Minshew a flop in London, no sure starter back in Jax

November 3, 2019

LONDON (AP) — Minshew Mania was a passing fad in London.

It could be all but over by the time the Jaguars get back to Jacksonville.

Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew's last chance to stake his claim on the Jaguars starting job before Nick Foles returns from his broken collarbone was a bust.

Rattled by defenders who weren't always there, the mustachioed star-in-waiting led his team to a mere field goal in a 26-3 throttling at the hands of the Houston Texans on Sunday.

He threw for 309 yards, most of them in garbage time.

The other numbers were more telling: 27 for 47. Two interceptions. Two lost fumbles. A bevy of off-target throws. Passer rating of 59.6.

He was sacked four times, but those all came in the second half, after Jacksonville had abandoned any notion of trying to run.

Of his first 24 drop-backs, all of which came when the game was still competitive, he wasn't pressured once. But he amassed only 145 yards passing during that stretch, and only a single trip inside the Houston 20.

And now, it's decision time for coach Doug Marrone, who will have two weeks to review Gardner's play and assess Foles' health.

"I've got a lot of questions, and I'm not naïve," Marrone said. "And it's not one game. It'll be a body of work."

Foles, the veteran Super Bowl-winning QB who signed an $88 million contract in the offseason, is expected to return from his Week 1 injury after Jacksonville's bye. The Jaguars play at Indianapolis on Nov. 17.

Minshew's first start came in Week 2, also against Houston, and though he was far from perfect, he led a late touchdown drive and had the Jaguars within a 2-point-conversion try of pulling out the win.

He went 4-2 over the next six games and looked like anything but a rookie in compiling a passer rating of 134 on down-the-field throws. He didn't throw many deep balls in the encore against Houston, at least not while the game was competitive. It was still a 9-3 game late in the third quarter.

It didn't help that Jacksonville's running game was non-existent. Leonard Fournette had 26 yards in the first half, and 40 for the game.

In making his decision, Marrone will have to wade through some other troubling numbers: Minshew's wins came against teams with a combined record of 7-24 coming into Sunday. Meanwhile, the quarterback mustered one touchdown in eight quarters against the Texans, whose two-game advantage over the Jaguars in the AFC South is more like three because they own the tiebreaker.

Jacksonville still has two games left against the Colts, who came into Sunday holding the division lead. The math is even more complicated because of Foles' massive contract, a clear factor even in a season that is beginning to feel lost.

"I'm going to step away a little bit, take a break because I don't have to make a decision," Marrone said. "And then I'll tell them probably right before we come back (next) Sunday."

Minshew's take on his job status? It's anyone's guess. He walked out of his postgame news conference after one question: Talk about the frustration of the day.

"Yeah, it sucks, man. Didn't execute at times, didn't make plays we needed to win. So yeah, it's no fun," he said.

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