Bortles: If they come after LeBron, they'll come for me

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Blake Bortles is in a weird place right now.

Bortles has advanced with his team into the NFL's version of the Elite Eight, but that achievement has done nothing to slow the steady flow of insults directed at the Jaguars quarterback on a near-weekly basis.

Insulting Bortles' abilities is en vogue in the NFL. Players are sharing candid opinions with the media typically only expressed in the private confines of locker rooms and team meetings.

Jadeveon Clowney called Bortles "trash." Earl Thomas called him "subpar." Cameron Jordan mocked that Bortles "[gives] picks away." Vontaze Burfict said the defense "wants to put it in [Bortles'] hands."

This week, Titans safety Kevin Byard took things a step further, invoking Bortles' name in the same way Andy Bernard attempted to make "He Schruted it" a thing on The Office.

"This is a playoff game, so I don't really care if it was Joe Montana," Byard said, per The Associated Press, on the challenge of facing Tom Brady this weekend. "You know what I'm saying? I'm trying to go out there and win the game. I want to make him look like Blake Bortles if I can and try to catch a couple picks. Tom Brady is a great quarterback, but it's a playoff game."

This is a real thing! As for Bortles, you can view his general shoulder shrug on the phenomenon as an example of the type of thick skin necessary to survive at the game's most demanding position or, well, the response of a beaten man absent the will to fight back.

"It'll probably never stop," Bortles said Wednesday. "There's people that think LeBron James sucks, so if that happens, I'm sure there will be a lot of people that always think I suck."

No one thinks LeBron James sucks, for the record. Yes, Warriors fans at Oracle Arena might share sentiments in that realm during Game 5 of the NBA Finals, but everyone ultimately knows the score. It's fun to get after LeBron because there's an unspoken understanding between fan and opposing star. You're amazing and nothing would please us more than to humble and defeat you. LeBron James is a legend. Blake Bortles is not ... at least not in the way Jaguars fans hoped he would be.

The latest slings come in the aftermath of a rough Bortles performance in the wild-card round against the Bills. Bortles struggled mightily throwing the football, finishing 12-of-23 for just 87 yards and a score. Jacksonville might be sitting at home right now had Bortles not used his legs so effectively -- his 88 yards on the ground represented a game high.

It's easy to forget now, but Bortles was one of the best quarterbacks in football from Week 13 through 15. During that span, all Jaguars victories, Bortles averaged nearly 10 yards per attempt, threw seven touchdowns, zero interceptions with a 128.6 passer rating. But Bad Blake has returned in Jacksonville's last three games. In those contests -- two Jags losses and last Sunday's underwhelming Buffalo affair -- Bortles threw three touchdowns against five interceptions, averaged just 5.9 yards per attempt and posted a 62.3 passer rating.

For most players, the bright playoff spotlight creates a golden opportunity for lesser heralded players to announce themselves as stars. We could be seeing the cruel inverse of that with Bortles. The bigger the stage gets, the deeper Bortles entrenches himself as the symbol of the NFL's TMCQ (Too Many Crappy Quarterbacks) crisis.

Of course, Bortles can flip the script by shredding the Steelers on Sunday at Heinz Field. It's not too late. His destiny can be altered. He best not Bortles it.

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