JACKSONVILLE – Maybe the kid can do it.
We’ve heard all the reasons that a rookie quarterback – a backup rookie quarterback, at that – can’t win in the NFL, but maybe it’s time to consider something else about the colorful, mustachioed, bandana-wearing force of personality now quarterbacking the Jaguars.
Maybe Gardner Minshew II can do it.
Perhaps we should consider that, because there’s the people whose opinions matter most – Jaguars players and coaches – believe in the guy to an intriguing extent.
“His confidence gives you confidence,” Jaguars veteran tight end Geoff Swaim said Wednesday as the Jaguars (0-1) prepared to play the Houston Texans (0-1) in an AFC South game at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday at 1 p.m.
“From the jump, since he got here, he just had this confidence in the huddle. He has a presence about him and that goes a long way. That’s big for a young guy. To be able to express that to your teammates, to be able to verbalize things that quickly and confidently, it lets me know this guy is preparing.
“That kind of stuff jumps out at you.”
That sentiment was common around the Jaguars’ locker room Wednesday.
Yes, losing starter Nick Foles this past Sunday 11 snaps into his Jaguars career in the regular-season opener was a gut punch to a staggering degree. And having your $88 million quarterback out for at least eight weeks indeed normally would be a season-ending scenario.
And perhaps that will be the case.
But that’s not the feeling you got talking to players and coaches this week, because there’s something about Minshew that makes you believe he can succeed – at least enough to keep the Jaguars afloat and perhaps better than that.
Wide receiver Marqise Lee was asked what impressed him about Minshew.
“Composure,” Lee said of Minshew, who completed 22 of 25 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns with an interception in the last three quarters of a loss to Kansas City Sunday.
Lee went on to talk about the first time he saw Minshew after the Jaguars selected in Round 6 of the 2019 NFL Draft. The much-discussed mustache that helped spark “Minshew Mania” at Washington State last season?
That didn’t impress Lee.
“The mustache was terrible,” Lee said, laughing. “I’m not going to lie to you.”
And Minshew’s much-discussed bandana?
“The bandana I can go with,” Lee said. “It’s pretty styling. But the mustache was terrible. When he first got here and I saw the mustache I was asking, ‘Who is this guy?’”
What matters more is what Lee said about his second impressions. He said Minshew gained respect from teammates by his approach, his demeanor on the field, his performance in practice. Yes, Minshew’s image is outlandish but his professional approach is what matters.
Unsurprisingly, that has been his demeanor this week.
Minshew, who given his age and experience isn’t a kid at all and rather is strikingly mature for a rookie, said the right things Wednesday – just as he has done and said all the right things since the Jaguars selected him in Round 6 of the 2019 NFL Draft.
“The role changes, the approach doesn’t,” he said when asked how he will approach his first week as an NFL starter and therefore the biggest week of his football life.
Maybe it’s his lengthy, well-documented college journey – four colleges in four years – or maybe it’s just how he’s wired, but Minshew feels like a quarterback, a leader. And he gives off every vibe of being ready for his closeup.
He was composed during his media availability Wednesday, joking on multiple occasions. Perhaps his best moment came when asked if the Jaguars’ quarterback room was now the league’s smartest considering that Minshew scored a 42 of 50 on the NFL’s Wonderlic test and that new backup quarterback Josh Dobbs majored in aerospace engineering at the University of Tennessee.
“He’s kind of his own deal,” Minshew said of Dobbs with a laugh, adding to the gathered media in the room, “I have a communications degree, I mean I know all of you guys …
“I belong in this room.”
The comment drew laughter, but being at ease in public wasn’t why the Jaguars felt good about committing to the kid as the top backup to Foles. And neither was the image.
No, the reason they felt good – and the reason Minshew might become an intriguing story in the coming weeks – is the football intelligence, the poise, the preparation. That’s the quarterbacking stuff you can’t teach, that you must possess. Everything we saw Sunday from Minshew in his NFL debut indicates that maybe, just maybe, he has enough to keep the Jaguars afloat in Foles’ absence. And everything we’ve seen this week indicates the same.
Indeed, maybe the kid can do it.
That’s the main storyline for the Jaguars this week. Their season depends on the answer.