One of the best storylines from the current NFL season has been Gardner Minshew’s ascension to cult hero status. While Nick Foles’ opening day injury could have been a death sentence for the Jaguars, their rookie quarterback stepped in with remarkable ease. Not only has he kept the club in the playoff hunt, but he captured the hearts of Jacksonville fans.
The NFL is a cut-throat league, however, and Minshew could get a cold dose of reality. With Foles nearing full health, the rookie could have played himself out of the starting job on Sunday morning in London.
Gardner Minshew bursts onto the scene
During the Jaguars’ Week 1 game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Nick Foles left the game with a fractured collarbone. Rookie Gardner Minshew was forced into action, and while he didn’t win, he played with striking poise.
Minshew kept the starting job, and “Minshew Mania” took over Florida. Fans started donning fake mustaches; on the field, the young quarterback helped the Jaguars keep their collective heads above water. The franchise was also impressed by the rookie’s off-field behavior.
Despite his newfound star status, the quarterback simply kept his head down and showed up ready to work each day. He reportedly turned down several promotional opportunities and marketing appearances, preferring to focus on his weekly preparations. That’s the sort of behavior that catches the attention of an NFL front office and screams “starting quarterback.”
Despite that, things are suddenly a lot less clear. Nick Foles is due to return from injury, calling the starting quarterback role into question.
The Jaguars struggle in London
With Nick Foles clearly on the road to recovery, the pressure was on Gardner Minshew on Sunday when the Jaguars and Texans met in London. While the entire Jacksonville squad struggled in a 26-3 loss, the young quarterback didn’t cover himself in glory.
While Minshew threw for over 300 yards, he only completed 27 of 47 total passes in a losing effort. He threw two interceptions—and obviously didn’t find the end zone—and lost two fumbles. While teams don’t usually rely on back-ups to carry them to victory, they do expect anyone under center to take care of the ball and avoid losing the game. Throwing for hundreds of yards might look nice, but no team is going to be fooled by stats posted at the tail end of a blowout loss.
Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network suggested that this game could have been Gardner Minshew’s chance to step up and claim the starting quarterback job. It’s safe to say that he didn’t do that on Sunday morning.
Is Nick Foles due to start?
While Gardner Minshew probably doesn’t deserve to lose the starting job, it’s hard to imagine him stepping back under center the next time that the Jaguars take the field.
Following their international game today, Jacksonville will have their bye week. That gives Nick Foles some additional time to shake off any rust and reacclimatize to the offense. The club will want him to be as prepared as possible for their Week 11 visit to the division-leading Indianapolis Colts.
The situation will likely be similar to the New Orleans Saints’ benching of Teddy Bridgewater. While Bridgewater and Minshew didn’t do anything wrong—the former quarterback actually did quite several things right—it’s tough to keep your ideal starter on the sidelines if he’s ready to play. That’s especially true for Jacksonville; they’re entering a crucial stretch of the schedule that will determine their playoff chances.