Will it be Good Bortles, who has five touchdown passes and no interceptions in two Jacksonville victories? Or will it be Bad Bortles, who has four turnovers and only two touchdown passes in two losses?
More of the former, and the Jaguars (2-2) will have a chance to compete in what seems to be a pretty winnable AFC South. More of the latter, and the team could be staring at a seventh consecutive season of double-digit losses and an 11th consecutive season without a winning record.
But since Bortles can fluctuate from game to game -- and sometimes even within games -- it’s hard for the Jaguars to be consistent on offense. That’s the main reason they aren’t winning.
“When you lose a game, it’s hard to say anyone played well,” coach Doug Marrone said after the Jaguars’ overtime loss to the New York Jets on Sunday. “I think everyone will want to play better, want to get plays back, and want to do those types of things. No different than me. I want to get some calls back and obviously everyone else [does]. So I think when you don’t perform well, you’re going to look back and obviously you want to do a better job than what happened.”
It clearly was Bad Bortles at MetLife Stadium. He completed 15 of 35 passes, which marked the second-lowest completion percentage of his career (42.9 percent). His passer rating of 52.1 was the sixth-lowest of his career.
That came one week after he posted his second-highest passer rating and threw for four touchdowns in a rout of Baltimore.
The Jaguars don’t have top receiver Allen Robinson (torn ACL) and have gotten almost no production out of the tight end position other than Marcedes Lewis’ three TD catches against Baltimore. Opposing defenses are ganging up to stop the run (an NFL-high 48 carries have come against eight or more defenders in the box). That puts a lot of pressure on Bortles to make good decisions, be accurate with the ball and not commit turnovers.
When he does that, the Jaguars can win games. When he doesn’t, their chances drop significantly.
Bortles in the Jaguars’ two victories: 59.6 percent completions, 369 yards, five TDs, no turnovers, no sacks.
Bortles in the Jaguars’ two losses: 50.7 percent completions, 363 yards, two TDs, four turnovers (three INTs), three sacks.
Bortles’ erratic play makes it hard on offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. The Jaguars spend the week implementing a game plan and going over how Hackett will call the game, but they may have to junk it not because of anything the defense is doing, but because Bad Bortles shows up on Sunday.
Unfortunately for the Jaguars, there’s not much they can do because Bortles’ Jekyll & Hyde identity is well established at this point in his career. He’ll be making his 50th career start on Sunday in Pittsburgh, and the Jaguars just have to hope Good Bortles shows up at Heinz Field.
And for much of the rest of the season.