Some Jacksonville fans might be happy to make Marrone’s decision for him and go with the charismatic rookie over the more experienced Foles, judging from their chants during the first half Sunday. While Foles was committing turnovers on the Jags’ first three drives before going three-and-out on the next three, some at TIAA Bank Field were heard calling for Minshew.
With the Jaguars down 25-0 at halftime, Marrone made the move, and Minshew led drives for a field goal and a touchdown before Tampa Bay finalized a 28-11 win. Minshew also threw an interception from the Bucs 2-yard line, but he reminded fans of the mobility and creativity that had led to unexpected success for the sixth-round pick earlier in the season.
“One thing I didn’t appreciate was a lot of the booing today,” Minshew, 23, said after the game, of the fans’ treatment of Foles. “You’ve got guys that are putting their hearts out there every play of the game, and nobody deserves that. I hated how that was, but I’m also super-appreciative of the support I get from the fans.”
There was more excitement in Jacksonville for Foles several months ago, after the team signed the former Super Bowl MVP as a free agent to replace Blake Bortles. Inked to a reported four-year, $88 million contract with $50.1 million guaranteed, Foles suffered a broken collarbone in Week 1, paving the way for Minshew to show what he could do.
Already a burgeoning fan favorite because of his mustache-and-headband look, not to mention an affinity for homemade jorts, Minshew quickly turned heads around the NFL with his play. Over his first five appearances, including Week 1 relief work and four subsequent starts, Minshew completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,279 yards, nine touchdowns, one interception and a 105.6 rating. Minshew added 124 rushing yards in that span and showed a flair for improvisation that only bolstered his popularity.
Over his next four starts, though, Minshew’s performance began to slip, as he completed just 54.9 percent of his passes, with four touchdowns, three interceptions and a 78.0 rating. Following Jacksonville’s 26-3 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 9, after which the Jaguars had their bye, the 4-5 team went back to Foles.
The eighth-year veteran failed to impress at that point, leading Jacksonville to just 33 points in two games, both losses, before completing 7 of 14 passes Sunday for 93 yards and an interception, with two lost fumbles.
Marrone said after the loss to the Bucs that he “wanted to get a spark” by replacing Foles with Minshew.
Marrone said he would wait until he had a chance to speak with both quarterbacks before making an announcement about next week’s starter.
“I always believe in doing things the right way — I’ve got to talk to them first,” Marrone said. “It’s obviously emotional right now, and we’re really disappointed, so we’ll wait."
He later continued: “I just think it’s the right thing to do. I know it might not feel the right way for the fans and everyone, but I’ve got to continue to do things the right way, I’ve got to continue to lead.”
Of getting benched, Foles said it was a “tough situation.”
“Difficult, but you know what? I’m going to look at the bright things,” he said, “and continue to keep my head held high and continue to keep moving forward.”
Minshew recalled when he was booed during his college career.
“I hate that for him, but in the same vein all he wants is to win,” Minshew said of Foles. “All I want is to win, and whoever’s out there, that’s what we’re going to try to do.”