JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Mississippi Mustache is back in Jacksonville’s starting lineup.
Rookie sensation Gardner Minshew will start Sunday when the reeling Jaguars host the Los Angeles Chargers. He replaces ineffective and highly paid quarterback Nick Foles following the team’s fourth consecutive lopsided loss.
Coach Doug Marrone made the announcement Monday, one day after a 28-11 home loss to Tampa Bay in which the Jaguars (4-8) managed 242 yards, turned the ball over four times and were flagged a season-high 16 times for 125 yards. It was Jacksonville’s 18th loss in its past 24 games.
“We feel with Gardner’s mobility and elusiveness, it gives us a better chance of winning with the way we’re playing right now because we’re all not doing a good enough job,” Marrone said.
Asked whether the job would be Minshew’s for the remainder of the season, Marrone said, “We’re planning on him playing.”
It was the obvious move following Sunday’s debacle against Tampa Bay. Foles ended Jacksonville’s first three drives with turnovers that the Buccaneers turned into touchdowns. Marrone benched Foles at halftime, trailing 25-0.
Marrone said Foles handled the demotion like a pro.
“It’s brutal; it’s tough,” Marrone said. “He’s a competitor. He worked his (butt) off to come back. He’s a great pro, so he’s going to do everything he can to help us win. And at the same time, he’s got to be ready in case there’s an injury. I think the world of him. I think he’s a really good quarterback. He obviously can win in this league. But we have to have some help around him.”
Minshew, who went 4-4 as the starter while Foles recovered from a broken left collarbone suffered in the opener, rallied the team and had a chance to make it a seven-point game in the fourth quarter. But his would-be TD pass slipped through Dede Westbrook’s hands and resulted in an interception.
Minshew finished 16 of 27 passing for 147 yards, with a touchdown to Westbrook and the interception. He was sacked twice and fumbled on the team’s final play.
Foles completed 7 of 14 passes for 93 yards and was sacked three times. The 2018 Super Bowl MVP has thrown for 661 yards, with two touchdowns, two interceptions, two fumbles and eight sacks in three games since coming off injured reserve.
He doesn’t look comfortable in the pocket and playing behind a shaky offensive line highlights his lack of mobility.
“They’re part of it when you look at protections,” Marrone said. “But’s it’s really a lot of things. You’ve got to get open. You’ve got to protect. … We’ve got to be able to run the ball better. There’s a lot of things that come into it. … It’s not the way we want to be playing.”
Minshew, meanwhile, extends plays with his legs and does some of his best work while improvising. A sixth-round draft pick from Washington State, Minshew has thrown for 2,432 yards and 14 touchdowns. Turnovers have been the main issue: he has five interceptions and 12 fumbles (seven lost).
The Jaguars signed Foles to a four-year, $88 million contract in free agency that included $50.125 million guaranteed. It made sense for them to go back to the former Philadelphia backup once he was healthy, if anything, just to see what he could do.
Switching back to Minshew could complicate the situation moving forward.
Foles’ contract pays him $15.125 million in 2020 — fully guaranteed — and he will count nearly $22 million against the salary cap. That’s a huge payout for a guy not guaranteed to be the starter. Cutting him would cost the Jaguars nearly $34 million against the cap and trading him would cost nearly $19 million.
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