I’ll be doing comprehensive scouting reports on each of the Jacksonville Jaguars draft selections from now up until training camp.
To date, I’ve spotlighted:
In this installment, I break down... Gardner Minshew II.
Background and character
If you’re in the mood for a true underdog story, Gardner Flint Minshew II is the guy for you.
Minshew received minimal FBS interest coming out of high school despite being dubbed by former New York Giants and Alabama coach Ray Perkins as “the best junior high quarterback he had ever seen.” His red No. 9 jersey at Brandon High School in Mississippi, where he was also a state champion catcher in baseball and basketball player, is something of local legend.
Minshew had to negotiate a deal to walk on at Troy University. Unable to beat out Brandon Silvers, Minshew took an opportunity to win a job at Northwest Mississippi Community College. Minshew took paid no attention to the starter and took his job, forced the incumbent to transfer out, and won a national MACJC title four months later.
Minshew used his momentum from his title game to transfer to East Carolina, where he once again won a starter’s job by week four despite coming in as the fourth quarterback.
Before the 2018 season, Minshew transferred to Washington State to run Mike Leach’s vaunted Air Raid offense with Leach’s pitch consisting of...
“How’d you like to come and lead the nation in passing yards?”
Yet again, Minshew would beat out Trey Tinsley and Anthony Gordon despite being behind the curve in learning the playbook, position meetings and practice reps. He finished fifth in Heisman voting. He won the 2018 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award.
Per Minshew’s head coach at Northwest Mississippi Community College Jack Wright, Minshew has “just kept beating down the door” everywhere he has been and Wright continued by saying he would “not bet against [Minshew]” who boasts a reputation of being the ultimate competitor.
Minshew would reportedly treat games of garage ping pong like Wimbledon, friendly Madden contests like the Super Bowl, and games of pick up basketball in the sweltering Mississippi heat like the NBA Finals.
You may have already heard of Minshew’s reputation of being a “film rat” and quite frankly, it’s one trait that caused front office lead Tom Coughlin to gravitate towards him. Minshew was a 4.0 student who scored a possible 30 of 36 points on the ACT exam. He would attend defensive meetings at his collegiate stops to learn more about how the other side of the ball functioned.
Minshew also comes from a football family. His father, Flint, played football at Millsaps College where he was named to their Athletic Hall of Fame and his mother, Kim, played basketball at Mississippi State and taught Minshew how to put up ambidextrous lay ups at the age of seven.
Then of course, you know all about the personality and phenomenon of the mustache.
And let’s not forget this wonderful excerpt that epitomizes the essence of Minshew.
Minshew is the ultimate character with the ultimate character.
Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has already lauded Minshew’s preparation and his ability to take over the huddle in practices. His demeanor has made it easy for Jaguars fans to replace a Blake Bortles-sized hole as the “bro” on the team — and Minshew will be an easy player to root for throughout his Jaguars career.
Physical traits and production
Physically, Minshew is absolutely undersized for the quarterback position from a pure height perspective. His 6’0 7/8” is in the sixth percentile for quarterbacks.
Seeing Minshew in person, however, what he lacks in height he makes up for in bulk. Minshew has a thick lower body, developed legs, and has the appearance of a gym rat. Minshew’s thighs and calves afford him very good lower body explosiveness as reflected in his leaping measurements, and his upper body is fairly developed for a quarterback as well.
Minshew’s huge hands (10 1/8”) are in the 86th percentile and he’s a much better athlete than his numbers would suggest. Most of these benchmarks are absolutely moot, however, as Minshew is a player who wins with his mind as I will touch on in the scouting portion of this report.
In regards to the Mockdraftable player comparisons, just look away. It’s not an encouraging bunch, but there is one name on there that interests me because it’s a similar career arc that I expect Minshew having as a career back up, and that’s Chase Daniel. More on that in the projection section.
From a production standpoint, Minshew is a tale of two players from his time at East Carolina and Washington State. He didn’t finish with more than 16 touchdowns in a season while at David Garrard’s old stomping grounds and then exploded for 38 scores running the Air Raid in Wazzou. Minshew only threw nine interceptions in 2018 and his 71% completion percentage and 367.6 average yards per game are both remarkable numbers that need to be caveated due to the system Minshew played in.
Gardner Minshew played 13 games lining up almost exclusively out of the shotgun in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense at Washington State.
Before the snap is really where Minshew wins. Minshew is adept at analyzing and diagnosing coverages due to his football intellect and film preparation, and he consistently shows ultimate command of the huddle and at the line of scrimmage. Here he is orchestrating his offense based on what he’s seeing on a critical 4th & 1 against USC.
Minshew is a quick mental processor and will routinely go through three-plus reads with urgency, always knowing where his emergency outlet is without even seeing it.
Because of the high energy brand of football Minshew plays, his footwork will become erratic and I believe this is where a lot of the disconnect stems from in regards to his lack of arm strength.
While Minshew keeps a solid base with his lower body when throwing, he simply does not generate enough momentum from his lower half and transitioning this energy to his upper body. This is what allows baseball pitchers to generate all of their power and speed on their fastballs, and it’s a mechanical inhibitor for Minshew.
With that being said, don’t hit the panic button, Jaguars fans. This isn’t a Blake Bortles overhaul project and Minshew still throws a catchable ball coupled with a quick release. You don’t just stumble into a 71% completion percentage in the PAC-12 with glaring mechanical issues, and Minshew’s footwork is still good enough to be an accurate thrower; it’s just the throw power that is affected, which has been the knock on Minshew coming out in this class. Oddly enough, when Minshew is forced to throw on the run and use his hips and lower body, he puts some good zip on it.
Another barometer I like to personally use for arm strength is how well a quarterback can cut through inclement weather. In this year’s Apple Cup played in the snow, Minshew had a few passes get a way from him despite his 10+” hands.
For what Minshew lacks in “arm talent,” he compensates with touch and accuracy – two key attributes for a John DeFilippo quarterback. Here he adjusted his throwing platform to throw a tight window pass for a big gain.
Minshew will keep his nose in the fire until the last possible second if it means buying time for his receiver to gain separation on a big gain.
One thing that consistently stuck out in evaluating Minshew is that he was absolutely surgical when afforded ample time in the pocket. He never panicked or felt like his internal alarm clock was going to go off, and he consistently found guys open.
Minshew also shows good pocket presence and courage under duress. He knows when to step up in the pocket and does a good job of “feeling” pressure in his movement.
In fact, Minshew was such a quick processor that Washington State was one of the least sacked teams in the FBS this year. It helps when you have first rounder Andre Dillard protecting your blind side, but Minshew’s decision-making (along with scheme) contributed to that immensely.
I mentioned Minshew’s athleticism as being a tad underrated in the physical/production section, and this is what I mean. Minshew doesn’t scramble often, but when he does, he understands how to buy time and keeps the play development at the forefront of his mind, always keeping his eyes downfield.
Ultimately, Minshew’s mental processing and ball placement make him an ideal fit in an offense with heavy spread concepts with slants, crossers, and other short to intermediate timing routes. He is a calculated, methodical player who does a good job of staying risk averse with his decision-making and makes it difficult for defenders to lock on due to his head always swiveling in his reads and not locking in on receivers. Minshew loves checking down to his running back, and the running backs have been extremely active as receivers so far through OTAs and minicamp.
Minshew’s story is a compelling one and many fans are already calling for the enigmatic signal caller to challenge for a starting position within a few years.
Not so fast, my friends.
While Minshew has everything he needs between the ears to be a successful NFL quarterback pertaining to work ethic, leadership, and preparation, this can only get you so far once you make it to the elite stage. Throughout a few practices so far, I’m just not sold that Minshew has the whip to be a long-term NFL starter, let alone one that can take his team to the playoffs.
What he can be, however, is an upper-echelon NFL backup who can come in for a few games if the starter goes down, not miss a beat in the huddle and playbook, and play within the rhythm of the game to keep the ship afloat as long as necessary.
And to be clear, this is in no way a sleight to Minshew. If there’s anyone who has been an indicator of how important a backup quarterback could be, it’s his teammate Nick Foles.
Not only is it valuable from a team perspective, it can be an extremely lucrative venture for Minshew. Chase Daniel, a guy mentioned earlier in this report as a Mockdraftable comparison, has earned $28,304,317 in career cash earnings in 10 seasons in the NFL, per Spotrac.
Not bad work if you can get it.
If Minshew can take that backup role by the horns, it would be a huge benefit for the Jaguars front office to corral a capable backup at a $495,000 annual salary as a sixth round pick for the next four years to offset the pay day that was awarded to Nick Foles.
For 2019, this should be Minshew’s focus, but after learning about the insatiable competitor he is, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wills his way to doing what he has kept doing his entire life. After Dwayne Haskins in this draft class, Minshew probably fits the bill for a John DeFilippo quarterback the best when it comes to being a student of the game and playing with touch and accuracy.
Like his former college coach Jack Wright said, I wouldn’t bet against Gardner Minshew.