Heading into week two of the 2019 NFL season, the buzz surrounding rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II was building heavily. The 2019 sixth round draft pick was unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight in week one for the Jacksonville Jaguars after starting QB and big offseason acquisition Nick Foles broke his clavicle. Minshew impressed on his debut, finishing week one with a stat line of 275 yards, 2 touchdowns and one interception with an impressive 88% completion percentage.
The NFL loves shiny new toys and when an image of one of Minshew’s pregame outfits began to circulate, the former Washington State QB accumulated a type of cult following. But would Minshew’s fashion sense translate to the field against the Houston Texans?
Minshew was fighting an uphill battle on his first start in the NFL. On the second play of the game he got sacked due to the offensive line leaving a wide open gap for MLB Zach Cunningham to run through, a byproduct of a rookie QB starting his first game away from home suffering some communication issues with his O-line.
The Texans continued to blitz Minshew all throughout the game, the pressure Minshew was facing was compounded by Jags head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo unwillingness to ditch the running game.
DeFilippo was run out of Minnesota halfway through last season for his painful commitment to an uninspired run game. Minshew constantly found himself in 2nd and long or 3rd and long. When Minshew was struggling earlier in the game, Marrone did nothing to help his rookie QB get into a rhythm. Play-action and the screen game was sparsely used.
On a successful play-action attempt, coming in the third quarter, Minshew had time and delivered a NFL calibre ball to WR on a comeback route for 14 yards. Minshew finished the game averaging a mediocre 5.4 yards per pass completion.
Minshew really shone when the game was on the line late in the fourth. A positive sign for any quarterback as the ‘clutch gene’ can’t be coached. On Jacksonville’s final drive Minshew puts together three box office plays:
0:52: Minshew faces pressure on 4th & 10 and scrambles for 18 yards under pressure
0:36: This is the touchdown. Minshew receives the ball in shotgun, the play once again breaks down. Minshew goes to scramble to his right. Lifts his head and floats a cute and calculated touchdown pass to WR DJ Chark.
Minshew has just got the Jags within one point of tying a divisional game away from home in a showstopping way. Channelling his inner Aaron Rodgers on the last play, Minshew is now in the zone. Seemingly realising this, Marrone elects to go for two and… hands the ball off to Leonard Fournette… to come up short. Houston wins 13-12.
Despite the low scoreline, this game is full of positive takeaways for Jags fans. Although Minshew did struggle early, he showed real skill and poise on the most crucial drive of the game. However, any signs of success are currently lost in the depressing shadow of head coach Doug Marrone. Corner back Jalen Ramsey has requested a trade from the team and a locker room revolt seems imminent.
These are not the conditions to develop your young, budding rookie quarterback. If the Jags aren’t careful, their potential Tom Brady fairy tale could turn into a Blaine Gabbert nightmare. Doug Marrone is the biggest obstacle in Minshew’s magical ascendance.