One face of the franchise is out.
Another face of the franchise is just blossoming.
It’s still too early to tell if Gardner Minshew II can be a franchise quarterback in the NFL, but the four-time Pepsi Rookie of the Week winner is simply doing things that no other rookie quarterback has done (Ben Roethlisberger holds the record for nine Rookie of the Week Awards, in case you’re wondering).
Through six weeks and five starts, Minshew is close to on pace to break the rookie record for touchdowns, touchdown-to-interception ratio, QBR, and passing yards.
That’s not an opinion — that’s objective fact.
We still have a long way to go before having to declare Minshew as the franchise quarterback this city has been so desperate parched for. The good news is that we will have several weeks ahead of us to determine whether or not he can be.
And if he can, pairing this eureka discovery with 18 picks in the next two drafts blows open the door for a new roster building window that even the Kool Aid man would be envious of.
The situation is eerily similar to that of the Dallas Cowboys in 2016, when Dallas selected Dak Prescott in the fourth round of the draft behind veteran incumbent Tony Romo. Romo, 36 at the time, suffered a preseason compression fracture to his back and despite a 6-10 week prognosis, Romo never saw the field again.
Could this be happening to the 30-year-old Foles who has already had public admissions of retirement in the past? Prescott ended his rookie year with a 67.8% completion percentage for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions with a 8.6 average yards per attempt.
In comparison, Minshew is on pace for a 63.9% completion percentage for 3,845 yards, 24 TDs, 5 interceptions with a 7.9 average yards per attempt with most of the best competition on the schedule in the rearview.
The similarities in these storylines are striking.
While it’s still possible that Foles replaces Minshew when he gets healthy again, it’s in the Jaguars’ best interest from a team building perspective to move forward with Minshew, similar to how the Cowboys did with Prescott and his fourth-round salary that allowed them to pay players like Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, Demarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith, La’el Collins, Ezekiel Elliott and take on the salaries of Robert Quinn and Amari Cooper, who may be in line for an extension soon. This allowed for the Cowboys to build a strong roster nucleus around Prescott to maximize his skillset and has slowly built them into contenders.
Minshew’s cap hits for the next four years, per Spotrac:
Pair this with a bunch of money that could become available over the next two seasons from veterans like A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell, Nick Foles, and now no Jalen Ramsey to pay, this allows the Jaguars to not only restock the shelves with talent from four first round picks in the next two years, but also be aggressive again in free agency with players like Leonard Williams, Austin Hooper, James Bradberry, or Byron Jones in 2020 alone.
Another benefit of hitting on Minshew is the additional draft capital that the Jaguars can net for Nick Foles before the 2020 season trade deadline if another veteran starter on a contender of the ilk of Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Jimmy Garoppolo, gets hurt. The Jaguars could recoup something as high as a low second or third round pick for Foles depending on the desperation of the suitor, and it doesn’t even need to be injury induced. If a team with a great defense like the Chicago Bears continues to get nothing out of Mitchell Trubisky at the quarterback position by Week 6 of next year, they could become extremely interested in a veteran like Foles, whom head coach Matt Nagy has familiarity with from their time in Kansas City.
For the folks keeping track at home, this could spell two firsts, a second, two thirds, and two fourths in 2021 — with two more seasons of Minshew at peanuts salary.
While Foles returning might give the Jaguars a better chance of a winning record in the immediate, it’s my opinion that Minshew gives them a better chance of bringing a Super Bowl to this city — contingent on his play over the next several weeks.
Isn’t that the ultimate goal? What else are we doing here?
But the Jaguars have bigger concerns weighing over them as a franchise. Chiefly, who is the person who will be making the selections with this new haul of premium draft picks into the future?
I have been asked questions about who the Jaguars should be looking at as the personnel decision-maker in this crucial window coming up over the next two years. While there are some talented evaluators in the NFL right now like Will McClay from the Cowboys and Elliott Wolf from the Browns, for me, there’s a clear solution for this team.
It’s Tony Khan’s time. Not as general manager, but as Executive Vice President.
In my opinion, this has always been the long-term vision for Shad when purchasing the franchise in 2011, and a lot of the moves the Khan family has made since then has helped nurture the now 37-year-old Tony Khan to prepare him for the opportunity, including taking over as Vice Chairman and Director of Football Operations of Fulham F.C. and hands on business and personality management experience launching All Elite Wrestling and TruMedia Networks.
This would be an enormous swing of the pendulum from the 73-year-old Coughlin, and it’s a move that I think would be well-received by the franchise and the city.
You won’t see Khan on the field with a whistle around his neck at practice and you won’t see him coming down into the locker room to berate his star players. He will act as an Executive Vice President should — a proper steward of his family’s financial investment in the roster and focus on the macro decisions to improve the team, including decisions such as re-signing Yannick Ngakoue, for example.
I don’t know Tony Khan personally, but from conversations with some people who are familiar with him, he loves this franchise, this city, and these fans with all his heart. And despite the ravine in years and experience between Coughlin and Khan, those are qualities that the two men undoubtedly share.
Without having true insight into the day-to-day dynamics of the structure of the Jaguars, from outside perspective, the issues seem blatantly evident. Yesterday, head coach Doug Marrone seemed frustrated with being the mouthpiece for the organization and constantly asked to comment on topics that are beyond his pay grade.
For my money, I believe Marrone has handled the entire Jalen Ramsey situation with exceptional aplomb and has made the best of being dealt a tough hand. With Tony Khan installed at the top, I believe the team would have a lot more transparency and access to the media, perhaps not necessarily via Khan himself in these situations, but having his chief personnel executive comment in situations like the Ramsey trade. It’s what the fans and the city deserve, rather than hiding in an ivory tower shrouded in a veil of obscurity.
As far as who that chief personnel guy that would be? I don’t have the answer for that yet.
Maybe Dave Caldwell continues in his capacity. Maybe the new haul of picks can attract a young, bright personnel executive that would jive really well with the personality of a vibrant Khan.
The sole challenge I see with Khan taking over is the hesitancy for “football guys” to work under his guise as an analytics-driven approach that Khan would undoubtedly impress. Perhaps simply allowing Khan to have final say on premium first round picks (something Caldwell has been extremely hit-or-miss on) and allowing the scouting and personnel staff to focus on day two and three of the draft would be the ideal workflow and solution to self-evaluate shortcomings. If you aren’t familiar, Khan has already been impacting rookie free agency over the last several years with his analytics finding undrafted gems like Tre Herndon, Jarrod Wilson, and Corey Grant.
From the outside looking in, it appears that the Jaguars have too many cooks in the kitchen — and in trying to prepare a meal in confined space, are stepping on each other’s toes. With a change at the top allowing for Coughlin to bow out gracefully on his own terms, the Jaguars could strategically reorganize to maximize this crucial chapter in franchise history that we are about to turn the page into.
One face of the franchise could soon be out.
Another face of the franchise is on the horizon.
It just may not be the ones you thought. Or at least, not the ones at the top of this article.