Following up on this week's Team Notes
. ... According to ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco, general manager Dave Caldwell knows that quarterback Blake Bortles
' struggles this season will be a huge issue in finding a new head coach, so Caldwell made a shrewd announcement Monday: Sticking with Bortles in 2017 isn't mandatory.
That should ensure the candidate pool to replace Gus Bradley won't shrink because of potential reservations about Bortles, whose poor play in 2016 is the No. 1 reason the team is 2-12 -- and why there's a coach opening in the first place. The Jaguars instantly become a more attractive job now that coaches know they aren't married to a quarterback they didn't draft -- or that they can try to unload Bortles if they choose.
"I would encourage a different kind of perspective [on Bortles]," said Caldwell, who drafted Bortles third overall in 2014. "I want the right perspective. I know we're very close to him and we hold him in high regard in terms of what we think his capabilities are. I still believe he has a very high ceiling, but I want to be realistic about it, too. I think that a new head coach will bring a different perspective about what he believes.
"When you sit down and you evaluate all of the struggles and you evaluate all of the plays, and I know I've done that with you guys in here, that Blake, yeah, he does have to play better but we also have to play better around him, too."
After a breakout season in 2015, Bortles has struggled in 2016. He's completing a career-low 57.8 percent of his passes, has committed 20 turnovers, and looks uncomfortable and uncertain in the pocket. Sunday's loss at Houston was the worst game of his career: 12-for-28 for 92 yards with an interception. His passer rating was 36.6, the lowest of his 45 games.
Even though Bortles set franchise records in passing yards (4,428) and touchdowns (35) in 2015, he still threw 18 interceptions, and he has more turnovers (60) and more interceptions (51) than any quarterback since he entered the league in 2014. Bortles also has more pick-sixes (11) than victories as a starter (10), and he has the second-worst total QBR of any quarterback over that span, ahead of only Josh McCown.
It's hard to win games with quarterback play like that. It'd be almost impossible to convince a new coach to take that on.
"There won't be any mandates for anyone that comes in," Caldwell said. "There's no untouchables in this organization, including myself, or any player, no matter how they got here, whether it was through a draft pick or a high-priced contract.
"With that being said, I do still believe in Blake very much. The head coach will have a lot of input as to who the quarterback will be."
Here's the problem for the new head coach if he wants to move on from Bortles: There isn't a clear-cut way of replacing him.
There's a lack of viable options in free agency, limited trade possibilities, and the quarterback draft class is already regarded as one of the worst in years.
Washington's Kirk Cousins would be the best available free agent, but the Washington Redskins are expected to sign him to a long-term deal. If not, they could use the franchise tag on him again, which they did this season. Other options include Brian Hoyer, Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mike Glennon, Case Keenum, Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith and EJ Manuel. None of those options, with the possible exception of Hoyer, are better than what the Jaguars have in Bortles.
There are two players who are not scheduled to become free agents but might turn out to be options the Jaguars would consider: Dallas' Tony Romo, who has lost his job to rookie Dak Prescott, and Chicago's Jay Cutler. Their current teams might try to work out a potential trade before releasing them, but the asking price likely would be more than what the Jaguars are willing to pay.
New England's Jimmy Garoppolo is the most attractive option for a trade, but it might take a first- or second-round pick to land him because the Patriots are expected to have plenty of teams lining up to make offers.
Bortles may very well be the best option the Jaguars have at quarterback in 2017, but at least Caldwell has given the new coach a choice.