narrative from the professional sports media noise holes today is all about how Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles sucks on whole wheat toast. Given his albeit game-winning performance Sunday in the wild-card round over the Buffalo Bills, that’s not hard to say.
The hard part is asking why? Welcome to the critical thinking part. To grasp my theory, you have to remember who Steve Sax was. The National League Rookie of the Year in 1982, Sax had a pretty damn good 14-year career as a major league second baseman. But at one point, he developed a weird affliction in which he became almost completely incapable of throwing the ball to first base.
Now, he wasn’t unable to throw the ball at all; he could routinely fire 150-foot strikes to the plate playing the cut-off man on relays from the outfield. But 45-foot tosses to first base after a routine grounder became “Nuke” LaLoosh-ian exercises in unpredictability. The baseball could be headed for the dugout, the seats, or right into the fucking mascot’s head. The problem here wasn’t the fact that Sax “sucked;” he just broke a spring in his head, and couldn’t make a simple throw until somebody fixed it.
Hence my theory on Bortles. If you’re being more than an intellectually lazy noise-hole, you can’t watch this guy play and think he’s completely devoid of talent. Bortles oscillates rapidly between moments of “pretty damn good” and “what the fuck did he just do?” That’s why I think he’s got a bad case of “Steve Sax Syndrome.”
Think about it. If you watched Sunday’s game, there’s some throws Bortles made which are reserved for straight-up big-time NFL quarterbacks. The most impressive of these was the game’s lone touchdown where Bortles created an opportunity off play-action, looked off a defender and split double-coverage in the back of the end-zone with a laser to his tight end. Not only did he juke the cover scheme, he put the ball in a tight window where only his guy could get to it, and did all that against a defense compressed by the “red zone.” No matter how you slice it, that’s big time.
But within minutes either way of that score, he chucking five-yard bubble screens straight into the ground. All he has to do is flip the ball to a guy who doesn’t have a defender in the same area code for what is essentially a glorified hand-off, and in doing so, he looked worse than Hillary Clinton trying to throw an election. It looked so bad it was a really good football version of Steve Sax.
To me, the common thread for both Sax and Bortles is time. Steve Sax was just fine when he didn’t have time to think, like on that relay throw as the cut-off man. But a slow roller to the second baseman with an even slower runner gave Sax all kinds of time to blow the throw. Once that took root in his cerebral cortex, it was time for the sports psychologist. I see the exact same thing in Blake Bortles.
Just like that touchdown pass on Sunday, when he doesn’t have time to think, Bortles can make big-time throws. Stem to stern, that aforementioned scoring play took about three seconds from snap to six. Throughout December during the Jaguars run to the AFC South crown and a spot in the play-offs, Bortles put on a display every bit worthy of an at the very least “doesn’t suck” NFL quarterback. That was when they told him his crucial role in getting that team to the post-season. Your opinion of the man not withstanding, Bortles responded.
The trouble is that before and after, as evidenced by the present of Sunday, the Jaguar passing game is built around “high-percentage” efforts designed for him not to screw up. But it looks like the more time he has to think, the easier the pass is for him to make, the more likely he is to blow it…just like Steve Sax and the easy toss to first base which ended up in the seats.
Maybe I’m wrong, but then again maybe I’m not. We’ve all seen quarterbacks who look genuinely clueless in the pocket. You can hate on Bortles all you want, but he’s not a guy who doesn’t at least look the part at times. Don’t get me wrong, nobody is ever going to start the “Is Blake Bortles an elite quarterback?” discussion, but it’s not like he’s Matt Leinart or any other in the long line of guys who had no business in an NFL uniform.
Here’s the bottom line. When you take in the full picture that is Blake Bortles, and if you’re being more than a “hater,” it becomes clear this isn’t as clear-cut as “this guy sucks.” There’s a lot of people in this world who get paid to break these things down, and right now there’s a lot of focus going to the stuff that’s easy to see, and even easier to label. There’s not much thought required to bleat “this guy sucks” when he looks like he couldn’t hit water if he fell off a dock. That’s a fan/media perspective, and it comes from the fact have any skin in the game.
But when you’re the Jaguars, and you’ve got a business decision tied to this, all of a sudden it’s not so easy to shit-can this guy. After this season, Bortles is at the end of a four-year contract which has a fifth-year option. If the Jaguars exercise that option, they’ll owe Bortles $19 million for 2018, after which he becomes an unrestricted free-agent. The only other quarterback the Jaguars have on their roster is Chad Henne, so they obviously don’t have a “Plan B.”
That means it just might be time for the Jaguars to stop hearing the easy narrative about a guy who can’t make easy throws, and start asking the tough questions about a guy who has the talent to make big-time plays and who gets victimized by a lot of interceptions that hit his receivers right in the hands…especially since he might have solvable problems and they don’t have better options.
E mail the most interesting independent sports blog on the web at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow us @Dubsism on Twitter, or on our Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook pages.
Perhaps they should put Sax on the payroll as psycho-analyst.
On a scale considerably less important, I used to be a pretty decent tennis player. There came a time over the years, however, where I developed the yips and I could no longer hit a simple forehand.
I don’t know if it’s because I thought to much before approaching the shot but after reading your piece, it makes much sense. I could still get the reactionary, last minute digs with my forehand but when setting up for one and waiting for it, I was like Tom Hanks in Bachelor Party knocking it over the damn chain link fence.
I’m not buying all this Kirk Cousins or Eli to Jax talk. Those who put this Jags team together had enough sense to compile a pretty good defense based on talent. I’m pretty sure they’ll give Bortles a fair shake before they do anything rash.