In this day and age of the NFL, you rarely see a highly-touted skills position player get selected in the first round of the draft and then sit out a season to continue developing. It just doesn’t happen anymore; players — and notably fans — really demand that early action because of a sense of entitlement. So for coach Gus Bradley of the Jacksonville Jaguars to reaffirm his plan to sit rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, who was selected with the third pick in this year’s draft, is definitely bending and breaking the norm of late. It certainly is not a bad decision, though.
Bradley’s plan is to sit Bortles behind Chad Henne for this season and give him a season to develop and learn. One of the resounding criticisms to this move is how Bortles could possibly learn by sitting the bench. To that, I have two responses that immediately ding in my brain.
First, he will sit the bench, yes, but that’s only when you see him on Sunday afternoons during the game. Every hour around that game will be spent learning the playbook, going over game plans, taking countless reps from under center, going over coverage schemes, running through audibles, etc. It’s not like Bortles gets to take a whole year off because he’s not playing on Sundays. This is just giving him the greatest opportunity possible to absorb everything he can before stepping out onto the field and doing what the Jaguars drafted him to do: win.
Second, quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo is going to be instrumental in Bortles’ development at the next level. People often forget these quarterbacks who sit out a year aren’t just left out to fend for themselves and pick up on whatever they can. There’s a coach in there acting as the puppeteer, and in the case of the Jaguars, they have a master puppeteer.
Scelfo was hired by the Jaguars in January of 2013. His hiring came off of what Scelfo himself declared a “redshirt year” from coaching after being with the Arizona Wildcats for three seasons, where he developed quarterbacks like Nick Foles and Matt Scott. Some other notables Scelfo has prepped for the next level during his time as an offensive coordinator and/or quarterbacks coach include J.P. Losman, Patrick Ramsey, Shaun King and former Jaguars quarterback Lester Ricard. So yes, Bortles is going to be in very good hands while he spends his time drinking and partying and whatever else quarterbacks do when they’re “sitting.”
Letting Bortles have this rookie season to prep for what we hope will be an illustrious NFL career is a wise move by Bradley and the Jaguars. Sure, it’s out of style and goes against the grain of the league, but the correct decision isn’t always the popular one.