When the Jacksonville Jaguars decided to part ways with Blake Bortles in favor of 2017 Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles there was reason for hope within the clubhouse and the fan base. While the majority of his career has been a display of average regular season play, and above average post-season production, the most optimistic fan will look to his 2013 season. As signal caller for the Philadelphia Eagles that year he posted a gorgeous 27/2 TD to interception count, and a QB rating of 119.2.
While some will argue that hope is misplaced, and what you get in Foles is more a minor than major upgrade over Bortles, it cannot be argued he exists as a much better passer and an exponentially better leader.
This debate, however, is more of a red herring to the true albatross hanging over this franchise. That rhyme consists of either ignoring the position in the draft, or horrific scouting when drafting.
Foles is listed on this weeks injury report with an abdominal strain. While it is not being reported as something severe, it serves as a reminder that what sits behind Foles is rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew.
Minshew played the majority of the Jaguars offensive snaps during the preseason, and looked the part of a mid to late round selection. In the final game of the season his performance presented as a regression in accuracy, pocket awareness, and decision making.
The Jaguars lost the opportunity to sign the more dynamic play-maker in Alex McGough, someone they had hoped would be a practice squad candidate. Upon the Jaguars releasing the second year FIU graduate, the Houston Texans snatched him up due to third string quarterback Joe Webb being placed on IR. McGough was a seventh round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2018, spending that season on the practice squad.
While McGough made the highlight reel with his legs and pocket awareness, scoring two of the three Jaguars preseason touchdowns, it would be a stretch to say he offered significantly more confidence as a regular season option over Minshew.
Cut earlier in the preseason was the Jaguars 2018 selection from Nebraska, Tanner Lee.
This is the crop planted and harvested under the current regime. Three late round draft picks as alternatives should your starting quarterback go down for any reason.
Are the Jaguars that different from other teams with respect to quarterback depth? Chiefs have Matt Moore. Chargers have Tyrod Taylor. Patriots have Jarrett Stidham. Saints have Teddy Bridgewater. Yes. I would argue that teams with serious post-season potential are not as worried. They either have quality youth, or a trusted veteran. What you get with Minshew is a less seasoned Chad Henne.
Let me be very clear. I am not banging the drum of doom, nor am I asking anyone to place hope back in its box. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you of my almost offensive optimism. I supported Bortles until the Kansas City game last year. I am on record as saying Nick Foles will lead this team to the Super Bowl.
But he has to be healthy for that to happen.
Said Minshew of his play against the Atlanta Falcons in the final preseason game: “Very frustrating.” While he led scoring drives, none of them yielded seven points.
Coach Doug Marrone offered this observation.
Quarterbacks and a lot of positions offensively, when you get better guys around you, you’re going to do better. It’s easier to evaluate if you had better guys around you and he doesn’t do well, then it’s easy and you shouldn’t be around. … I wish there was more evidence to make it easier for him because he’s worked so hard and deserves it, but it’s what you do on the field.
Jaguars beat writer John Oehser had this to say about Minshew.
The great unknown with Minshew – and the one that Head Coach Doug Marrone mentioned several times this past week – is it’s just very hard to judge his preseason performance because he was playing with backups the entire time. Would he have fared better with better protection? With a better running game? With receivers making more plays on the ball? Very possibly. In fairness to Minshew, he looked pretty much as advertised – like a smart player capable of managing the game and taking advantage of a strong running game/strong defense. That’s what the Jaguars expected. That has been enough so far for him to remain the backup. I don’t know how long he will stay in that role. The NFL changes fast, even at the quarterback position.
This wants for a question to the establishment: If the known variable is the talent around your quarterback, why not let your backup run with the one’s?
It is a confusing maze to manage. The best this team has is a game manager that needs talent around him. A thin line for a squad needing to rely less on their defense. In Foles you have someone to elevate skill positions, which is exactly what your quarterback should do.
Let’s hope the question of how Minshew performs with the starters remains a mystery.