Is there a point where the Jacksonville Jaguars have to really lean in on this whole Gardner Minshew phenomenon?
Can they, somehow, someway, make the move from injured Nick Foles and Foles’ Super Bowl-hero resume and go all in on Minshew?
The beauty to these questions is that they will answer themselves in due time. Foles is still weeks away from returning to the line, meaning the Jaguars coaches and front office will get more evidence before having to make a decision.
But through four starts – and even in the face of Sunday’s 34-27 loss at Carolina – Minshew has done nothing so far that says he shouldn’t continue. Yes, there were three fumbles on Sunday, including one in the fourth quarter on a play where Minshew tried to do too much. There was also a dropped interception by Carolina that should have sealed the game. One of the fumbles was returned for a score, but that wasn’t Minshew’s fault when one of his teammates collided with him.
In the larger sense of how football works, Minshew and the Jaguars had no business being in this game, let alone having a couple of shots to tie the game at the end. Minshew didn’t just almost overcome the Panthers, he almost overcame his own team’s horrendous run defense.
Carolina gashed the Jaguars for 285 yards rushing on 27 carries, including an 84-yard touchdown run by Christian McCaffrey and a 59-yarder by Reggie Bonnafon. There are few quarterbacks at any level who can overcome their team’s defense getting hammered like that, especially when they lose three fumbles on their own.
Yet Minshew somehow did that. His 26-of-44, 374-yards, two-touchdown was prizefighter stuff when coupled with the running of Leonard Fournette (23 carries, 108 yards, one touchdown and another breakaway run for 48 yards this time). Again, the stats are a byproduct of some truly special ability for Minshew, who has already developed an uncanny relationship with second-year wide receiver D.J. Clark.
There are moments when Minshew and Clark look like they have been playing together for four years, not four weeks. Clark’s Elastic Man style of play is reminiscent of Martavis Bryant at his physically gifted best. Minshew has incredible trust in the young receiver already.
Of course, there are concerns. Minshew still has moments where he tries to do too much. The fourth-quarter fumble was exactly a result of that. Minshew has gotten away with some bizarre-looking scrambles so far. The fourth-quarter fumble was the example of what happens when bizarre goes bad.
At the same time, Minshew has obvious football acumen and he has confidence to make up for what he lacks as a classic-looking quarterback. He looks more like fire hydrant with thick legs when he lines up under center.
Then again, that’s not all that far removed from Russell Wilson or Drew Brees, two shorter quarterbacks who have proved the league wrong for years.
What the Jaguars have to figure out is if Minshew is the next version of one of those guys or play the conservative route with Foles?
Foles has the Super Bowl victory that Jacksonville craves. He has the demeanor of a proven leader and the classic looks of a quarterback with his 6-foot-6 frame. He has a career worth of experience. He is the safe and logical choice and that’s not going to change between now and whenever he comes back.
The question is whether Minshew will continue to do enough to force Jacksonville’s hand to do something with incredible. So far, he has done everything possible to do force that decision.
The question is whether Jacksonville will take that risk?
AFC Championship game another reminder of Jaguars fall
Two years ago, the Jaguars were 72 hours away from playing the New England Patriots for a spot in Super Bowl 52.
Now, 24 months later, you can’t help but reflect on what the Jags had and how quickly it all came unhinged.
That Jaguars team had magically won the AFC South with a 10-win turnaround regular-season. Now, the qualifiers are: QB Andrew Luck was out for the year with shoulder surgery for the Colts after they had dominated the division in his tenure.
And, further, the Jags did not play the Texans in either game against QB DeShaun Watson. This, as he was still on the bench as a rookie in the first meeting in game one of the year. And, he had torn his ACL by the time Jacksonville played Houston in the second matchup.
When you couple that the Jaguars also playing the winless Cleveland Browns, their schedule definitely fell in their favor to help get to 10 victories.
And without a doubt, they played an ugly low-scoring home playoff game on the Wild Card Weekend against an offensively challenged Buffalo Bills team.
Still, a playoff win is a playoff win, and that earned the Jags a chance to play the Divisional Playoff matchup at Pittsburgh the following week.
And, that Sunday in the “Steel City” Blake Bortles looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the league with decisive accurate throws. Plus, Leonard Fournette was pounding the Steelers between the tackles for a couple of scores (above).
And then on the defensive side, Dante Fowler was attacking the quarterback, and Telvin Smith was anchoring the middle of the defense, plus, returning a fumble for a touchdown.
And, Jalen Ramsey was locking down Steeler receivers in one-on-one coverage in a wild 45-42 upset win.
That was then.
And, just two years later all but Fournette out of those players mentioned above, are now no longer with the team.
The Jaguars defense being hit the hardest by trading Fowler and Ramsey in separate deals to the Rams and then, Telvin Smith abruptly retiring in the prime of his career in the off-season.
Gone too is the man, VP of Football Tom Coughlin, who couldn’t get along with several of those players just mentioned above and got himself fired in less than two years after his team played for the whole thing.
He was fired with two weeks to go in the season by owner Shahid Khan, and just 34 months after his heralded return to North Florida to resurrect the Jags. Khan has elected to keep coach Doug Marrone and GM Dave Caldwell despite them following 2017 with 5-11 and 6-10 seasons.
Jacksonville jettisoned Blake Bortles last offseason opting for high-priced free agent quarterback, Nick Foles. However. Foles never really got 2019 underway with a broken collarbone in the first quarter of game one and the team had to turn to Gardner Minshew, a rookie 6th round pick to lead them for a lot of the year.
So even headed into 2020, it’s uncertain who the signal-callers going to be?
Further, with those defensive names above gone and an aging Calais Campbell too, about the only thing a Jags fan can count on is young pass rusher Josh Allen. And, it looks like, he will be one of the most counted on Jaguar Defenders for years to come.
It’s also ironic that the Jaguars counterpart in the AFC South, the Titans have basically been winning down the stretch of this season and now and the two road playoff games at New England in Baltimore with Jacksonville’s 2017 formula. That would be: a strong running game to set up the rest of the offense and physical opportunistic defense more holding the other team in check.
Will the Titans be able to get over the hump and shock high-powered Kansas City, where are the Jaguars failed to knock off Tom Brady and the Patriots when they had their Super Bowl shot?
We are about to find out at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday.
And it’s understandable if Jaguar fans are watching Sunday and wondering how far they are away from that level of play and that big of a game at this point?
And more importantly, how much longer it will take them to have another shot at playing for an AFC title anytime soon?
Former Jaguars coordinator DeFillipo already lands in Chicago
It didn’t take long for former Jaguars offensive coordinator John DeFilippo to land a new gig, although it is a demotion back to a former role that he had previously.
ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reported Wednesdsay evening DeFilippo will be joining the Chicago Bears, as their new quarterback coach under Matt Nagy and working with Mitch Trubisky:
Big changes to Bears coaching staff: former Jaguars’ OC John DeFilippo is being hired as their QB coach, QB coach Dave Ragone is being promoted to passing game coordinator, and Bill Lazor is being hired as OC, per league source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 15, 2020
While the Jaguars and coach Doug Marrone termed DeFilippo’s ouster Monday, as “mutually agreed to part ways,” clearly he wasn’t willingly going to go from being an offensive coordinator to back to being a quarterback coach.
That’s the role DeFillipo previously held two seasons ago with the Philadelphia Eagles coaching QB Nick Foles, as they won Super Bowl 52 over the New England Patriots.
DeFillipo was then hired by the Vikings and coach Mike Zimmer to work with new free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins for 2018. However, he was fired in November has the Viking offense struggled last season.
DeFilippo came almost as a “package deal” in January of 2019 for the attempt to lure Foles, a free agent to come from Philadelphia to Jacksonville. Foles was subsequently signed to the most lucrative guaranteed contract ($50 million) the Jaguars have ever given to a quarterback in March of last year.
However, he was injured with a broken collar bone in the first game of the season, and the Jaguars turned to rookie Gardner Minshew. He performed well in Foles’ absence, winning four games to keep the Jaguars in the playoff hunt.
However, once whole Foles’ collarbone was fully healed, he came back into the starting lineup and performed poorly in three consecutive losses in November, which sunk the Jags season for good and sent him back to the bench for Minshew.
Jacksonville finished 26th in the NFL in points at 18.8 per game.
While the Bears had success in the first year of Nagy/Trubisky making the playoffs, they failed to follow it up this season. The Bears ended up 29th in both total offense and points scored with an 8-8 record.
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