I made a statement on the latest Keep Choppin’ Wood episode that Blaine Gabbert was playing better than Blake Bortles right now. The notion stemmed from a discussion Michael Lombardi and Bill Simmons recently had on the two on Simmons’ podcast.
The fact that we can even have a comparison between the two is highly disappointing. However, it’s not completely unfounded. Here’s a video from 2012 with current Jaguars Offensive Coordinator Greg Olsen. Olsen served as the Quarterback coach under the previous regime (Mike Mularkey’s sole season in Jacksonville). After the entire staff was fired, he went to Oakland and ran the offense in Derek Carr’s rookie year, then returned to Jacksonville as Jedd Fisch’s replacement on Gus Bradley’s staff. That’s a really convoluted way of saying that he’s worked directly with both Blaine Gabbert and Blake Bortles.
The video begins with Olson explaining their Out-Skinny Post concept, a Hi-Low against the Hook-to-Curl defender. The idea is to get his shoulders to turn and open with the Out, opening a window to hit the Skinny Post behind him.
This is a very basic concept that every single NFL team runs in every single NFL game. It’s versatile and can be successful against a number of different coverages, provided the Post runner keeps inside leverage on the corner and the quarterback places the ball into the window with the proper trajectory. If you watched the video, you saw Blaine complete this route combo a number of different times.
Now, here’s Blake running the exact same concept against the Ravens last week.
What should be an easy pitch-and-catch where Hurns can protect himself turns into a hospital ball. Hurns has to stop, jump in the air and contort his body which allows the safety to close and hit him in mid-air.
On the very next play, they run the same concept. Baltimore runs Cover-2 instead of Cover-3, but it’s the same read – just with slightly different timing and trajectory on the ball.
As you can see, the window opens and closes a lot quicker here. The ball comes out late and behind the receiver, leading to another potential hospital ball (I’m fine with the low trajectory howver, because it gives the wide receiver an opportunity to protect himself in a really congested area.)
These are two opportunities where the offense gets a good look and a man open (albeit, in tight windows) where the quarterback busts the play. They proceeded to punt. Again, this is a really basic concept that every NFL quarterback has to be able to make. Blaine Gabbert routinely made this play.
Inaccuracy doesn’t show up on the stat sheet as much more than an incomplete pass, but what’s missing from the box score is yardage that a team leaves on the field. Here’s another example:
It’s 3rd and 8 in the first quarter with the game at 0-0, and the Jaguars call up for a Post-Deep Cross Hi-Lo of the deep safety. This Hi-Lo is another that will work against multiple coverages, man or zone, with the objectives being having the Post runner maintain inside leverage on the corner and to get the safety on that side (or in the middle of the field if it is a single-high coverage, as what ends up being the case here) to open his hips with the Deep Cross. As soon as the safeties hips open, the ball needs to be on it’s way over the top.
The ball comes out on time, but instead of leading the wide receiver into the middle of the field for an easy touchdown, he leads him back outside towards the cornerback. This is what I brought up in the podcast about the quarterback making a bad wide receiver look bad. Marqise Lee struggles adjusting to the ball in the air and making contested caches, and what should have been an easy touchdown leads to a drop and a punt because Bortles made him do exactly that.
These plays show how a quarterback struggling with timing and accuracy can completely break an offense. The scary thing is that aren’t Bortles’ worst plays – I wouldn’t even put these in his bottom five for the Ravens game. All of his turnovers this season have been downright reprehensible, and the sacks he took in crunch time against Baltimore were the worst outcomes you could possibly have on those plays. He’s struggling seeing the field clearly, cannot throw accurately, and is showing poor situational awareness. He is arguably playing like the worst quarterback in the NFL, and the rest of the season should essentially be viewed as an extended tryout.