All throughout the Jacksonville Jaguars’ game yesterday to the Houston Texans, I noticed a very strange trend building as the game went on — comparing Gardner Minshew to Blake Bortles.
It was weird to see popping up after every third down stop or sack or fumble that Minshew suffered because, well, they couldn’t be any more different.
We’ll cast aside the fact that the mistakes Bortles was making came in his fifth year and that comparing him to a sixth round rookie making his first career start tells me more about Bortles (and, frankly, you as an observer) their styles of play and things that both quarterbacks hang their hat on aren’t even in the same stratosphere.
In broad strokes, Bortles is a high-risk, high-reward guy. There is no middle ground. He will either take over a game or lose it for you in spectacular fashion. (Usually it was more the latter than the former, but we’re still healing.)
Minshew, however, is incredibly efficient. He’s not as strong-armed but he makes good decisions in his reads and isn’t prone to turnovers.
If you distilled all of Bortles’ games with Jacksonville into a single outing, you’d have this sort of box score:
21-for-35, 235 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, and 6.7 yards per attempt.
That’s just the average, however. His games ranged from the fantastic (a five-touchdown performance with zero turnovers back in 2015) to the morbid (92 yards on 28 passes). See what I mean? High variance. In more than one-third of his games over his career, he finished with less than 200 yards. He had multiple turnovers in half his games. And on the other side, he scored multiple touchdowns in nearly half his games.
In short, you never quite knew what you were going to get with Bortles. His average box score doesn’t look as bad as it was because the point with Bortles wasn’t about box scores — it was that he could throw four touchdowns one week and four interceptions the next. He was a model of inconsistency.
But where Bortles failed to consistently be the same guy week in and week out, Minshew has been largely the same guy in each of his first two games.
In Week 1, Minshew was not at fault for any of his three incompletions or his one interception. He’s been very accurate — 69% completion percentage or better in both games — and he’s not really been at risk for interceptions. He took too many sacks yesterday and fumbled the ball away three times, but I think that’s directly attributed to poor offensive line play and his being a rookie who just learned seven days ago he’s the starter for the next two months. It’s not who he is, but rather a typical trait of rookie quarterbacks, especially those thrust into the starting role with no notice.
Minshew also gave the Jaguars a chance to win, despite a poor run game and lackluster play calling. It almost looked like the coaches had him on a leash the first three quarters but when they had no other option Minshew shined.
In short, what we’re seeing in Minshew is a quarterback who is developing some consistent expectations for his team and for the fans — he’s accurate, he’s a good decision maker, and he’s not interception prone.
The same could not be said for Bortles.