Blake Bortles has risen to the top of some NFL Draft boards because of the fact that to some he ‘looks like the kind of quarterback who should play at the next level.’ The fact is, Blake Bortles is more the product of the perfect passing system, than his latent talent. The UCF offense has one part of its design that allows a QB to excel within it: the steps taken after the snap.
Look at any video from a UCF game in 2013 and one pattern emerges: Bortles doesn’t hold on to the football long at all. In the majority of passes, Blake takes just two steps, and then gets rid of the ball. The wide receiver patterns are either fly, slant, out, skinny post, or screens, and then with the occasional out-and-up, ran in a kind of play-action that draws Bortles and the defense away from the eventual point of attack.
In many ways, it looks like University of Central Florida’s Head Coach George O’Leary has taken more than one page from the 2007 New England Patriots passing game play book, and mixed in a health dose of read-option. The objective is to execute the play quickly – get the ball out of his hands as fast as possible.
In this system Blake Bortles is not asked to think, and it’s why he, frankly, didn’t ace his playbook talks with either Steve Mariucci or Jon Gruden. In the UCF system, unlike the Louisville Offense that Teddy Bridgewater ran, or the newly installed adjustments at Texas A&M, or the Fresno State Offense under the brilliant David Carr, Blake’s not asked to audible much, and in most games never did change the play at the line of scrimmage. In other words, he ran an offense that asked him to fit his play within a specific time parameter – get rid of the ball after two steps – and he did that, and did it well.
Blake Bortles is really a raw talent like Brett Farve, but he’s in the modern passing era, where a team can get more out of his ability with the right system. Thus, Bortles, perhaps more than his competitors, is truly the product of the system he played in.
By contrast, Johnny Manziel has an other-worldly ability to make plays out of the pocket, and turn the seemingly wreckless attempt into a score. It took Brett Farve a few years to develop into the QB Manziel already is.
Teddy Bridgewater is a field general: a jack-of-all-trades Captain Kirk type of QB who’s the most like Stanford’s Andrew Luck of all of the QBs save for Carr. If I had to pick two QBs most capable of leading any team into the playoffs as rookies, I would pick Teddy and David Carr. Manziel would definetely put points on the board, but I have a feeling his approach would produce just enough mistakes to offset the large number of big plays he’d make.
Once Manziel got that under control, you could consider-him a playoff and Super Bowl contender in year two. It’s that rapid upside that sets him apart, plus an x-factor that makes you believe he may wind up proving us all wrong, just as he did before. Again, because of that, and his being from Texas A&M, and his determination, he’s that pick the Houston Texans would be damned for not making as the first pick in the NFL Draft.
But that’s for the Texans, if they feel they need to stay at number one. Given what I said, they could trade down a few picks and still get Manziel, and that could happen.
Mr. Bortles is this year’s Ryan Tannehill: a raw talent you have to draft between rounds one and two. But if you expect to see with your team the same Bortles that was at UCF in 2013, you’d better copy their playbook, and then fine tune it with a wider variety of plays.
Otherwise, put Bortles behind an experienced signal caller, and let him learn.
On that, I have to close by remarking that many of the blogs evaluating Blake never once mention what he was coached to do – it’s as if he was doing it out of the womb. There’s a ton of sloppy evaluating out there.