Second-year quarterback Gardner Minshew returns to the Jacksonville Jaguars starting lineup on Sunday after the team fully went into tank mode the last three weeks with Mike Glennon under center. But while some ardent supporters will hope for a return of Minshew Mania, the Jaguars' recent decisions have demonstrated they're focused on the crop of talented signal-callers expected to headline the 2021 NFL Draft.
With Minshew likely done in Jacksonville after this season, the question becomes where he'll end up next. Thankfully, the answer is quite simple, and catchy. It's Yinzshew Mania time.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are in desperate need of a new long-term or stopgap quarterback to join the franchise after this year. Ben Roethlisberger is still slinging the pigskin at an adequate level, but Pittsburgh can't rely on him remaining healthy or playing at an elite level anymore. Roethlisberger himself brought up the idea of retirement following a poor performance against the Buffalo Bills last week. Reports of Big Ben's balky knee following complicated offseason elbow surgery only further cement the fact that his time in the NFL has a shelf-life of the rest of this season and, at most, whatever he can withstand in 2021.
The problem for the Steelers is they're usually too good to draft high enough to acquire a surefire long-term starting quarterback. They've struck out trying to draft Big Ben's replacement in later rounds over the last decade (Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs, Landry Jones) and the 2021 free-agent quarterback market -- outside of Dak Prescott, who is expected to remain with the Cowboys -- is led by the likes of Jacoby Brissett and Mitch Trubisky. Not very inspiring.
It is with that context that I present to you an argument about why the Steelers should trade for Minshew.
First of all, the price tag for Minshew should be low -- I'm guessing something in the fifth-round pick range. If the Jaguars draft a quarterback early in this upcoming draft, they won't want to keep Minshew around. He draws too much publicity and questions would arise about who is the true quarterback of the future if he plays well and the highly-drafted rookie struggles. No, better to have a veteran quarterback teach the rookie the ropes while posing no threat. That means Minshew's trade price will be cheap, and even better, so is his contract.
Minshew has two years left on his rookie deal and will cost slightly more than $900,000 and $1 million each season. That's a bargain and affords the Steelers, assuming they part ways with Big Ben after this year, the opportunity to re-sign impending free agent pass rusher Bud Dupree. That's a huge priority for them and Minshew's contract makes that realistic.
So if the trade price and contract are both right, the only remaining obstacle is whether the Steelers think he's a capable quarterback. Well, he's completed 62.4% of his passes during his career (only 2.1% below Roethlisberger) and averages around three touchdown passes for every interception, which is better than Big Ben at 2-to-1. Like Ben, Minshew has proven adept at engineering game-winning drives (four in 19 starts versus 45 in 229 starts for Roethlisberger) and he likes throwing the ball deep even if his receiver is covered.
The differences between Minshew and Roethlisberger are equally obvious. Minshew is four inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter than Big Ben. He has a fumbling issue (17 in 19 starts) and also seeks the spotlight (sometimes it seeks him too), both of which Roethlisberger has avoided much of his career. He has no playoff experience and limited experience winning (7-12 career record). For a franchise like the Steelers, that matters.
Yet despite all of Minshew's issues, he remains the Steelers' best option this offseason. Unless they want to pay (both in trade compensation and contract value) for someone like Matt Stafford (maybe) or Carson Wentz (yuck) this offseason, their best move is to acquire Minshew for basically nothing. If he shines, great, you have someone who could be the future of the franchise. If he fails, OK, you didn't give up much or spend much to learn that lesson. Either way they give themselves more time to plan for a future without Roethlisberger.
Besides, from a pure marketing standpoint, Minshew would be amazing. The mustache screams Pittsburgh and the bravado should attract fans. As for the nickname, Yinzshew Mania has a nice ring to it.