Now that he is the undisputed starter for the Jacksonville Jaguars, can Gardner Minshew lead the team back to the playoffs?
The Jacksonville Jaguars are officially Gardner Minshew’s football team. They may have been his team from the moment he took the field in Week 1 of the 2019 season, but now that the team has traded quarterback Nick Foles to the Chicago Bears, there’s no question who will lead this team for the unforeseeable future.
With this new title comes the expectation that the second-year quarterback will succeed. There’s a bit of pressure that comes along with a decision made by the Jaguars front office yesterday, but let’s not put that at the feet of the former sixth-round draft pick out a Washington State.
General manager David Caldwell, director of player personnel Trent Baalke and head coach Doug Marrone are banking on a success Minshew showed last year to carry over into the 2020 season. After an off-season, that’s seen the team release Marcell Dareus, Jake Ryan, and Geoff Swaim and then traded away A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell and now Foles, the Jaguars are a much younger team.
That also means it’s a good bet the organization will once again going through growing pains and a good bet that the changes that are being made will buy both Marrone and Caldwell another year here in Jacksonville through 2021.
Armed with 12 draft picks in April and three free agents signed to help the defense, this could become a very offensive-heavy selection process in five weeks. That’s not a bad thing considering the Jaguars only averaged 18.8 points per game last year.
But if Minshew cannot replicate part of the season he had last year, then people who have dogged this team for years will once again question the decision made by the front office.
Minshew showed the confidence of a seasoned veteran from Day 1 that he stepped onto the field. Not during the preseason, but on the 12th play of the Jaguars season, the after Foles suffered a broken clavicle. He had moxie and field awareness and command of the huddle. His personality was infectious in the locker room. Players openly talked about how he will rally this team when it was needed most.
Those kinds of intangibles aren’t taught. They are instinctive. And for a player who is selected in the same round as Tom Brady in 1999, the Jaguars are hoping the 23-year-old gives them at least some of the same kind of success that the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers signal-caller has shown over his career.
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By trading Foles to Chicago, the Jaguars admitted the experiment was a failure. There’s nothing wrong with taking a chance, especially on a veteran who owns a Super Bowl championship. And because the experiment didn’t work in Jacksonville doesn’t mean that Foles isn’t a class act. But now, it’s time to move on where the man who took over for the veteran to be replaced by the veteran only to replace the veteran again is now the undisputed veteran leader of the offense.
And for a front office that is on such a short leash, this had better be the right move. Not because a rebuilding project will take more than a year to complete, because they are putting so much confidence in a player that the Jaguars believe can become as successful at the position as Mark Brunell and David Garrard before him.
There’s no question Minshew believes he’s the man for the job. And there’s no question that the fan base, at least the majority of it, believes he is the right choice. Now comes the part where the player must prove everybody right. If the Jaguars surround him with the right pieces on offense and can fix the issues with a porous defense from 2019, then this could be one of the greatest stories written in Jaguars’ history.
If not, it might go down as one of the puzzling times in the team’s existence. Either way, Minshew is worth the gamble. His swagger, his ability, and his football acumen say he should be successful here in Jacksonville. Now comes the part where the front office gives him the tools on the field to make that happen.