Blake Bortles, quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars, is a player who is not often talked about in glowing terms. Bortles is usually a punch line or a cautionary tale of what happens when a team wastes a first round draft pick on the wrong player. However, there is one Bortles-friendly corner of the Internet where he is talked about glowingly and his “stats” trumpeted proudly.
“Blake Bortles has never thrown an interception or incomplete pass on Thanksgiving.”
Sounds good, looks good. Does it matter that Bortles has never actually played on Thanksgiving? Yeah, not really. It’s true and that’s all that matters.
Since 2015 Mike Tiscione, a Jaguars’ fan dating back to 1996, has maintained the Twitter account, tweeting out Bortles’ facts sometimes several times a day. The feed was inspired by jokes that Tiscione would make with a friend while watching Jags’ games during Bortles’ rookie season, it was the result of the two friends having reached a tipping point when it came to their Jags’ fandom. They had witnessed so much bad football from their favorite team that cracking jokes about the team’s rookie quarterback became the only way to make watching the games bearable.
The feed has since spawned on an online store that sells merchandise and @BortlesFacts currently has over 63,000 thousand followers, which is almost as impressive as the fact that Bortles is “undefeated in 194 countries.” He’s also managed to beat the Buffalo Bills on two continents. Not one, but two. Anyone can beat the Bills on one continent. Blake Bortles has beaten them on two continents.
It shouldn’t be misconstrued that Tiscione is doing this maliciously though, as he’s actually a fan of Bortles.
“We all want him (and the whole team) to succeed so bad, since it’s been a long time since we’ve had the winning football that we’re watching this year,” Tiscione says.
This year the Jaguars were surprisingly good, logging a 10-6 record and an AFC South title. It was their first season with a record about .500 since 2007 when they finished 11-5. Since that year the team struggled through year after year of mediocrity and down right dismal and depressing play. They went 2-14 in 2012 and 3-13 in both 2014 and 2016. Don’t worry, 2015 wasn’t a banner year either. They went 5-11.
Bortles wasn’t great in 2017, but he wasn’t his terrible either. His completion percentage was the highest of his career (60.2%,) but the amount of yards he threw for (3687) was his lowest since his rookie year (2908.) Although the reason for that stat this year was more indicative of the style of offense the Jaguars employed in 2017, opting to make Bortles more of a game managing quarterback while relying more on rookie running back Leonard Fournette to carry the offense.
It’s not as if the Jaguars couldn’t have asked Bortles to run some. According to @BortlesFacts, Bortles only needed 16, 966 rushing yards in their second to last game of the 2017 season to pass Emmitt Smith as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.
Talk about a missed opportunity. Unfortunately Bortles only had 31 yards in the game. So close.
“The effort and determination were there though,” Tiscione says. “You could see it in his face.”
But will Tiscione and his popular Twitter feed find themselves at a bit of crossroads once the season ends, though? Bortles’ future with the club is very much up in the air. The Jaguars picked up Bortles’ option in May of 2017, keeping him on for next season, which would mean something in any other sport. But with this being the NFL, there aren’t much for guarantees when it comes to job security for players. The expectation is that Jacksonville will at least explore other options (maybe even try and pry Eli Manning away from the Giants) during the offseason.
Tiscione doesn’t know if Bortles will be back, but he does know that @BortlesFacts isn’t going anywhere as long as Bortles is in the league.
“I don’t see any reason why we can’t keep the tweets going,” Tiscione says. “Let’s say he signs with New Orleans next season as the backup to Drew Brees. Fast-forward to Week 5, and Brees throws four interceptions to the Panthers defense and the Saints lose the game by double digits. It was a tough day for #9 with four picks, but Blake Bortles didn’t throw any.”
Again, it’s both true and definitely one way of looking at things.
Bortles and the Jaguars face a tough test this weekend, as they face the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round of the playoffs. The Steelers, champs of the AFC North, are a seven-point favorite over Jacksonville, who are coming off an ugly win in the first round over the Buffalo Bills. Bortles threw for just 87 yards in the game, completing 50% of his passes.
Tiscione is “on the fence” about the game and whether or not his Jaguars have a chance of upsetting the Steelers, who will have their star wide receiver Antonio Brown back.
“Jacksonville’s 2007 team is the only team in NFL history to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh twice in the same season, including the Playoffs,” Tiscione says. “So who knows if history will repeat itself. In October, the Jaguars won there pretty convincingly by three touchdowns (30-9), but that’s a tough team to be twice.”
Skepticism aside, Tiscione ultimately thinks Jacksonville can come away with a win, making a prediction of Jacksonville 27, Pittsburgh 24. Heading into the game, @BortlesFacts has featured no shortage of not-so veiled shots at the Steelers. Recently another AFC South team reached out to Tiscione, asking him to remove a tweet. He refused the request.
“It’s the Playoffs, and no punches can be or will be pulled.”
If Jacksonville does find a way to get past Pittsburgh, there is a very good chance that will land them in an AFC Championship Game with the New England Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champs, and their quarterback Tom Brady, a future Hall-of-Famer and the likely MVP of the league for the third time. Yet what would initially seem like a massive mismatch between quarterbacks doesn’t appear that way through the eyes of @BortlesFacts.
I mean, again, definitely one way of looking at things.
Regardless of how this season ends though, Tiscione is optimistic about the team’s future, especially given the team’s solid defense and that they led the league in rushing.
“However, if the run ends this week in Pittsburgh,” he says. “It was an amazing season.”
Damn it. Again. Technically true.