JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton examine the Jaguars' quarterback position in this position-by-position look at the '20 offseason
2019 starters: Gardner Minshew II (12), Nick Foles (4).
Others: Josh Dobbs.
2019 at a glance: This past season was one of the strangest in franchise history at this position, with Foles entering the season as the new hope and face of the franchise before finishing it as the backup to the phenomenally popular and dynamic Minshew. Foles, signed as an unrestricted free agent last March, started the season but sustained a broken clavicle 11 plays into a Week 1 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Minshew, a sixth-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, started Weeks 2-9 before Foles started three games upon returning to health. Minshew then replaced a healthy Foles in the lineup and started the season's final four games, finishing 6-6 and leading all NFL rookie quarterbacks in victories. Minshew completed 285 of 470 passes for 3,271 yards and 21 touchdowns with six interceptions. Foles went 0-4 as a starter, completing 77 of 117 passes for 736 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions.
Offseason storyline: This is a position of unknowns entering the offseason. Minshew earned the starting job over Foles late in the season, but neither Head Coach Doug Marrone nor General Manager David Caldwell after the season confirmed him as the starter moving forward – and no starter has yet been named. The Jaguars have multiple options – including naming Minshew the starter, naming Foles the starter, opening the position to competition and/or drafting a quarterback. How the Jaguars assess the position in the coming weeks and the moves they make after making that assessment remain the key questions around the franchise moving forward.
Free agents as of March 18: None.
Oehser analysis: The guess here is Minshew will be the starter – not only entering the offseason program but entering next season as well. While he didn't prove beyond doubt as a rookie that he is a future franchise quarterback, he played well enough to deserve a chance to start. Because that was the case, the team at some point in the offseason could try to deal Foles to a team willing to take on Foles' high salary-cap figure in exchange for draft compensation. The problem with that approach is it would only save the Jaguars $3 million in cap space for 2020, so it might make sense to keep Foles for that price. Here's the important thing to remember about Foles: While he struggled enough in three post-injury starts that many fans and observers believe he shouldn't start, he is a former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player – and he looked very good during preseason and training camp last season. It may be way too early to assume he can't win, and it's definitely too early to assume he won't start here again. The key question intertwining with the Foles/Minshew discussion is how the team will approach quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft. Does it like Minshew enough to forgo quarterback in April? Or could it use one of its two first-round selections – No. 9 and No. 20 overall – to address the position? The thought here is that while Minshew has been good, he hasn't been good enough to pass on a franchise quarterback in the first round if the team believes one is available. This team has been quarterback-starved for long enough. It must continue to search for one until one is found.
Sexton analysis: I don't think the Jaguars can pass on a quarterback in the first round if they think there one of those guys can be Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans) or Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs). The short-term thinking that made running back Leonard Fournette a better choice than either Watson or Mahomes in the 2017 NFL Draft left them home watching those two MVP-caliber quarterbacks during the '19 playoffs – knowing they should have drafted one of them. I thought Foles could work last season with a strong running game and a powerful defense and take the Jaguars back to meaningful December football. Now, some quarterback will have to carry the offense while the defense rebuilds. Can Foles be that guy? Can he beat out Minshew, who had some amazing moments but added plenty of questions with his inability to work from the pocket? New offensive coordinator Jay Gruden can likely work with either man to maximize his strengths and create something better than we saw last season. Still, if Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert or Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa or Utah quarterback Jordan Love can be Watson or Mahomes, the Jaguars better not pass – because neither of their guys is on that level.