Jaguars bench Blake Bortles, will start Cody Kessler

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Could this be the end of Blake Bortles in Jacksonville?

Jaguars coach Doug Marrone announced Monday that the veteran passer has been benched in favor of backup Cody Kessler.

The switch comes on the heels of the team's ugly 24-21 loss to Buffalo, but also on the back end of seven straight losses for a squad many expected to compete for the AFC crown.

"I'm making this change to give us an opportunity to win a football game," Marrone said, per John Reid of the Florida Times Union. "Cody knows the offense ... and I talked to him on what's expected of him."

Marrone refused to bury Bortles, saying: "Any time you're losing, it's not just on one person. It's on everyone, and, obviously, when I say that, I understand and take responsibility for those as far as being the head coach."

Kessler has seen the field before in 2018, relieving Bortles during a Week 7 loss to the Texans. The former USC standout and Browns starter went 21-of-30 passing for 156 yards with one touchdown and a pick against Houston, but was sent back into the shadows before Jacksonville's Week 8 (losing) appointment with the Eagles in London.

The move comes hours after Marrone fired his longtime friend and play-caller Nathaniel Hackett, who told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport he thought he was being called in to discuss a change under center.

"It wasn't anything negative, (Marrone) just decided to make a move," Hackett told Rapoport of his dismissal. "I guess he didn't think I was good enough, that's the only thing I can think of. It's a shock."

None of this comes as a great surprise. It was more head-turning to see the team hand Bortles a three-year, $54 million contract this past offseason packed with $26.5 million in guarantees. Instead of heat-seeking the draft for a young challenger to the job, the Jaguars nestled up to an athletic-but-faulty starter with a seemingly unfixable soup of mechanical issues. Greenbacks aside, it's possible Bortles never starts again for the franchise that made him the third-overall pick in 2014.

The result -- again, not all on Bortles -- is a 3-8 team spiraling into irrelevance. The coordinator is gone, the quarterback is grounded -- and it's only fair to wonder what changes might come next during a highly troublesome season in Jacksonville.

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