JACKSONVILLE – Quarterback is uncertain, and four games remain.
Good news rarely follows that sentence, and the news around the Jaguars sure isn’t good with a month remaining in a season that began with high hopes and now offers little hope at all.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28, Jaguars 11.
That was the score in front of 62,633 at TIAA Bank Field Sunday, but that far from the day’s most notable news. That came at halftime when Head Coach Doug Marrone pulled starting quarterback Nick Foles in favor of rookie Gardner Minshew II.
It’s never good news in the NFL when you change quarterbacks in December, and it sure wasn’t good for the Jaguars Sunday.
“I wanted to get a spark,” Marrone said afterward.
The Jaguars got it – for a while, anyway.
The Jaguars cut into a 25-0 halftime Buccaneers lead, and briefly – very briefly – made the second half interesting. The mania that gripped Jacksonville at times during Minshew’s eight starts early this season made a couple of reappearances, and the Jaguars unquestionably played better offensively and defensively – with significantly more energy – in the second half than the first. By game’s end, there was but one pertinent Jaguars-related topic: the immediate future of the quarterback position.
The guess here is it will be Minshew not because of the boos aimed at Foles, but because it’s difficult to go back to a veteran quarterback once he has been benched for a rookie. Marrone expectedly opted not to reveal his decision Sunday.
“I’ll talk to them before any announcement comes out,” Marrone said. “I just think it’s the right thing to do.”
Foles was professional in the aftermath, speaking like what he was – a veteran quarterback who knows when he played poorly and knows what to say when that happens.
Foles, who had played just OK in two starts since reclaiming the job he vacated for two months because of injury, committed turnovers on the Jaguars’ first three possessions Sunday. Afterward, he stuck to the message he consistently has sent since signing with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent last offseason – that the NFL is about hardships and overcoming them, and that great teams and players get that way by fighting through adversity together.
“Of course, there were some mistakes made and that’s just part of it,” Foles said. “I understand this game, I understand that part of this game. I’ve been a part of it, but I’ve also been a part of turning things around. It’s not easy, it’s really difficult.
“I’m going to choose the route of continuing to stay positive and continue to believe in the guys in this locker room moving forward because ultimately we are in a trial. We have been throughout the course of this season.”
Foles offered no prediction on Marrone’s decision. Minshew didn’t, either – and the rookie was at his most candid when discussing fans booing Foles.
“You have guys who put their hearts out there every play, every game,” he said. “Nobody deserves that.”
Minshew-Foles wasn’t the only Jaguars storyline Sunday, and it won’t be the only one in the coming weeks. Frustration was evident in the post-game locker room, with reports of center Brandon Linder and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue confronting one another and with tensions evident when the media entered shortly after the game. None of that stuff’s unexpected for a team with four consecutive losses in a season with more expected. There also is the constant outside speculation about potential organizational changes that accompany any NFL season that fails to meet expectations.
Those are tomorrow’s stories.
Sunday’s story is the most-pressing story because Sunday’s story is about the quarterback and that position trumps all other stories in the NFL.
The last time Marrone decided between Minshew and Foles was following the Jaguars’ 26-3 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 9. Foles, after missing eight games with a broken clavicle, was healthy and the Minshew struggled against the Texans. Marrone initially said he might take as long as a week to decide because the Jaguars had a bye and he didn’t want to rush the decision. Instead, he announced his decision two days later, saying Foles gave the team the best chance to win.
That was three games ago, but it seems longer. The Jaguars haven’t won since, and what were at that time legitimate hopes of the postseason are long since gone.
Marrone’s decision almost certainly will come quicker this time. The Jaguars play Sunday, and it’s hard to see Marrone letting any uncertainty linger past Monday.
How could it not be Minshew? How could Marrone not believe that Minshew now gives the Jaguars the best chance to win? Fair question, but for now, only Marrone knows the answer.
Whatever he decides, the fact remains there’s uncertainty at the quarterback position in December.
That’s rarely good news, and it’s sure not good news for the Jaguars.