The Jacksonville Jaguars are making a mistake benching Gardner Minshew.
Great players, coaches, and front offices are defined by how they handle things that don’t go their way or when the unexpected happens. They take advantage of a bad break turned good.
Enter the 2016 Dallas Cowboys.
Dak Prescott wasn’t supposed to see the field his rookie season. He was behind Tony Romo, Kellen Moore, and Jameill Showers (???) on the depth chart. But Moore was injured and the coaching staff saw something in Prescott that made them favor him over Showers. And then Romo went down in the preseason with a vertebral compression fracture, an injury that would keep him out 8-10 weeks.
By the time Romo was ready to be back on the field, Prescott had put together the following stat line through nine games:
187-for-280 passing, 66.7 completion percentage, 2,339 yards passing, 8.35 yards per attempt, 14 passing touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and 6 fumbles.
Coincidentally, it’s the same number of games that Minshew played (minus 11 snaps):
188-for-307 passing, 61.2 completion percentage, 2,285 yards passing, 7.44 yards per pass, 13 passing touchdowns, 4 interceptions, and 11 fumbles.
The biggest knock on Minshew has been his fumbles. It’s unavoidable and it’s right there. Regardless of if one or two of them was the offensive line’s fault, he has to do better in that area.
But let’s look at some other differences, namely the teams around these two young quarterbacks.
Prescott’s offensive line allowed just 13 sacks and paved the way for an average of 161.0 rushing yards per game. Minshew’s allowed 21 sacks and paved the way for 129.5 rushing yards per game.
Prescott’s safety valve in the passing game? Jason Whitten, who caught 4.9 passes for 53.6 yards per game. The current leading tight end on the Jaguars went on injured reserve in Week 5.
Prescott’s defense allowed just 18.8 points per game. Minshew’s has allowed 21.0 points per game.
The team around Prescott was objectively better and Minshew is still holding his own.
And by sticking with Prescott early and keeping the salary cap low for their quarterback position, it’s allowed them to build around him. They spent two of their top three picks on cornerbacks the following season. They upgraded the offensive line and linebacker position the season after that. They’ve consistently gotten younger at defensive line.
Conversely, by going back to Foles, the Jaguars are setting themselves up to stick with him through at least the end of next season, if not the out of his contract after the 2021 season — wasting two, maybe three, years they could take advantage of Minshew’s low salary cap figure and build themselves into an immediate contender.
Great teams see an opportunity to take advantage and strike while the iron is hot.
Jacksonville, however, think the chance at an additional win in what will likely be a non-playoff season is worth years of delayed development for a quarterback who will be no more than $812,721 against the salary cap until 2023 and has proven you can win with him.