In the 25-year history of the Jacksonville Jaguars, there may never have been a bigger, let-the-air-out-of-the-balloon moment than what happened Sunday at TIAA Bank Field.
All the hope and promise of signing free agent Super Bowl MVP quarterback Nick Foles was taken away less than 10 minutes into the season.
Foles suffered a broken left clavicle on Sunday in a 40-26 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and the cruel irony of it all was the injury occurred as Foles threw a beautiful touchdown pass to wide receiver DJ Chark.
An injury like this is expected to keep Foles sidelined for a minimum of two months, which now begs the question: what do the Jaguars do from here.
Rookie Gardner Minshew came in relief of Foles on Sunday and played very well. Minshew threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns in the loss, incredible considering Minshew received barley any reps with the first team offense the entire preseason.
But maybe, just maybe you shouldn’t be surprised by Minshew’s performance on Sunday.
This past summer “XL Primetime” caught up with Minshew’s college coach, Mike Leach at Washington State, who had glowing remarks about the Jaguars new starting quarterback.
“The biggest thing is he was so excited and so elevated to play that I thought it elevated the rest of our team,” Leach told 1010XL. “I think ultimately the best asset that a quarterback can bring to a team is to elevate the players around him and I think Gardner did an outstanding job of that.
“I also thought we continued to get better and better as a team throughout the season for which he was a big part of. I think you want that kind of personality and that kind of leadership at that position.”
Leach also praised Minshew’s preparation.
“He works really hard in the film room,” Leach said. “A lot of guys can go into the film room and cloud their mind up and he does a good job of staying on task and sorting out what’s important.
“He doesn’t confuse it with all the other things that are going on which is always part of the challenge.”
Minshew himself also joined “XL Primetime” this offseason; he was asked about his best assets as a player.
“All the knocks on me are some of the physical things that I have no control over,” he said. “All I know is everything I can control, I’m going to do everything I can to be the best at.
“As far as studying the game, knowing the game plan, being the most prepared, the hardest working, being the best leader I can be, all those are things I can control and I can provide for a team.”
Finally, Minshew was asked about being able to come to Jacksonville and learn from a Super Bowl MVP in Nick Foles.
“I am so excited because he has so much experience being in the league and his experiences have been both up and down,” Minshew said. “Just to be able to lean on him for advice and to be able to pick up anything I can from a guy that has done it well for so long.”
There is no question that the injury to Foles on Sunday is an absolute gut punch to Jaguar fans, many of whom are talking like the season is over before it really even began, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but it’s important for the team and the city to rally around Minshew who is being thrust from a sixth-round rookie directly into the NFL spotlight.
All Minshew needs to do is keep the Jags head above water and if his 22-25 for 275 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday is any indication, maybe he can do just that until Foles returns.
But what if, just what if, Minshew does more than keep the Jags head above water, what if Sunday is an indication of better things to come for the rookie from Washington State. What if the Jaguars thrive under Minshew? Let’s not go there yet, but it’s interesting to think about.
Minshew and the Jaguars will head to Houston this Sunday and the game can be heard on 1010XL with pregame coverage beginning at 8:00 Sunday morning.
(You can follow Ryan Green on Twitter @RyanGreen1010XL)