In April 2014, Blake Bortles was the future face of the Jaguars. Taken No. 3 overall in that year’s NFL Draft, he’d be the one to turn the Jags from a laughingstock into a perennial contender. Aside from one unexpectedly magical 2017 season, it never happened for Bortles in Florida.
Less than seven years later, Bortles is pressed into duty as Jared Goff’s backup on the Rams, but only for as long as John Wolford (neck) remains out. Otherwise, it’s been QB3 duties for the first passer taken in a draft that also included Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo and Teddy Bridgewater.
But opportunity in the NFL is only a play away, and that’s especially true for Bortles in the 2021 playoffs since Goff is dealing with his recovery from a broken thumb. Goff will start against the Packers in the divisional round, but it wouldn’t take much for Bortles to see the field. He hasn’t thrown an NFL pass since 2019, and it’d be quite the stage for his next throw.
What happened to Blake Bortles?
Bortles was a star at Central Florida in the days before UCF was claiming national titles. He was a 6-5, big-armed, mobile passer who mostly stayed off the casual fan’s radar but was a favorite in the draft community. In 2014, one unnamed general manager told Pete Prisco of CBS, in regards to Bortles compared to Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater, “When they walk into a room, one looks like a quarterback. The other two? Not so much.”
So there Bortles was on stage at the 2014 NFL Draft, taken after just Jadeveon Clowney and Greg Robinson and just ahead of Sammy Watkins, Khalil Mack, Jake Matthews and Mike Evans. He joined a Jacksonville team devoid of talent but was pressed into duty almost right away for a group that was led in rushing by Denard Robinson and receiving by Allen Hurns.
From the start, Bortles threw too many interceptions and never quite got past that problem. Whether it was a matter of his pass-catchers not getting open or Bortles being inaccurate or a poor decision-maker, the results were what they were. In his first three NFL seasons, Bortles had an 11-34 record as a starter and threw 69 touchdowns compared to 51 interceptions. He also fumbled 29 times in those three years.
Just when it looked like Bortles’ time in Jacksonville would be short-lived, though, he went 10-6 in 2017 when paired with a dominant defense. Bortles did his part, too, throwing for a career-high in completion percentage and career-low in interceptions. The Jaguars won two playoff games, including a 45-42 thriller over the Steelers, before the Patriots ended their season. That earned Bortles one more year, but he regressed to the mean, went 3-9 and saw his time in Jacksonville end.
The Rams signed Bortles in March 2019, and he attempted two passes for L.A. He joined Denver ahead of the 2020 season, but the Rams picked him back up off the Broncos’ practice squad in December. He hasn’t seen the field in a live game since Dec. 1, 2019.
Why is Blake Bortles the backup to Jared Goff?
For all of the 2020 season before Week 16, former Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford backed up Goff. In Week 16, Goff dislocated and broke his right thumb against the Seahawks, although he finished the game.
Wolford started in Week 17 and the wild-card round after Goff underwent surgery, although Goff was active for that first playoff game against Seattle. When Wolford suffered a neck injury early in the game, Goff returned to action and completed 9-of-19 passes.
With Wolford ruled out for the divisional round in Green Bay, Bortles moved up to the backup QB spot a bit more than two weeks after he was added to the Rams roster, with Bryce Perkins also activated as the No. 3 quarterback. All signs point to Bortles being the first man off the bench if Goff re-injures his thumb or struggles to play through the injury.
The last time Bortles played in the NFL’s divisional round, his Jaguars team beat the Steelers, 45-42, in Jan. 2018.
Blake Bortles career timeline
April 2014 – Jaguars select Bortles with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft out of UCF.
Sept. 21, 2014 – Bortles makes his first career start in Week 3. He loses to the Colts while throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Dec. 6, 2015 – Bortles plays maybe his best game in the NFL, throwing for 322 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions against the Titans. Jacksonville loses, 42-39.
2017 regular season – The Jaguars, after going 11-34 in Bortles’ starts in his first three years, go 10-6 and make the playoffs.
Jan. 14, 2018 – The Jaguars win in the divisional round, 45-42, against the Steelers. Bortles threw for 214 yards and a score.
March 19, 2019 – The Rams sign Bortles after he goes 3-9 in his final season as Jacksonville starter.
Sept. 24, 2020 – Bortles signs a one-year contract with the Broncos.
Oct. 19, 2020 – The Broncos cut Bortles and then move him to their practice squad.
Dec. 29, 2020 – The Rams sign Bortles off the Broncos’ practice squad.