Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Blake Bortles: Made for Minnesota?

The Vikings would be a perfect fit for the quarterback who needs at least one redshirt year in the NFL before getting his shot. But Houston and Cleveland could complicate matters. Checking in with Blake Bortles, plus answering email

I watch Blake Bortles on video, his accuracy and escapability and his occasionally questionable decision-making, and I can’t help but think of him as a Viking. This is the kind of quarterback Minnesota offensive coordinator Norv Turner loves: an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than Troy Aikman; a lover of the pocket in an era of escape artists; a 66-percent lifetime passer in three years at Central Florida. I doubt he makes it to No. 8, but that’s the best fit for me for Bortles in the top 10.

First, you can’t take a quarterback who matches an offensive coordinator in today’s day and age … because you have no idea how long any of them will be working where they are. Who’d have thought Turner would get whacked after just one season with the Cleveland coaching staff ? So whoever likes Bortles, who doesn’t have the pedigree of a Johnny Manziel or even a Derek Carr, is going to have to like the player long-term and know that whoever coaches him in 2014 might not be the coach in 2016.

Other than Minnesota, the most likely teams to want him in the draft are Houston and Cleveland. The Browns have been smitten with him since last fall, and you could say the same thing for rookie Texans coach Bill O’Brien. Bortles’ Central Florida team went to Penn State last season and beat O’Brien’s Nittany Lions, and Bortles complete 20 of 27 throws in an efficient if not memorable performance. Pretty heady stuff for a guy who had to fight for the starting job in high school, and had to fight again at Central Florida.

I remember one scout telling me last fall, “If you can be patient with Bortles, and he decides to come out, he’s going to give you a good return on your investment. He hasn’t played as much football, as much high-level football, as most of the other guys he’d be competing with. But two or three years down the road, he’s going to pay off.”

Matt Cassel gives the Vikes a reliable veteran while they groom a QB for the future. (Hannah Folsein/Getty Images)
Matt Cassel gives the Vikes a reliable veteran while they groom a QB for the future. (Hannah Folsein/Getty Images)

Again, Minnesota. Let Matt Cassel play a season (unless beaten out by Christian Ponder this fall) and then open up the competition in camp next year. The starters in Cleveland and Houston: shakier. Much shakier.

As with most players with just over a week left before the draft, Bortles told me he had no idea where he’s going. His future is a mystery, as is he.

“It is all very surreal,” he said over the weekend, all of his visits to NFL teams finished. “Most people don’t even know who I am. If you said to anyone, even my friends, before the season that I’d be coming into the draft early, they’d all be shocked.”

His visits, he said, have been fun, because he’s been getting to know NFL decision-makers and coaches, as well as them getting to know him. “They just want to find out if I’m worth it,” Bortles said. “They want to know, ‘Is he going to screw it up?’ They want to know what kind of person I am too.”

And player. “I think the fact that I was able to play through some adversity—didn’t start in high school right away, got beat out and then had to fight to win the starting job at Central Florida—and show some dedication to the job, that should speak for itself. I’ve played in the shotgun, I’ve played under center, I’ve been in the pocket, I’ve moved around. We went 12-1, won a BCS bowl game this year, and that’s a huge accomplishment for Central Florida. My goal always was to play in the NFL, and I went into the draft to be the number one pick. Why not?” he said.

“I understand I have things to fix. Everybody has flaws. I never had a [concentrated] quarterback coach growing up, never did the kind of quarterback training lots of guys do till two months ago. I have to fix things. But everybody has flaws. I do too.

“The best piece of advice I got came in a couple of places. What teams harped on with me is to get in the playbook immediately … the guys who are successful are the ones who can pick you apart and know everything mentally.”

2014 Draft

From Greg A. Bedard’s tape breakdowns of top prospects to Andrew Brandt’s agent-front office insights, all of The MMQB’s draft stories can be found on our 2014 NFL Draft hub.

The Vikings would likely want their quarterback to have a redshirt year, as GM Rick Spielman has said. But Houston and Cleveland may want to see the quarterback they pick play earlier. Wherever he goes, this season doesn’t line up great for a quarterback who needs experience and a learning year. The draft is two weeks later than normal, and with the opening weekend exactly four months after the draft, it’d be tough to think of Bortles playing early in his rookie season. That’s just one more reason why it’s short-sighted for the league to have the draft as late as it is right now. For players who need to play early, the late draft is an impediment to getting them ready in time for a top-quality game around Labor Day.

“I’m anxious to get back to playing football,’’ Bortles said. Teams are anxious to get the long-awaited draft (that’s putting it mildly) going, so they can begin full-squad preparation for the season.

And now for your email: 

* * *

Roger Goodell's NFL makes billions of dollars from TV deals, dwarfing revenue generated in stadiums. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Roger Goodell’s NFL makes billions of dollars from TV deals, dwarfing revenue generated in stadiums. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

CALLING THE NFL ON THE CARPET.The one big eye-opener for me in Peter’s NFL schedule column was the fact that the four NFL staffers charged with coming up with the schedule all had the word “broadcasting” in their job titles. The earlier flexing opportunities is a close second. Simply put: It’s all about television. What does the NFL say to season ticket holders and fans who love going to the actual games?

I say, save your money and stay at home and watch on television—that is what the NFL wants you to do. The schedule process is catered to this exact scenario. If that’s not what the NFL wants, then how about some considerations in the Val Pinchbeck room for ticket holders? Could they place a “Director of Fan Services,” for instance, on the scheduling crew to give input? Of course not. 

Planning to go to a game with a 1 p.m. kickoff that is suddenly moved to 8 p.m.? Tough luck ticket holders, it’s not about you. Is playoff baseball at the venue next door getting in the way of your NFL ticket usage and enjoyment? The NFL doesn’t care. Go watch the game on TV.

Is it any wonder why the NFL stubbornly holds on to its TV blackout rules? They cater to television, but if they do too good a job and flocks of people stay home to watch on big screens—well then they’re gonna blackout the game in your local market to try and get people back into the stadiums. Ridiculous.

—Jim A., Stratham, N.H.

That is an excellent point, and your words echo the sentiments of many season ticket holders I have spoken to over the years. A good friend of mine has six season tickets to Giants games and hasn’t been to a game in three or four years. He enjoys the games on TV significantly more than in the stadium, and don’t get him started on games that are flexed to prime time. If I were a fan going to games, that would infuriate me. I know it’s good for the larger football society around the country to see a better game Sunday night. But for season-ticket holders it’s a change that most of them don’t want to make. 

One more point that you raised: There’s a good reason why the schedule-makers all work in the broadcast department. A long time ago, in the ’60s, when Pete Rozelle was commissioner, he determined that the NFL would grow in popularity only if it became a huge TV sport. Time has proven him correct. TV has been the driving force in the NFL’s success. So it seems natural that the schedule architects today would be television experts first, and scheduling experts second. 

PUTTING THE MORNING IN MMQB. Thank you for posting MMQB earlier, around 3 a.m. ET on Monday morning. It does matter to me, since I live in Israel  and we are seven hours ahead, meaning your posts are now online before 10 a.m. Israel time. Any chance on continuing this way in the 2014 regular season?

—Zev Roth, Israel

Thank you for reading in Israel. I really appreciate that. I would love to be able to tell you that I can post the column consistently before the milk gets delivered on the East Coast every Monday. But I just can’t. By the time my NBC duties are finished after the Sunday night game, and I can sit down and devote full effort to the column, it is usually around 11 or 11:30 p.m. That means that if I were to get the column up by 3, I would have 2.5 or 3 hours to sprint through all of the news of the day on Sunday. That would be okay if I were writing a 3,500-word column during the season. But it is more like a 7,500- or 8,500-word column, and I don’t think I should sacrifice some of the things that I write at 4:30 or 5:30 in the morning just so I can post the column earlier. However, I am committing this year to post the column consistently by 8 a.m. ET.

HOW IT USED TO BE DONE. As a 9-year-old Steelers fan, I was at the 1972 AFC title game during the Dolphins’ undefeated season and was crushed by the Steelers loss.  A key play was a Larry Seiple fake punt run for a first down. My question is why was this game being played in Pittsburgh when the Dolphins obviously had the better record? I am guessing it may have had something to do with the college bowl schedule and the Orange Bowl that year?

—Gary, San Diego

TALK BACK

Got a question for Peter? Send it with your name and hometown to talkback@themmqb.com and it might be included in next Tuesday's mailbag.

It’s simple. In those days, the NFL scheduled home and road playoff games on an alternating basis each year. So Miami, despite having the superior record, was forced to go on the road for the championship game. Obviously, that has been changed for the better. The top-seeded team should always be at home.

MORE MONEY, MORE PROBLEMS. Going forward, what trends, if any, do you see for NFL rosters as they try and deal with the cap? As more and more teams deepen their financial commitments to the QB position, do you see a possible move away from “superstar” QBs to a more cap-friendly “ball-control game-manager”? Are the dilemmas faced by teams such as the Lions—in deep with Ndamukong Suh, Matthew Stafford, and Calvin Johnson—anomalies or more of a sign of things to come? Are we seeing the beginning of the “End Times”, as foretold in the book of Cuban? Seriously, how are teams supposed to remain competitive and retain key, core players while balancing a salary cap and fielding a product that is entertaining AND affordable for the average fan?

—David, Oneonta, N.Y.

Stars always will get paid. If the salary cap rises dramatically, quarterback pay will rise at a similar rate. The one problem I see is best explained by looking at Seattle. By the time the Seahawks have to pay Russell Wilson, they will have spent so much money at other positions they deem valuable—cornerback, safety, defensive line—that they could be pressed right up against the cap. Smart teams won’t throw silly money at every one of their players when they become free agents. The smarter way to handle your roster is to allow all but the most vital of free agents walk and then use the compensatory draft choices to replenish the roster. If you have faith in the men who draft for you, you will have faith in letting, for example, a wide receiver like Golden Tate walk in free agency. Nothing against Tate, but if you have Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas and Russell Wilson to sign in the coming year, you have to be smart and trust that you can find another Golden Tate in the draft.

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77 comments
jchowell2112
jchowell2112

If I'm drafting a QB, Bortles would be my first choice.  All the prominent names have flaws but I'd say he has the least.  Watch Mettenberger.  If his knee is sound, he  could be the steal of the draft.  

Buck2185
Buck2185

Peter, you are letting us down. I can't believe you haven't turned the loud mouthed punk, Richard Sherman, loose on a 3 page rant on the Donald Sterling story...You're slipping

divirgilio33
divirgilio33

best website ever Peter! Not even a close second! Thank you! TB12 going to the Super Bowl in 2014!!!

maditips
maditips

Quarterbacks going to Cleveland, or Texas, and possibly starting, will be chewed up.  Yeah, "Just win, baby." Hopefully, those teams will draft to fill the voluminous ‎holes they need to fill, along with back ups, especially Cleveland. 


I'd draft Manziel, just to mess with defenses, and their coaches.  I'd train him to be a third down receiver, kinda like Wes Welker.  He's shown terrific down field awareness big time, when he scrambles, and hits a wide out … whoever, he's gifted that way.  He'd make a nasty quick, elusive, not fast third down guy.  He has great hands, strong arms.  He'd have to learn to tuck and run, of course.  Granted, there's the durability thing, Wes has the same issue, so be it.


Manziel's smart enough to "see" what's what, very quickly.  To play the defense, and make them "play" him enough, to warrant special attention at times.  Meaning, defenses just for him at times, when that happens, the offense often wins. That has to count, for something.  Not all players bring that to the table, I think Manziel can offer this up.


Don't waste him, his body, to scamper, and get beat up playing "Fran" in the league today.  Make him a third down guy, and let him help you win that way, that will work big.


onthebeach
onthebeach

Used to be, going to the stadium-particularly with good seats-was the best.  Today? For the price of tickets to 4 games you can get an awesome HDTV. The replays, analysis, camera shots etc? All have elevated the at home experience, less bathroom lines, over-priced concessions, parking, traffic etc. You can chill with your friends and family exactly as you please. DVR, pause etc? unreal!

timmyjohn
timmyjohn

As a Viking fan, Blake Bortles was and is my first choice.  Seen him play.  Would be a great addition. And in two years he would have a new stadium.

eddie767
eddie767

If the Texans do take a QB 1st, then play him immediately aren't they not learning from the Carr fiasco? I'm not sure, he was the right pick, but they got him killed and ruined themselves and him for yrs and a career. They, imo, should go D then QB @top of 2nd rnd. That's just my 2cts.

Sulkaman
Sulkaman

I don't believe the Browns are going to take any of the so-called Big 3 quarterbacks at 4.  There are just too many other quarterbacks they can get with their late 1st round pick or their 2nd round pick.  They are high on Hoyer and giving him a shot. He's a local kid, fan favorite and was playing well before getting injured.  It seems the Browns management is high on Sammy Watkins at #4 to pair with Gordon (scary combo) or perhaps a defensive player will be selected. After all the coach and GM are defensive minded.  I listened to Ray Farmer's press conference live yesterday and obviously they don't give away much, but he verbally salivated over the discussion of Watkins being added to the team.  I think if he's there at #4 he's a Cleveland Brown.

pirate
pirate

I'd been thinking Clowney to Houston at No. 1, but who else do they have at QB? The more I think about it, the more it seems they have to take a signal caller they think can play on day one, don't they? Pretty much leaves Manzeil and Bortles, and Johnny Football seems the more likely fit. And if they're wrong, boy are they screwed.

Speaking of Bortles, I like this quote: "The guys who are successful are the ones who can pick you apart and know everything mentally.” As opposed to what? Knowing everything spiritually? Knowing everything physically? It never help to pay too much attention to sports cliches, they're almost always gibberish if you dig into them.

browngrowler
browngrowler

being such a star, how many bows will manziel take after he throws an interception?

J Diddy
J Diddy

Peterson and Manziel in the same backfield might be a nightmare for defenses to figure out. If Manziel's playmaking ability translates even 80%, I'm not sure there'd be a more explosive RB/QB combo out there. 

CetswayoDawson
CetswayoDawson

I'm not particularly impressed by Bortles. That being said I imagine Dennis Allen may take him for my Raiders.

Chuckster
Chuckster

Love Bortles at #4 to Cleveland.  Though Manziel will be the fan favorite to pick at #4, the smart $$$ is on Bortles.

JimKirkwood1
JimKirkwood1

Six season tickets, and hasn't been to a game in three years?

Sandman3511
Sandman3511

regardless of who they pick after last year's dismal surprise season i think there is no way but up fro here for ur Texans.  let's see what coach O'brein can do.

TexanStatGuru
TexanStatGuru

I don't think teams can go into it with that type of defeatist attitude; the attitude that the team isn't going to give the coaching staff the players they want or need because, "Hey, we're going to fire you in a year or two anyway." 


The teams hire the coaches because they believe in them, trust them, and are willing to give them the tools -- and players -- to succeed. They hire coaches with the thought that they'll be around for 5 or 10 years, not 1 or 2.

If a team is worried that they'll be firing an OC -- or in the Texans' case the HC -- in a year or two anyway, then what the heck are they doing hiring the guy in the first place?

ProfessorGriff
ProfessorGriff

@jchowell2112  Oh Please - you know nothing about these college QB's just like the so called experts know nothing.  These guys haven't played a game since December/January and 2 months ago Bridgewater was considered the cream of the crop.  Now they are saying he will fall to the 2nd round?  These so called experts are all fraudulent

FredFunStuff
FredFunStuff

So your big plan is to take a guy in the top 10, at the most important position in team sports, and convert him to a new position? Was this supposed to be sarcastic?

Jason1988
Jason1988

You'd draft a high-pick first round QB in order to convert him to a 3rd down WR? Interesting. 

FredFunStuff
FredFunStuff

Completely agree with you about David Carr. Such a good guy and a great QB prospect when he came. Then he got hit so much he couldn't take his eyes off the rush. That said, their O line isn't nearly as bad now as it was back then. The Texans can win immediately with a solid QB so taking a more developed guy and playing him early would be best in my opinion. Maybe go defense first and trade back into the early 20's for Bridgewater or Carr Jr.

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

@Sulkaman  I've never understood why a player being "a local kid" should figure into the equation.  His play on the field should really only be there determining factor.  Will it make losing more palatable to the fans if the QB is "a local kid"?

Jason1988
Jason1988

It seems that he meant you have to have mental aptitude rather than just great athletic skills. Look at JaMarcus Russel; he was a freakish athlete but had trouble spelling his own name. The rest is history. 

dg_sirola
dg_sirola

@pirate Yeah, in other words the ones who are successful are the ones who play well.

onthebeach
onthebeach

@J Diddy  yeah youre right...sort of like Tarkenton on steroids with AP!

Wombat
Wombat

@J Diddy  It might happen but I don't think Manziel is Zimmer's type of guy...

Chuckster
Chuckster

@CetswayoDawson The Raiders would do well to land Bortles.  Barring injury, he'll be around a long time

el80ne
el80ne

@Chuckster If Cleveland takes Bortles you can pretty much count on them ruining him. They'll be too impatient to redshirt him and will play him when Hoyer either gets injured or struggles. They'd be better off taking Carr or trading down and grabbing a QB with their late 1st round pick or picks they get in return.

metalhead65
metalhead65

@Chuckster right so take the guy who might be good 3-4  years down the road over the guy with the proven track record against better competition and who will pay dividends from the start . and you wonder why the browns suck

grogseal
grogseal

@JimKirkwood1 I can understand the fact that he has not been to a game in three years. After watching the Bills for years in cold weather and the Cardinals for awhile in hot weather, I'd rather sit in my den, drink my Negro Modelo, eat my own chicken wings, enjoy better views of the game(s) and save a ton of money.

The question is truly why is he holding on to the tickets????????

PigglyWinks
PigglyWinks

@JimKirkwood1 Maybe he's holding out hope of another SB run, and the season holders get first crack at SB tickets.

Bongo
Bongo

@JimKirkwood1 :  I was thinking the same thing, but then if it was me I'd sell the tickets, get a League Pass and a big tv and be much, much happier every Sunday.

BradConner
BradConner

@Sandman3511  

Texans will take Clowney or Manzell...Cleveland will take one of those two or Bridgewater...Bortles will go to Vikings and end up being a guy they can continue to count on

BY
BY

@TexanStatGuru  10, maybe 5, years ago I would have agreed with you. Not now. Coaches are frequently fired after 1 year, sometimes less (See Cleveland Browns...Idiots of the NFL) so coaches do not have the luxury of developing a player.

Bongo
Bongo

@TexanStatGuru :  I agree 100%.  If you hire your OC and he's really your guy, why wouldn't you want to give him a QB to fit his system?   

I also disagree with Peter's take on the Browns.  Well - he might be right, but what he's talking about is foolish "conventional wisdom" in the NFL.  Hoyer may not be destined to be a superstar in the NFL, but he's adequate as a started.  Say they do take Bortles - why would they "need" him to play sooner than the Vikes?  Because Cassell is better than Hoyer?  So what?  If they play their young guy before he's ready, how is that better than letter Hoyer be the designated starter for the season?  If Hoyer gets hurt, let your other veteran backup do his job.  It's not like putting in Bortles prematurely will suddenly get them to the SB.


Bad teams trying to rebuild - and I have to be confident that this time the Browns are really rebuilding, not just biding time before firing everyone in a year or two - need to be patient, they DON'T need to let their young QB have his confidence destroyed while trying to salvage a hopeless situation.  

Get your rookie some game experience, sure, but don't put the weight of the expectations of the entire franchise and fanbase on his shoulders and then be surprised when he doesn't magically become a solid NFL starter after getting pounded into the turf for two years.

Jason1988
Jason1988

Richard Sherman doesn't play in the NFL anymore? I missed that. 

Shyzaboy
Shyzaboy

@FredFunStuff  He didn't become a bad QB because he was hit so much, rather he was hit so much because he had a very slow delivery. Compare his release to Payton Manning's - at least twice as long. Of course, a good offensive line would've covered up his slow release, to some extent...


el80ne
el80ne

@PhillyPenn @Sulkaman Wasn't Brady Quinn a local kid? I think the Browns have already learned that lesson. Different ownership and coaching staff though so maybe they need to re-learn it.

J Diddy
J Diddy

@Wombat I agree. Zimm seems pretty hard-nosed. But maybe he likes the attitude? Idk, but it might be fun to see. :)

el80ne
el80ne

@BY @TexanStatGurufrequently fired after 1 year? Aside from the Browns, give me 5 coaches in the last 5 years fired after 1 year. If it happens so frequently this should be easy.

el80ne
el80ne

@Bongo @TexanStatGuru Because reading between the lines, there's a sense that Kyle Shanahan won't protect Bortles and will rush him into the trial by blowtorch approach when Hoyer doesn't cut it, and the defensive minded Mike Pettine will go along with his OC's idea. Norv Turner has a better track record for developing QBs, he'd be more wise about not wanting to rush Bortles before he's ready.

TexanStatGuru
TexanStatGuru

@Bongo Personally I think Manziel is a much better fit for that offense than Bortles (although Bortles would still be good in it). 


That offense uses tons of rollouts and naked bootlegs to force LBs and safeties to decide whether to commit to the guy they're covering or break off to go after the QB running free. Schaub put one level of pressure on doing that. Bortles would probably click that up a notch or two. Manziel though? With his running ability, the pressure on the defensive backfield would be immense and would probably result in a LOT of big plays.


I don't think Manziel fits every system well, but the Shannahan/Kubiak system is one in which he could excel.  


And you're right, if you look at what Hoyer did before he got hurt, I would put that up against Ponder/Cassel any day and feel pretty good about it.

Jason1988
Jason1988

Because this issue isn't simply a NBA issue. It's a cultural issue. And Sherman is a person. So there's that. 

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