Blake Bortles is in a peculiar predicament: He gets criticized when he plays poorly, and he gets criticized when he plays well. The former is understandable; the latter is not. Either way, he might be the least respected starting quarterback in the National Football League.
And yet, here he is, one win away from the Super Bowl.
“He obviously doesn’t pay any attention to outside critics,” Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole said on Tiki and Tierney. “When he gets criticism, he does something with it. I know he’s always watching film when I see him. I try to get early sessions with him. I know he’s hard-working. He’s very calm in the huddle, he gets some jokes out every once in a while to get everybody up, and then he yells when we need it. I feel like he’s a great quarterback, and it’s obviously showing.”
Bortles finished 14-of-26 for 214 yards and a touchdown in a 45-42 win over Pittsburgh last weekend and will lead the Jags into Foxboro this Sunday. With a win over the Patriots, he and head coach Doug Marrone can lead Jacksonville to its first Super Bowl in franchise history.
Cole, an undrafted free agent out of Louisville, has greatly enjoyed playing for Marrone.
“I feel like he’s an old-school type of coach,” Cole said. “He’s real tough and he depends on his players. He always gives us the confidence based off the confidence he has in us. I don’t really see it coming off as being hard. He believes in us, so he’s going to express it.”
Tom Coughlin, meanwhile, must be pretty pleased with himself. In just one season, he has taken the Jaguars from 3-13 to their first AFC Championship appearance since 1999.
Cole doesn’t see Coughlin too often but always acknowledges him when he does.
“When I see him,” Cole said, “I definitely give him his respect.”
The Jaguars can earn more respect Sunday. Kickoff is at 3:05 p.m. ET.