• Plenty of people—fans, players, media—were wrong about the Jaguars this year. As Jacksonville prepares to play in the AFC championship against the No. 1-seed Patriots, let's call out a few players (and this writer...) who threw shade at the Jags earlier this season.
By Robert Klemko
January 19, 2018

Because we all love seeing people eat crow, what follows is a comprehensive rundown of all the trash NFL players talked over the last year or so about the Jaguars... the same Jaguars who just beat the Steelers and will play in the AFC championship game against the Patriots on Sunday. But first, I have to eat my own slice of humble pie.

Back in late August, I watched Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville offense look completely inept in a joint practice with Tampa Bay, and I wrote this:

Blake Bortles is on the ropes. He’s fighting for a starting job with journeyman quarterback Chad Henne, and according to some, the third overall pick of the 2014 draft is losing that fight… Before Bortles’s dismal performance in a preseason game against Tampa over the weekend, he was struggling similarly against their defense without the threat of a true pass rush. He missed reads, he missed throws, and it hurt the confidence of numerous players who have otherwise applauded the direction of the football team.

A little harsh? Maybe. But confidence in Bortles was in short supply. I even got some juicy quotes that I didn’t end up using in the story, from some anonymous players: “That was eye-opening,” said one offensive player with reconciled laughter after one joint practice. “We’re going to suck this year,” said another.

It’s hard to know exactly why some players say what they say, so anonymous quotes should be taken with a grain of salt. I caught some players who were pissed off after a few bad practices, and it ultimately wasn’t worth portraying an entire locker room as lacking in hope because I really didn’t know how most guys in the room felt. In the end, somebody smart talked me out of using those quotes.

It’s a good thing, because Blake Bortles held onto his job and then some, raising his completion percentage and cutting down on turnovers while leading the No. 5-scoring offense in football with the aid of an outstanding rookie running back in Leonard Fournette. Then he survived a shootout with Ben Roethlisberger in the divisional round of the playoffs. Truly eye-opening.

Now that that’s off my chest, here’s a bunch of NFL players throwing shade at Bortles and the Jaguars.

WHO: Chris Harris and Brandon Marshall, Broncos
WHEN: March 2017​

When free agent defensive lineman Calais Campbell signed with the Jaguars, turning down an offer from Denver, these Broncos players had something to say about it: 

Said Campbell that week: “The rest of the world doesn’t see Jacksonville the way I do. I think Jacksonville’s close.”

WHO: Michael Bennett, Seahawks
WHEN: March 2017​

Bennett was discussing the NFL’s new ban on leaping to block a field goal and slipped in a dig at Jacksonville.

“Most of the NFL games are decided by one point, unless you’re playing the Jaguars or something, then it’s decided by 50. So it’s one of those things. The one point, blocking that, it makes a big difference.”

The Jaguars beat the Seahawks 30–24 in December, a game that ended with an ugly melee.

WHO: Sean Lee, Cowboys
WHEN: July 2017​

When new Jaguars safety Barry Church said that Jacksonville had more talent on defense than Dallas, Lee had some words.

“They have more talent? Well, that’s because he’s in Jacksonville right now,” Lee said. “Of course he’s going to say that. I might have to call him.”

The Jaguars finished the regular season with the No. 2-ranked defense in yards and points allowed, and had four players voted to the Pro Bowl.

WHO: Vontaze Burfict, Bengals
WHEN: November 2017

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, before a Nov. 5 meeting with Jacksonville:

“We’re not going to let the run game beat us,” Burfict said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “We’re going to at least let Blake throw the ball. … I think the film tells for itself that obviously Fournette can beat you and I’m not sure Blake can beat us. We want to put it in his hands and have him beat us, if he can.”

Fournette didn’t play against the Bengals after being suspended for violating team rules, but Bortles passed for 259 yards and a touchdown in a 23–7 win.

WHO: Earl Thomas, Seahawks
WHEN: December 2017

The Seattle safety couldn’t resist a Bortles insult even after the Jaguars took down the Seahawks. 

“Right now, it’s not,” Thomas said. “Because, you know, that was a subpar quarterback. They had a great game plan. They out-executed us, which can’t happen. You’ve gotta take advantage of these things.”

WHO: Jadeveon Clowney, Texans
WHEN: December 2017

After the Jaguars smacked the Texans 45–7 on Dec. 17:

Jaguars fans responded by sending empty trash cans to the Texans facility, which Clowney then filled with Christmas toys for kids to be donated. Everybody wins!

WHO: Jurrell Casey, Titans
WHEN: January 2018

Casey, before the Jaguars’ 10–3 wild card victory over the Bills:

“As long as Bortles is back there, if the ball game is in his hands, he’s going to choke,” he said while appearing on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville.

WHO: Le’Veon Bell, Steelers
WHEN: January 2018

Bell, looking forward to an AFC championship meeting with the Patriots, looked right past the Jaguars.

Jacksonville won 45–42.

If you’re looking for the Patriots to contribute to the Jaguars’ bulletin board of trash-talk, don’t hold your breath.

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