The Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8) named Gardner Minshew as their starting quarterback for the remainder of the season, replacing Nick Foles, who was benched in the middle of the last game. This benching might mark the beginning of the end of the Foles era with the Jags, while also marking the return of Minshew Mania.
With the Jags trailing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25-0 at halftime, head coach Doug Marrone benched Foles in attempt to jump-start the stagnant offense. Foles threw an interception on the first series before he fumbled twice in subsequent drives.
In the offseason, the Jaguars signed Foles to a four-year contract worth $88 million after he led the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl victory two seasons ago as a backup quarterback.
Foles struggled since he returned to the lineup in Week 11 after missing most of the season with a shoulder injury. During the opening drive in Week 1, Foles left the game in the first quarter after suffering a broken clavicle.
Gardner Minshew II
Hometown: Brandon, Mississippi
College: Washington State
Passing Yards: 2,432
Minshew, a rookie out of Washington State, took over for Foles in the opening game after he won the backup job in training camp. He went 4-4 as a starter while replacing Foles.
Minshew isn’t in the same league as Lamar Jackson as far as rushing QBs go, however, he does have escapability. He’s evasive and slippery in the pocket, and sidesteps trouble enough to get a pass off. When he needs to take off running, he’s been able to tally decent yardage with 5.5 yards per carry.
In Week 13, Marrone benched Foles and turned to Minshew when the Jags fell behind 25-0 at halftime against the Bucs. Minshew orchestrated their only touchdown drive, but he couldn’t engineer a comeback.
Foles Benched, Magic Gone?
After missing eight games, Foles returned to action in Week 11 against the Indianapolis Colts. He went 33-for-47 for 296 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. The Jags lost by 20 points, and Foles looked rusty.
In Foles’ second game back, the Jags were smoked by the Tennessee Titans, 42-20. Foles completed 32-of-48 passes for 267 yards and zero touchdowns.
Foles only threw two interceptions since his return, but he got sacked eight times, including three times in the first half against Tampa Bay. Marrone gave his starter, and highest-paid player, a chance to get the job done. However, after 2.5 games back from injury, Marrone saw enough of Foles and called Minshew into action.
“Obviously it was a tough deal,” said Marrone. “Nick coming back from injury and us not being able to do a good enough job around him, really. So, we feel with Gardner’s mobility and elusiveness, it can give us a better chance of winning with the way we’re playing right now because we’re all not doing a good enough job.”
“It’s not easy,” said Foles. “This is not an easy game. Tough situation, but I’m going to continue to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving.”
“It’s tough,” added Minshew. “I’ve been in the same situation. I’ve been booed off the field and it’s not a place anybody should have to be in. There’s so much love in that room. We all support each other.”
Minshew Mania Reprise
“Who the hell is Gardner Minshew?” collectively asked the sporting world during the first Sunday of the 2019 season when he trotted onto the field to replace an injured Foles.
Unless you were a Pac-12 football geek or a Washington State alum, you probably never heard of Minshew. It’s okay, he really only started for one season in Wazzu before the Jaguars drafted him in the sixth round with the #178 pick.
It didn’t take very long before the rookie became a cult figure in Jacksonville and around the league. Minshew sported a handlebar mustache, which made him easy to recognize. He resembled an undercover narcotics officer from the 1970s or a member of the North Dallas Bulls from the Nick Nolte football flick “North Dallas 40” than a modern professional football player.
He has a weird name that sounds like a fun-loving protagonist from a William Faulkner southern gothic novel, and exudes a cool demeanor that makes him seem more like a country western guitarist than a pro quarterback.
That’s part of the charm of Minshew Mania. He’s the guy that was in the right place and at the right time, but didn’t squander his opportunity in the spotlight. You got the gut feeling that even if Minshew became a one-hit wonder and never regularly started in the NFL again, he’d still be a legend and cult figure for what he did in those eight games, and garner a 30 for 30 documentary in 2044.
Just when you thought Minshew Mania was dunzo, he’s back at the helm for the Jags. And it’s not a whimsical week-to-week thing. The Jags inserted Minshew into the lineup permanently.
The Jags face a tough decision in the upcoming offseason. The Jags could build an offense around Minshew and RB Leonard Fournette with some of those extra draft picks they acquired after trading Jalen Ramsey to the LA Rams.
According to the financials, the Jags will incur a $33.875 million cap hit if they release Foles before June 1, 2020. If they cut him after June 1, their cap hit lowers to $21.375 million, which is still a significant amount.
Their best plan of action is to find a trading partner, which would drop Foles’ cap hit to only $6.25 million. The question is, who will want to take on that burden? The Chicago Bears will most likely move on from Mitch Trubisky, but will they be willing to take a flier on Foles or Cam Newton?