How Gardner Minshew can become the Eagles’ starting quarterback

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·8 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

“You think the Lord likes half-asses? I don’t think so.” — Gardner Minshew

Last time the Eagles has a consistent situation at the quarterback position, it was 2019, and Carson Wentz had not yet imploded. Wentz threw 17 touchdowns and just seven interceptions, the Eagles made it to the wild-card round, and everything seemed fine. Then, Wentz fell apart. rookie Jalen Hurts replaced him in-season, head coach Doug Pederson was eventually fired, and now, it’s up to new head coach and offensive shot-caller Nick Sirianni to right the ship.

Doing so with Hurts as the starter and Joe Flacco as the backup? We’re not sure about that. Hurts is a quarterback under development, and the last time we saw Flacco, he was airmailing DeVonta Smith to a disturbing degree.

So, this move made official on Saturday morning made a lot of sense.

General manager Howie Roseman has talked about how he wants the Eagles to be a “QB Factory.” and the addition of Minshew puts some extra gears in the machine. Selected in the sixth round of the 2019 draft out of Washington State, Minshew did some impressive stuff as a rookie…

…and played better than you may think for a 2020 Jaguars team that finished 1-15, giving them the right to select Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick. With Doug Marrone as his head coach, Jay Gruden as his offensive coordinator, and Ben McAdoo as his quarterbacks coach (that’s a whole lotta yikes for any young quarterback), Minshew still completed 66.1% of his passes for 2,259 yards, 16 touchdowns, and five interceptions. He ranked 27th in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ opponent-adjusted DYAR efficiency metric, and 23rd in Pro Football Reference’s Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt metric.

We’re not saying that Minshew is ever going to be a top 10 starting quarterback in the NFL, but when you watch his tape, there’s more meat on the bone than you might think, and Minshew has the capability to at least make the Eagles’ primary backup job as interesting as it should be. Certainly, Minshew could be something more than he’s been in the right system. We don’t yet know what Sirianni’s system will be, but if you like accurate deep passes, shot plays off play-action, and functional mobility, you could do a lot worse.

Minshew can make big plays accurately and consistently.

Last season, Minshew ranked 23rd among quarterbacks who played at least 20% of their teams' snaps with 43 attempts of 20 or more yards, with 43. He completed 15 of them for 430 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 84.4. This 28-yard touchdown to Chris Conley against the Chargers in Week 7 of the 2020 shows Minshew's functional accuracy when everything 's working correctly. Minshew has several examples of "biscuit in the basket" downfield throws on his resume.

If we're comparing, and we might as well at this point... last season, Hurts completed seven of 20 deep passes for 286 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions, and a passer rating of 77.1.

Minshew could use more schematic help than he's been given.

In 2020, per Sports Info Solutions, Minshew completed 56 of 80 passes with pre-snap motion for 499 yards, 220 air yards, seven touchdowns, one interception, and a passer rating of 110.4. Minshew's 96 dropbacks with motion ranked 36th among starting quarterbacks. In 2020, per PFF, Minshew completed 42 of 57 passes with play-action for 474 yards, four touchdowns, one interception, and a passer rating of 114.2. So of course, he ranked 31st among starting quarterbacks with just 69 play-action dropbacks. It could be safely said that Marrone and his staff didn't really have an idea what would work for Minshew; instead, the plan seemed to be to Velcro him into a system and see what happened. Siriannu was the Colts' offensive coordinator from 2018 through 2020, so that might give us some insight. Last season, the Colts ranked 31st in pre-snap motion with 171 dropbacks, though that might have been a function of Philip Rivers' preferences. Same with play-action, which has never been a feature in any of Rivers' offenses -- the 2020 Colts worked play-action on 145 dropbacks, which ranked 24th. So, perhaps some revelations are in order here. So far, Sirianni has said all the right things in this regard. "I don’t believe that that’s good coaching when you just say, here’s our offense and let’s go," the coach said in May. "You learn it, your talents are ‘this’ and your talents are ‘that’, but here’s what we run. That’s just not good offensive football. Good offensive football and good defensive football and good special teams football for that matter is adapting to the players you have and playing to their strengths. "Of course, Jalen [Hurts] has strong qualities of being able to extend plays and move around and extend plays, so we’re definitely looking at those things and doing those things. We’ve all had a very extensive amount of time with quarterbacks that are mobile, and that’s the same thing for [running back] Miles [Sanders]. Miles, what does he fit? Again, these are things when we get on the field with him, we’ll figure out a little bit more, but that’s still to be determined of what everybody’s skill set is. "But we are putting in an extensive amount of offense and Coach Steichen [Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen] has done a great job and the offensive coaches of really relaying the message to the players and installing it, and the players have done a great job learning it."

Minshew will have to tame his rogue gene to hit the next level.

Minshew has been a relatively efficient quarterback through his first two NFL seasons, but there are times when his penchant for improvisation and extending a play beyond its logical breaking point can get him in trouble. Last season, per PFF, Minshew threw 10 touchdowns and one interception on plays in which he had less than 2.5 seconds to throw, and six touchdowns to two interceptions on plays in which he had more than 2.5 seconds. Now, part of that split is the obvious point that quarterbacks are going to be more efficient with less time to throw -- first reads and designed openings tend to be the order of the day there -- but this is also where both sides of Minshew show up. He has an ability to make highlight plays outside of structure; this touchdown pass to running back Ryquell Armstead in Week 4 of the 2019 season against the Broncos is just preposterous. https://twitter.com/MadeByTim/status/1394374256570650624 https://twitter.com/NextGenStats/status/1178438641191833600 On the other side, there are times when Minshew breaks the pocket, loses his mechanics, throws off-platform, and bad things tend to happen.

"On that play, [Minshew] looked at me at first, so I’m thinking, ‘There’s no way he’s throwing this ball here,’" Colts linebacker Darius Leonard told me about this interception. "But he was under pressure, and when quarterbacks are under pressure… quarterbacks don’t like to take hits. They try to get that pigskin out of their hand as quickly as they can. He saw him in the flat, and I just tried to use my athletic ability to jump up, lay out for it, and get an interception." Minshew must get his broken-play instincts under control if he's ever to be more than a plus-plus backup or decent starter in this league.

Jalen Hurts won't give up the starting job without a fight...

In his rookie season, behind an injury-depleted offensive line, with an injury-depleted receiver corps, and an average run game, Hurts completed 77 of 148 passes for 1,061 yards, six touchdowns, and four interceptions. Hurts was also put in some difficult situations -- fourth downs especially -- and he came through estimably. https://touchdownwire.usatoday.com/2020/12/20/jalen-hurts-is-throwing-touchdown-passes-in-near-impossible-situations/ https://twitter.com/JClarkNBCS/status/1338242226804158464 Hurts has shown enough to be the Eagles' QB1 front-runner at this point, but it will be interesting to see what Sirianni and his staff see from Minshew as he adjusts to the offense.

...but Minshew does have the tools to start in the NFL.

And this is where the Jaguars getting just a sixth-round pick with a possible one-round conditional bump for Minshew doesn't make a ton of sense, especially after limiting Trevor Lawrence's reps in Lawrence's first preseason to showcase Minshew for a trade. ' It's a fantastic deal for the Eagles, though -- a franchise that has had very little in the way of quarterback certainty over the last couple years. Not that Minshew is the second coming of whoever, but there's a lot more to him than the mullets and 'staches and Florida Man demeanor. As a Philly guy, Gardner Minshew could display some fascinating career development.

1

1