Injuries are an unfortunate part of football, but when they happen, new players have to be ready to step up. This situation happened in Jacksonville as starting quarterback Nick Foles went down with a shoulder injury in week 1. The Jaguars turned to rookie sixth-rounder Gardner Minshew to fill in for Foles. Since that point, Minshew has played extremely well given the circumstances. The question now is: Has he supplanted Nick Foles as starting quarterback when he returns from injury?
Minshew has done a lot of things to impress people around the league in the first three weeks of the season, but the main area that has impressed is his intellect. Washington State head coach Mike Leach has referred to Minshew as one of the smartest players he has ever coached. Having a good football IQ and making good reads is something that Leach requires in his “Air Raid” offense. Minshew thrived in it for his one-year at Washington State, throwing for 4,779 yards, 38 touchdowns and nine interceptions on 70.7 percent completion. The days of people questioning whether an “Air Raid” quarterback can work in the NFL are over.
Taking the step from college to the NFL makes a lot of players struggle, but Minshew has been able to bring his football IQ to the next level. During the game against the Titans on Thursday night, Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman raved about Minshew’s ability to understand coverages and throw away from where coverage was the tightest. There are a lot of things that make good NFL quarterbacks, but all of them have to be able to read defenses well.
The crazy thing is, Minshew has done all of this in a matter of months since being drafted. As he gets more reps, he should be able to improve on how he reads NFL defenses. If he can improve on this area even further, Minshew will be in the league a long time as a starter.
In his first three games as a quarterback, Minshew has set records for quarterback rating and completion percentage. Through three games he has completed a stunning 73.9 percent of his passes and has a quarterback rating of 110.6. He has passed for 692 yards, five touchdowns and one interception on the season. It isn’t like he is going up against bad defenses either. In his two starts, he has played the Texans and the Titans. The Texans still have really good pass rushers including J.J. Watt. Tennessee’s defense made Baker Mayfield look terrible in the opening week of the season. Because he was successful against these two defenses, there is reason to think that he can do well against the rest of the league.
All of these good stats come without the best support on offense. Running back Leonard Fournette has just 179 rushing yards through three games. He would be closer to 100 yards, but broke off a long-run at the end of the game against the Titans. A young quarterback’s best friend is a running game and Minshew hasn’t even been afforded one. He threw a touchdown pass to a tight end James O’Shaughnessy, a player that a lot of fans likely haven’t even heard of. Luckily he has found a connection with wide receiver D.J. Chark, the second-year player out of LSU. Chark caught one touchdown pass from Foles in the opener, but has also caught a touchdown in each of the last two games from Minshew.
The smarts and the stats, so far, prove Minshew has what it takes to be a franchise quarterback in this league. One thing that separates him from the rest of the quarterbacks in the league is his personality. He does band exercises in the locker room in nothing but a jockstrap. Minshew made the mustache famous in his time with Washington State and has brought it to the NFL. In an interview with Pardon My Take, Minshew relayed a story about how he tried to break his hand in order to get a medical redshirt to get another season of eligibility. While he was unable to break his hand and get a medical redshirt, this speaks to what he would do to get an opportunity.
In the coming years, there will be plenty more stories about Minshew that will come out. The one thing that is apparent from all of them is that he loves the game of football, he can block out the outside noise and just wanted a chance to shine. Now that he has played in the NFL, it isn’t likely that he will want to give his spot up.
Who Will the Jaguars Start?
What makes the decision of whether to stick with Minshew hard, is that the Jaguars just shelled out a lot of money to bring Nick Foles to Jacksonville. He received a four-year, $88 million deal in free agency. Teams that pay players that much want them to perform on the field and earn their paycheck. But teams also like to win and build for the future.
A lot of the decision will come down to how Minshew fairs in the next few weeks. If he can continue impressing with great stats, that will help, but he also needs to win games. He is 1-1 as a starter and the team is 1-2 overall now. In order to make himself in a more secure position as the new starting quarterback, Minshew will need to have the Jaguars competing for a playoff spot. The season didn’t start off great, but with the way Minshew is playing and how good the defense can be, that isn’t out of the question.
People have bet against Minshew when he came out of high school, when he transferred between several colleges and when teams let him slide to the sixth-round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He has proved them wrong before and looks like he might just do it again at the NFL level.