Here is an endlessly strange sentence: Blake Bortles will lead the Jaguars in a home playoff game this weekend against the Buffalo Bills. The Jags won the AFC South, looking at times like a legit Super Bowl threat, largely thanks to an all-time defense, a powerful rookie running back, and Bortles’s improvement from “bad” to “mediocre.” The quarterback’s rise to average hasn’t made him any less of a punching bag this season though, and even opponents who he beats can always fall back on making fun of him. Even guys he’s not playing against are dissing him!
The Ringer’s Kevin Clark dug into the cottage industry of Bortles bashing, which seems to bother his teammates more than him. Center Brandon Linder said, “It fucking bothers me,” and Bortles’s father Rob even talked about wanting to drive over to visit pundits who made fun of his son. But friends, teammates, and family all said the same thing about Bortles’s demeanor: People making fun of him for being bad doesn’t affect him. He honestly just seems a bit empty.
“It’s on the news, but he doesn’t care or doesn’t let himself be bothered. There are a lot of people who would’ve folded and gone away but that’s just not in his makeup,” Rob said.
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone and others commended him for pushing past the obstacle of being made fun of for being bad:
“I’d be naive to say I didn’t hear all of those things that were going on but he never really showed me it affected him at all. He fought through it all of the time,” Marrone said. “His best trait is his toughness — mental and physical.”
An NFL playoff storyline is “Quarterback who used to really suck now sucks less.” Truly, Blake Bortles has redeemed himself, overcoming the adversity of nearly losing his starting gig to Chad Henne to become less bad.