It’s the most important position on a football team, and it has been the focal point of the most significant decisions made by the Jaguars in recent years.
From the drafting of Blake Bortles with the third overall pick in 2014 to the exercise of his fifth-year option at $19 million in 2017 to the replacement of the $19 million option with a three-year, $54 million contract with $26.5 million guaranteed in 2018 to the dumping of Bortles only one year into that deal to the giving of a four-year, $88 million contract with $45.125 million fully guaranteed at signing to Nick Foles after cutting Bortles, the team that once made notorious the phrase “keep chopping wood” has made plenty of axe swings that haven’t struck the stump.
And the Foles decision can’t quickly be erased. His 2020 salary of $15.125 million is fully guaranteed; unless the Jags can find a trade partner to take on that burden, Jacksonville will be paying all or part of it, whether he’s on the team or not.
Then again, the Jaguars also used a sixth-round pick on Gardner Minshew II, signing him to a slotted contract that will pay a grand total of $2.7 million over four years. Most recently, the Jaguars have ignored the temptation to justify the Foles mistake by doubling down and giving Foles the balance of the season to turn things around, opting instead to revive Minshew Mania.
After losing 33-13 and 42-20 in Foles’ first two games back from a broken collarbone suffered in Week One to falling behind the Buccaneers by the score of 25-0 through two quarters (that’s 95-33 through 10 quarters with Foles), the Jaguars pulled the trigger, bencing the Super Bowl LII MVP for the 178th overall pick and 10th quarterback selected in the 2019 draft.
With the season as a practical matter lost, the only question left is who will lose their jobs due to a Super Bowl window that seemingly has slammed shut in less than two years. De facto football guru Tom Coughlin needs to make as graceful an exit as possible (if possible), and then ownership needs to decide whether to give coach Doug Marrone and G.M. Dave Caldwell a chance to push things forward without the influence (interference) of a former coach who ultimately was unable to quit coaching.
Finishing the season strong can’t hurt. Ultimately, Shad Khan will have to decide whether it’s better to stay the course or to attempt to upgrade — realizing that there’s a chance that a supposed upgrade may become a downgrade. But if the current coaching staff and front office believe in the highly-marketable Minshew, it could make sense to stick with the status quo for at least one season, giving Minshew a chance to embrace the gig from the first day of the offseason program and carry it into the 2020 regular season.
With plenty of talented players on both sides of the ball, the Jaguars aren’t far from contending. If Minshew can be the difference maker, it makes sense to let the power structure that found and embraced him try to get him toward his ceiling, especially since a new regime may want its own quarterback, an agenda item that coaching and G.M. candidates rarely wear their sleeves.
Whatever the Jaguars do, an open competition between Foles and Minshew could be a mistake. If they’d move on from Foles barring the contractual complications, then they need to figure out a way to move on from Foles while managing the contractual complications.