JACKSONVILLE – Doug Marrone’s reasoning was simple.
It’s why the Jaguars’ head coach makes any decision, and it was why he replaced starting quarterback Nick Foles with Gardner Minshew II Sunday.
“I just thought it was going to give us the best chance to win,” Marrone said following the Jaguars’ 28-11 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at TIAA Bank Field.
Minshew, a rookie sixth-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft who went 4-4 as a starter earlier this season, replaced Foles at halftime and completed 16 of 27 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown.
Foles, who is 0-4 as a starter since signing with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent this past offseason and who missed eight games with a broken clavicle this season, completed seven of 14 passes for 93 yards and no touchdowns with an interception Sunday.
“I don’t think any decision like that is easy,” Marrone said. “It’s very painful because you know it’s not just one person. I look at it as if I ever have to bench someone or pull someone or whatever words we want to [use], it’s a direct reflection on me in not having guys ready or whatever it may be.
“It’s not easy, those are the decisions that have to be made.”
Foles committed turnovers on the Jaguars’ first three drives, with the Buccaneers scoring touchdowns off all three turnovers.
“It’s not easy,” Foles said. “This is not an easy game and it’s a tough situation, but I’ll continue to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving. It’s a trial and the trials keep coming. Again, it’s not easy but I know where my heart and faith is and where I’m going to lean on in this time like I always do during the good and bad.
“You never want to go through it. It’s difficult, but I will look at the bright things and continue to keep my head held high. Continue to keep moving forward.”
The Jaguars cut a 25-0 halftime deficit to 25-11 when Minshew passed three yards to wide receiver Dede Westbrook with 13:37 remaining in the game. They then drove deep into Buccaneers territory still trailing by two touchdowns, but Minshew’s pass into the end zone on 4th-and-goal from the Buccaneers 2 bounced off Westbrook’s hands and was intercepted by cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting with 6:06 remaining.
“It was an opportunity to get us back within one score, which would have been great to see what would have happened, but we didn’t give ourselves the opportunity,” Marrone said. “It sounds like these past couple of weeks, we haven’t given ourselves the opportunity to win a football game.”
Marrone, asked if Minshew had provided the spark he wanted, said: “I think we had an opportunity. I’m not going to sit here and say that we didn’t, so I would say yes to that.”
Marrone made clear he didn’t believe Foles was solely responsible for the three first-half turnovers – an interception thrown by Foles and two lost fumbles by Foles. “We weren’t able to protect well enough,” Marrone said. “The first one, he gets hit as he was releasing the ball on the backside. The second one, the right tackle (rookie Jawaan Taylor) gets beat and it’s a strip-sack. The third one, in my opinion, he should have been able to hold onto because he saw the guy coming on the back. That’s how I saw those three turnovers.”
Marrone said the Jaguars have worked Minshew extra in practice since returning to Foles as a starter three games ago. “We liked him, like I said before, so we got him extra work after practice working on the things that he needs to improve on,” Marrone said. “We didn’t want to just stop his development, and a lot of times that happens when you’re not playing, so we tried to do the extra things with him to keep him going and then our focus was on getting Nick comfortable and getting him ready to play and win games.” Minshew said the extra work consisted of an additional seven-on-seven – skill players versus skill players – period. He called it “awesome,” adding: “They didn’t have to do that. I’m super appreciative of the reps they’ve been giving me to help keep me ready and be as ready as possible.”
Minshew’s performance was one reason the Jaguars played better in the second half Sunday. Defensive end Calais Campbell also credited a halftime speech from running back Leonard Fournette. “The team really felt the words that were coming out his mouth and understood that we are a talented team and that we need to go out there and be better,” Campbell said “The speech was a very good one and it gave us the energy we needed, even though we came out with a loss.” Said Fournette, “This message was to keep fighting and keep going. I have never been a quitter a day in my life, that’s No. 1 and just encourage those guys to keep fighting, keep going and try to give the team a spark. We came out and fought a little bit.”
Foles on being booed in the first half: “It’s a tough part of the game. It’ll test you when you’re hearing that and ultimately you want what’s best for your team and to keep moving forward. It’s been up and down and all over the place and that’s ultimately, if you can approach it the right way, that’s how you can build something. … I made mistakes and I’ll look at those and look to improve because you never want to put your team in harm’s way which unfortunately I did today. I’ll keep working to improve to become a better player and a better person.”
Campbell: “Frustration is a part of the game. It’s an emotional game and when things don’t go right, we are going to have some frustration. But we have to use that to prepare us to be the best that we can and also lock in so that way, at the end of the day, we will be able to come out with a win as a team.”