I don't want to get too carried away here, but Blake Bortles is gonna win five Super Bowls, 10 MVPs and cure cancer.
OK, realistically, he can get two of those done, right? Did you see how well he did on Friday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
The third overall draft pick looked like an NFL-ready quarterback, as he completed seven of his 11 passes for 117 yards in the Jacksonville Jaguars' 16-10 win over the Bucs. While some fans will inevitably read way too much into one preseason game, Bortles did provide enough to provide encouragement to a franchise desperately looking for a franchise QB.
Two vocal factions will likely form as a result of this game.
On one side, you'll have the overzealous fans who'll call Bortles the next John Elway and anoint him the man to lead the Jaguars to their first-ever Super Bowl.
On the other will be the group weighing in with the opinion that preseason games are completely meaningless, and absolutely nothing can be learned from them. Who cares how well somebody plays?
ESPN's Bomani Jones joked that no time is better to work out those confirmation biases:
boy, nothing brings out the confirmation bias like preseason highlights. and i just caught myself in that trap watching nick foles.— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) August 9, 2014
The truth about Bortles of course lies somewhere between those two polarizing opinions. Yes, it's wise not to get too carried away, but this is the closest thing that he has until the regular season rolls around. Why wouldn't it be a positive development to have him look strong right off the bat?
One of the bigger knocks on Bortles heading into the draft was that from a mechanics standpoint he was a work in progress. You could see he had the tools, but whatever team drafted him would have to sharpen those tools in order to bring out the best in the young passer.
NFL.com's Albert Breer thinks that the Jags' coaches already have Bortles ahead of schedule:
A little behind on Red Zone ... But man, Blake Bortles looks the part. Fundamentally better, too Good, quick work by coaches.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 9, 2014
Most teams are in a rush to get their first-round draft picks on the field. Quarterbacks used to be immune from that immediate need to produce, but that's no longer the case. With the recent success of guys like Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton, coaches aren't as worried about the perceived learning curve as they used to be.
John Oehser of Jaguars.com tweeted out that he's not sure what larger plan Jacksonville has in mind for Bortles:
No idea about timeline on @BlakeBortles. Do know he's 6-of-9 for 101 yards and is looking really good. Really good. (Like, really good).— John Oehser (@JohnOehser) August 9, 2014
As ESPN's Chris Fowler pointed out, though, the recent track record is for rookie QBs to be thrown into the fire immediately:
FWIW, last 6 1st round QBs started their 1st NFL game. Will Bortles, Bridgewater, @JManziel2 continue the trend?— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) August 5, 2014
Bortles is a bit of a different case in that almost everybody can see that he's more of a project, and the Jags have a capable veteran in Chad Henne to serve the short-term option. The Buffalo Bills might have been a little more patient with EJ Manuel if Thad Lewis wasn't his backup.
Breer believes that Jacksonville's main motivation for sitting down the former UCF Knight now would be to avoid throwing him onto the field before his ready:
Reason why Jags plan to sit Bortles has nothing to do with how good Henne is. It's b/c of how they want to rework Bortles as a QB.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 9, 2014
When you draft somebody like Bortles, you're not evaluating what he'll do for you in Year 1 or even Year 2 for that matter. You're looking at seasons beyond that point. Almost every player is selected because of his future value, and that was especially true in the selection of Bortles.
The rookie QB admitted after the game that he's not expecting immediate results on the field.
"It's a process, it's not going to happen overnight," he said, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. "The chemistry felt really good with the second unit, we've been working really well together during camp. I thought the offensive line did a really good job of protecting up front."
Both the Jaguars and their fans will likely have to be patient with Bortles. He'll make some bad mistakes early on, but that will help him become a better quarterback. It's sacrificing short-term pain for long-term gain.
If Friday night was any evidence, though, Jacksonville might not have to wait as long as was first thought. It gambled massively by taking the QB that early, but the early returns are promising.