Countdown to Jaguars Football: No. 35 and the Franchise Passing Touchdown Record
In fewer than 100 days, the Jacksonville Jaguars will return ... at least as things stand today.
While there is still some uncertainty surrounding the start of the NFL season, the league office has made it clear that they are planning to kick the season off on Sept. 10 and then have every other team play on Sept. 13.
By going off that timeline, we are now just 35 days from watching the Jaguars take the field against the Indianapolis Colts for the first regular season game of 2020.
While a number of players have worn No. 35 for the Jaguars, it is hard to find many players who had a tangible impact on the team. For that reason, this edition will focus on another way to number relates to the Jaguars. And in this case, the number represents one of the most coveted single-season records for any football team -- the touchdown passes record.
Jacksonville's single-season touchdown pass record was set by former quarterback Blake Bortles in 2015, just one year after the Jaguars selected Bortles with the No. 3 overall pick out of UCF in 2014.
While the Jaguars were far from a success in 2015 due to a disappointing 5-11 record, there were still reasons for optimism. The primary reason was the volume production of Bortles, which came in part due to his success in a new scheme and chemistry with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, but also in part because Jacksonville was trailing and forced to pass more often than not.
Either way, Bortles' sheer production as a passer in 2015 stands as one of the most decorated seasons from a quarterback in team history. That year, Bortles set the franchise's single-season touchdown pass record with 35, broke Mark Brunell's single-season yardage record with 4,428 yards and tied Brunell for the most 300-yard passing games in a season with six.
Overall, Bortles completed 58.6% of his passes and tossed 18 interceptions to go with his 35 touchdown passes. Still, he set the best touchdown percentage mark of any year of his career with 5.8, while also setting career-highs in yards per attempt (7.3), adjusted yards per attempt (7.1), yards per game (276.8) and passer rating (88.2).
Bortles has a complicated legacy in Jacksonville due to his overall mixed results over five years, but it is hard to argue that he was at least productive in 2015. He threw a touchdown in the first 15 games of the season, failing to throw a touchdown in only the final game of the year.
In terms of touchdown passes, he was tied for second place with Eli Manning, Cam Newton, and Carson Palmer, behind only Tom Brady with 36. He was also seventh in the NFL in passing yards, behind only Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Brady, Palmer, Matt Ryan, and Manning.
Just in terms of where Bortles' 2015 touchdowns stand today in terms of historical production, below is a list of the most single-season touchdown passes, which shows Bortles' 2015 season with a big lead.
- Blake Bortles (2015): 35
- Blake Bortles (2016): 23
- David Garrard (2010) 23
- Gardner Minshew (2019): 21
- Blake Bortles (2017): 21
- Mark Brunell (2000): 20
- Mark Brunell (1998): 20
- Mark Brunell (2001): 19
- Mark Brunell (1996): 19
- David Garrard (2007): 18
- Mark Brunell (1997): 18
What stands out the most about this is obviously the amount of touchdowns Bortles' 2015 season leads by, but it also shows just how close Gardner Minshew II came to tying for the second-most touchdown passes in a season in just his rookie year.
Could Minshew approach Bortles' 35 touchdown mark in 2020? It is hard to project quite that many for Minshew considering only one quarterback threw for 35 or more touchdown passes last season, and that was Most Valuable Player Lamar Jackson.
Minshew does have the factor of new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden working in his favor, but Gruden hasn't overseen many passers near 35 touchdowns. Kirk Cousins threw for touchdown totals of 29, 27 and 25 during his tenure with Gruden, though Andy Dalton did throw for 33 touchdowns under Gruden's tutelage in 2013.
Regardless, Bortles' 2015 touchdown figure has yet to come close to being eclipsed, which combines with his performance in 2017 as his lasting legacy in Jacksonville.
Was Bortles a successful draft pick? It can be debated, and those who proclaim it as a worthy pick at No. 3 can at least point to his 2015 production as an argument in their favor.