Gardner Minshew's Season-Long Audition For Starting Job Got Off to a Hot Start

Liam McKeone
Gardner Minshew and teammates
Gardner Minshew and teammates / Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
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Gardner Minshew has never had anything handed to him. That's usually a cliche athletes use in their pregame black-and-white hype video they post to Instagram before Week 1, but in Minshew's case, it's true. He started off at community college because he didn't get any high-profile offer letters, ended up at East Carolina and was forced to split starts with a Duke transfer, then went to Washington State and won the starting job as a grad transfer. He had an oustanding season that ended in Heisman Trophy votes before he slid all the way to the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Once in Jacksonville, he had about a quarter's worth of time to get acclimated to the professional football environment before he was tossed into the flames after Nick Foles broke his collarbone. Against all odds, Minshew not only survived as the Jaguars' rookie starter, he was good enough to keep the job once Foles came back. Foles was still given the starter job once he returned, but his play didn't match Minshew's, and the latter took the starting job for good.

That doesn't mean the Jaguars were good. They still ended up with the No. 9 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. But Minshew looked like a starting-caliber quarterback at times who occasionally made plays few other quarterbacks can make. However, heading into this season, Minshew was once again disregarded as everybody pegged the Jaguars to be the future home to one Trevor Lawrence, who officially declared his intention to enter the 2021 draft over the weekend. Jacksonville continued to unload talent, including their leading rusher from last season, and it seemed like Minshew and his coworkers were being left out to dry.

But nothing is assured in the NFL until the games are actually played. And Minshew reminded everyone once again why we can never count him out. In the first week of what feels like a season-long audition to consider himself the long-term answer at quarterback instead of a placeholder for the next generation, Minshew completed all but one pass. He threw three touchdowns and no interceptions. He totaled only 173 yards and Jacksonville needed a classic Philip Rivers endgame meltdown to come away with a win, but he was nearly perfect in the literal sense of the word.

Even if Minshew puts together a Pro Bowl campaign, the Jaguars would be remiss if they end up with a shot at Lawrence or even Justin Fields and pass because they have Minshew. He's going to have to do a lot to ensure he isn't looking for a new job next season. A Week 1 win won't count for much if Jacksonville is first or second on the clock come April. But the guy knows how to win games. He pulled a few out of his hat last year, and it stands to reason he'll do something similar next year.

The only way Minshew isn't looking for a new job next year is if he doesn't give the Jaguars a choice and wins too many games for his team to have a shot at drafting his replacement. He got off to a good start in that quest against the Colts.

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