JACKSONVILLE – The first question was about relationships, and new Jaguars offensive coordinator Jay Gruden left no doubt:
His relationship with Gardner Minshew II will be a good one.
There's no other choice.
"It had better mesh," Gruden said.
Gruden, hired this offseason as the Jaguars' offensive coordinator, covered multiple topics Tuesday afternoon on a video conference with local media. One of those topics as expected was Minshew, who will enter 2020 as the Jaguars' starting quarterback.
The coordinator-quarterback relationship is key – as Gruden knows from three years as an offensive coordinator in Cincinnati and five-plus more as a head coach in Washington.
"It's my job to make it mesh, to take on the personality of our quarterback – and for him to understand what we're trying to get accomplished on play-to-play, game-to-game, week-to-week basis is going to be critical," Gruden said.
The Jaguars hired Gruden shortly after a 2019 season in which Minshew went 6-6 as a rookie starter. The team traded veteran quarterback Nick Foles to the Chicago Bears shortly after that. When the team opted against selecting a quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft, it became certain that Minshew – a sixth-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft – would be the 2020 starter.
The Jaguars, like all NFL teams, are conducting 2020 offseason work virtually, which means Gruden has met with Minshew and the offense virtually – and which means they have yet to share a practice field.
Even virtually, Gruden said he has positive impressions of Minshew.
"Gardner's competitive spirit, you can see it shine through on tape – when he was in college and obviously last year when he got to play the games he got to play," Gruden said. "Now, it's just a matter of him getting some general knowledge of our offense and me figuring out what he likes, what he doesn't like – what makes him tick – and go from there.
"I'm pretty easy to get along with. I know he is, too. I think it will be a great relationship between the two of us."
Minshew as a rookie threw for 3,271 yards and 21 touchdowns with six interceptions. He showed a flair for the dramatic, but the offense in 2019 also continued a recent trend of slow starts. The Jaguars were 22nd of 32 NFL teams in first-quarter scoring last season after finishing last in the category in 2018, and Gruden said improving that area is critical.
"It's really hard, especially for a young quarterback," Gruden said. "When you're in a known passing situation in the second half, there aren't a lot of veteran quarterbacks who are very good. If you have a young quarterback, then you have to play close or with a lead to help them out to where you can change the launch pad to where it's not a five-step every time out of the [shot]gun and he's not trying to pick up every blitz known to man and every coverage. That's really hard."
Playing with a lead or in a close game allows the offensive coordinator to use more of the offense – i.e., runs, play-action passing, bootlegs, etc. – and therefore gives a young quarterback a better chance to succeed, Gruden said.
"It can make a quarterback much more effective, obviously," Gruden said. "It's going to be very important for us to stay close and get out to fast starts so we can utilize our entire playbook and not just a portion of it when you're behind."
As for Minshew, Gruden said he liked the young quarterback entering the '19 draft after a season at Washington State, and said he "for sure" was in favor of Minshew being the Jaguars' 2020 starter.
"He played for a bunch of different colleges, and was very successful," Gruden said. "Playing in the National Football League is about taking advantage of opportunities. Gardner did that. He's a shining example of an opportunity presenting itself and taking advantage of it. He did that. He put himself in a great position to take the Jacksonville Jaguars and lead them into the future.
"He's shown a skill set where he can sit in the pocket and step up and make things happen outside the pocket. He's accurate. He's tough. He's a great leader. He has the intangibles you want as a quarterback. Now, it's just getting to know the scheme and the offense a little bit and we all have to jell together."