Gardner Minshew likes to play football. And he wants to win.
I know those statements sound like a call from “Captain Obvious” but have you always thought that about the Jaguars quarterback?
It’s easy to pick on Blane Gabbert and his time here but consider this: Did you think Gabbert acted as if he liked playing football while he was here? In fact, Minshew is almost the anti-Gabbert. Blaine was 21 years old when he was drafted out of Missouri in the first round by the Jaguars. He had played 31 games in college. Minshew was two weeks short of his 23rd birthday when the Jaguars drafted him in the 6th round out of Washington State. He played 42 games at three different schools in his college career. Gabbert was one of the greatest practice players anybody has ever seen. He couldn’t replicate that on Sunday’. Minshew takes that practice acumen to another level on game day.
And Minshew’s teammates love him. That Gardner Minshew you see in interviews and commercials is the same guy his teammates know on the field, in the locker room and when it’s game time.
“We’re looking at the same Gardner Minshew, that’s what I see. I see a superstar,” Josh Allen, who’s emerging as a leader on this young Jaguars team said. “I think, in my eyes,. I think he’s a great quarterback. He has the whole team, the whole organization behind him. And I feel like that’s all you really need as a football player.”
And Allen wasn’t finished. He recognized that intangible thing that the “it” players have, regardless of position.
“He has the look, he has the swag, he has the arm and he has the plays to make—to be who I consider a great quarterback in the NFL. That’s my guy.”
We don’t know what the Jaguars will do this year. A win in their opening game against the Colts as a 7 ½ point underdog was a surprise to everybody outside the Jaguars locker room. Most wrap-ups of the game blamed Phillip Rivers and the Colts instead of giving the Jaguars credit. Which is typical as we know.
“There’s time to have some fun. He’s a fun guy to hang around with, he’s a funny guy, entertaining,” Jaguars Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden said this week about working with Minshew. “But for the most part, when it’s business, it’s business and he takes good notes, he studies the game, he spits out the plays in the huddle, which quarterbacks have to do It’s exciting to work with him because guys that are aware of how necessary it is to prepare and the guys that do prepare, it’s fun to watch them and develop.”
Minshew has deflected a lot of the praise he’s gotten this year and last when it comes to “Minshew Mania,” just what a quarterback should do. And he projects his feelings on to his team.
“I think one of the things that served us well today was that we all have so much belief in each other,” he said after the game last Sunday. “Whether it is me in them or them in me, when you have that, you can trust people to do their jobs.”
Knowing the Jaguars are the youngest team in the league, he reflected back on last year when he was thrust into the lineup and figured out how to play in the NFL.
“Until you actually do it, there’s a part of it you have to prove it to yourself,” he said. “You always say ‘I know I can play in this league’, but until you do it…you know, I know this time last year that was the time when I was really like ‘I really can do it’.
Didn’t it make you laugh when at the Super Bowl last year Minshew said on radio row, “It’s been great, I think I kinda found my people in Jacksonville you know, just the right amount of white-trashiness for me,” he said. “So we’re having a great time down there and lovin’ it.”
Clearly he’s not taking himself too seriously and neither do we.
Just this week NFL analyst Nate Burleson said, “I want to be in the huddle with this guy. Heck, I want to be in a street fight with this guy.”
For all of the moves the Jaguars have made I don’t like, they seem to have put together a receiving corps that takes a backseat to no one. D.J. Chark can take the top off of any defense. Collin Johnson is the real athlete they’ve missed in that group since Allen Robinson left. Laviska Shenault literally could become the next Larry Fitzgerald. Keelan Cole has a chemistry with Minshew you can’t just make happen. He had five catches and a touchdown against the Colts. Chris Conley provides leadership. And Dede Westbrook hasn’t even seen the field yet because of injury. They’re all growing up together with Minshew as their quarterback.
“They got that swag about them,” Gardner said of the young players on the Jaguars. “Our guys have that same confidence where they know that they belong here, and not only do they belong but they can be really good players for us.”
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone admits he didn’t know much about Minshew when the Jaguars drafted him except that “he played for 14 colleges” he joked this week.
“He had to learn different playbooks, so I knew he could do that,” Marrone said. “I knew he could handle that. He’s got a taste of it and I know he wants a bigger bite of it now.”
And for all of the preseason talk about “tanking” for Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence in next year’s draft and now the revival of “Minshew Mania,” where does the Jaguars quarterback fall in all of this?
“I don’t care what you all talk about.,” he told the media this week. “We’re going to do what we do. Try to win one game a week. That’s all we can do. We’re very excited about this start.”