“Blake Bortles is the Tom Brady of Garbage Time,’’ blared the headline on the fivethirtyeight.com website.
The site is noted for crunching the numbers on political issues, but also covers sports. And Michael Salvino studied the numbers on Blake Bortles, the fourth-year Jaguars quarterback, for the past two seasons.
It turns out he was the best quarterback in the league in garbage time the past two years. Garbage time is defined on being down by nine or more points with four minutes or fewer left.
There has been a perception that Bortles tends to put up meaningless numbers in garbage time and Salvino’s research shows it is true.
Bortles completed 78 of 118 passes for 964 yards and 12 touchdowns and just four picks with a passer rating of 111 in garbage time. Tom Brady, who barely even knows what garbage time in a loss feels like, had a 112 passer rating for the season last year.
The last two years, 20.7 percent of Bortles’ touchdown passes have come in garbage time, when the opposing team is often playing prevent defense.
His garbage time results didn’t pull out any games. The Jaguars failed to come back for a victory in all 15 games in which they trailed big late.
Brock Osweiler, Sam Bradford, Andrew Luck and Drew Brees were 2-3-4-5 in garbage time.
In the first half when a team was within one score (eight or fewer points) last year, Bortles was the worst quarterback in the league.
He completed just 96 of 158 passes for 963 yards and five touchdowns with eight interceptions.
In the past two years, Bortles has thrown only about half as many touchdown passes in the first quarter of all games (six) as he threw in the last five minutes of the games he had already lost.
The best quarterbacks when the game was within eight points in the first half were Matt Ryan, Brady, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and Colin Kaepernick, who is still out of a job.
While Bortles’ passer rating when the game was close in the first half was 67.8, Ryan was tops at 124.1.
Bortles has struggled in training camp this year, although he has time to put it together before the season starts.
But if Bortles continues to play well mainly in garbage time, he doesn’t have much of a future in the NFL. The challenge for him is to play better when the game is on the line.
Time is starting to run out for Bortles.