With Nick Foles getting closer to returning to action, should Gardner Minshew keep the starting job even after Foles is back?
The Jacksonville Jaguars had a plan at quarterback after signing Nick Foles to a four-year, $88 million deal ($50.1 million guaranteed) during the offseason. But that plan was derailed in Week 1, when Foles went down with a fractured collarbone and rookie Gardner Minshew stepped in.
Foles was placed on IR, but he was always going to return this season and he is expected to be back in practice next week. The Super Bowl LII MVP won’t be able to play until Week 11, with the Jaguars having their bye in Week 10. So Minshew will get three more starts, but he has played well in Foles’ absence.
In his first five games (four starts), Minshew completed two-thirds of his passes with multiple passing touchdowns in each, a passer rating of 105.6 and a 9:1 touchdown/interception ratio. Then his worst game came in Week 6, as he completed less than half his passes (14-for-29) for 163 yards with no touchdowns and an interception (51.4 passer rating).
It’s possible Minshew has been figured out, with enough game tape out there now to dissect him and expose his flaws, and we’ll be reminded why he was a sixth-round pick in April. 97.5 passer rating. But it’s not as if Foles has been a great quarterback himself.
Foles had the best year of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. He stepped in under Chip Kelly, and had 27 touchdown passes with just two interceptions in 13 games (10 starts), along with a 119.2 passer rating and league-high marks in yards per attempt and yards per completion.
In his other season as something resembling a full-time starter, in 2015 with the Rams, Foles completed just over 56 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 69.0 passer rating over 11 starts.
Over the last two postseasons with the Eagles, filling in for an injured Carson Wentz, Foles has averaged over nearly 288 passing yards per game and if not for a dropped pass by Alshon Jeffery, he may have started two straight NFC Championship Games (at minimum).
But take away his best runs playing quarterback for the Eagles and Foles has either been a little-used backup or a below-average starter when given any sort of extended run. Situational context has to be added, but Foles needs the right situation to reach his ceiling.
The Jaguars surely don’t want to pay Foles to be a backup, and they are stuck with him through at least next season with the dead money hit attached to him dropping to $12.5 million heading toward 2021.
So unless Minshew is playing well, and the Jaguars are hovering around .500 going into their bye, purely returning to health will give Foles the starting job back. But let’s not assume he’ll be any better than a sixth-round rookie signal caller.