Blake Bortles Benched by Jaguars, Cody Kessler to Start vs. Colts

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistNovember 26, 2018

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) and quarterback Cody Kessler (6) take the field prior to an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone announced Monday that Cody Kessler will be the team's starting quarterback against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 13, which will send Blake Bortles to the bench.

It's the latest shakeup for Jacksonville's struggling offense. Earlier Monday, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was fired.

#DUUUVAL @Jaguars

We have relieved Nathaniel Hackett of his duties as offensive coordinator. https://t.co/Uo1STVn3aa

"I'm making this change to give us an opportunity to win a football game," Marrone said of the quarterback shake-up, per John Reid of the Florida Times-Union.

Bortles, 26, has been bad this season, throwing for 2,572 yards and 13 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. He's completed just 60.4 percent of his passes (though that's a career high), and his 7.0 yards per attempt rank just 29th among qualified quarterbacks. Pro Football Focus has given him a grade of 68.9, which ranks 24th among quarterbacks.

Suffice to say, Bortles' benching was probably a long time coming:

Chris Wesseling @ChrisWesseling

Bortles has size, arm and mobility to be a star, but undone by broken mechanics + loss of confidence. Can see why he presented a thorny conundrum: harness potential -> win -> save jobs? But how does Jags brass preach competition at every position except the most important one?

Kevin Seifert @SeifertESPN

The @Jaguars finally benched Blake Bortles, proving that every now and then, the screaming mob is right. Other than the team, did anyone think that bringing back Bortles, without a challenger, was the smart thing to do?

Jason La Canfora @JasonLaCanfora

Been writing for two weeks the Jags should bench Bortles. They announce Kessler taking over. Good luck trading that contract in 2019.

Mike Sando, ESPN.com @SandoESPN

It was not about the @jaguars thinking Bortles was good. It was about the Jags thinking the team could win with him if everything else was strong enough. Everything else is not as strong. Team loses. Bortles is the same guy, and that's no longer good enough.

His replacement, the 25-year-old Kessler, has made one appearance this season, finishing 21-of-30 for 156 yards and one touchdown with one interception in a 20-7 October loss to the Houston Texans.

As Mike Chappell of Fox59 noted, that's been par for the course in Kessler's NFL career:

Mike Chappell @mchappell51

Jax benches Blake Bortles, going with Cody Kessler Sunday vs. Colts. Kessler: 0-8 as a starter (all with Cleveland in 2016) Career: 13 games 160-of-248, 1,662 yds, 7 TDs, 4 INTs, 86.5 rating

The decision to start Kessler won't save Jacksonville's season—the 3-8 Jaguars are almost assuredly out of the playoff conversation. But it does raise two larger questions: Will the Jaguars finally move on from Bortles and seek a franchise quarterback this offseason? And why did they sign him to a three-year, $54 million extension in February?

That contract will hurt the Jaguars, even if they cut ties with Bortles, given that $6.5 million of his 2019 salary is guaranteed, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. That's money the Jaguars will have to eat if Bortles' future in Jacksonville is over.