Minshew Mania may already be strong enough to take down a Super Bowl MVP.
Four weeks ago today, Jaguars starter Nick Foles broke his collarbone, opening the door for rookie sixth-rounder Gardner Minshew II to take over. He’s 2-1 as a starter, and he would be 3-0 if there had been enough cameras in Houston to show conclusively that running back Leonard Fournette had gotten the ball to the front of the plane of the goal line on a game-deciding two-point conversion attempt.
Minshew now takes the 2-2 Jaguars to Charlotte, where another backup quarterback who did win in Houston has generated a record of 2-0 as a starter this season. And if Minshew continues to keep the Jaguars competitive, it’s fair to ask whether he will supplant Foles.
Actually, it’s fair to ask whether Minshew already has. Apart from what he has done on the field (which is impressive), he’s a marketer’s dream. NFL offensive rookie of the month. Jerseys undoubtedly flying off the shelves. The team’s Twitter feed routinely referring to something about Minshew.
Through it all, Foles has been nothing but supportive as he recovers from his injury. At some point, he’ll be healthy. At some point, we may hear that Foles will play when he’s “100 percent.” At some point, Foles may be 100 percent but not officially “100 percent” to allow Minshew to keep going.
It’s the perfect way for a team to have it both ways. Foles gets benched without really being benched, and then if/when Minshew’s play dips to the point where he should be benched, he’s not really being benched.
The fans will play a major role in how this unfolds. Foles is a newcomer with no real equity in Jacksonville. Minshew is building it every day — and he brings the promise that he can be a guy who will handle the position capably deep into the next decade.
The only problem is that Foles has two years of fully guaranteed pay. Barring a trade in the offseason (which would trigger a cap hit of $18.75 million for 2020), Foles will make $15.125 million next year. And if the Jags find a trade partner for Foles (Minnesota makes sense if they find a way to perform a Kirkectomy), Jacksonville will have paid him more than $30 million for only one year.
But Minshew Mania could justify it. He received a signing bonus of only $190,000. He’s making $495,000 this year. He’ll make $585,000 next year. He’ll earn $675,000 in 2021. By rule, that can’t and won’t change; he’s not eligible for a new deal until after his third season.
So while the second Blake Bortles deal was a mistake and the Foles contract also may end up being one that the team didn’t have to do, Minshew has become manna from football heaven, and instead of lamenting their bad luck when it comes to paying quarterbacks, they should be happy that they were the ones who saw something in Minshew — something that could be creating the proverbial “good problem to have” for the Jaguars.