Pressed into duty by Jaguars, WSU fan favorite Gardner Minshew shines
By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) – Nick Foles’ debut with the Jacksonville Jaguars lasted 10 plays and ended with the high-priced quarterback sitting on the bench with a somber look on his face and a black sling around his left arm and shoulder.
It was the most memorable scene from what could go down as the biggest season-opening debacle in franchise history. It was memorable for another reason for WSU Cougars fans, though, as Gardner Minshew shined when pressed into duty when Foles broke his left clavicle.
Minshew, who was a phenom as a graduate transfer last year in Pullman, is now in line to start as a rookie and was one of Jacksonville’s few bright spots in a 40-26 loss to the Chiefs. He completed his first 13 pass attempts and finished 22 of 25 passing for 275 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.
A sixth-round draft pick out of Washington State, Minshew completed 88% of his passes and became the most accurate single-game passer in Jaguars history (minimum 25 attempts). His completion percentage also was the highest for any player with at least 15 pass attempts making their NFL debut.
A heck of a debut for @GardnerMinshew5.
— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) September 8, 2019
His 275 yards passing were the most by a Jaguars quarterback in his NFL debut and the fifth most by a Jaguars rookie in a single game. Minshew completed his first 13 passes, the third-longest streak in franchise history.
“My plan is to prove that I am the best I can be for this team every day at practice and every snap I get in a game,” Minshew said. “That’s my job. It’s not to figure out if we need to sign a new quarterback. My job is to go out there and be the best I can be for our team.”
Foles will have surgery Monday and is expected to be placed on injured reserve, meaning he will miss a significant chunk of the season. He would be eligible to play again in Week 11, specifically Nov. 17 at Indianapolis.
“It’s not the way you want to start your time here,” Foles said. “Sometimes things don’t happen like we expect them to, but we just have to have faith that it’s for a reason.”
It was far from the only issue for Jacksonville in the opener.
The defense missed tackles everywhere and was gashed for 491 yards as the Chiefs scored on their first seven possessions.
Linebacker Myles Jack, the Bellevue High School product and a Jaguars team captain who recently signed a four-year, $57 million extension, was ejected for throwing a punch, and burned in pass coverage twice.
The revamped offensive line, forced to play guard Will Richardson at left tackle because of injuries, was flagged for five holding penalties.
Running back Leonard Fournette fumbled near the red zone in a 10-point game in the third quarter, the first turnover of his three-year career.
And rookie linebacker Quincy Williams reinjured his right knee and said after the game it already was swelling.
As for Foles, it’s not the first time he’s injured his collarbone. He sustained a hairline fracture at Houston in 2014, didn’t need surgery and missed the rest of the season.
“We don’t have a time span,” Foles said. “We’re going to take it one day at a time. … I’m going to do everything I can to get back as quickly as I can to where I’m ready to roll.”
Foles knew something was wrong when a former Kansas City teammate, defensive tackle Chris Jones, landed on him after he threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to DJ Chark in the back corner of the end zone. Jones wasn’t flagged for landing on top of the quarterback.
“Everything happened so fast,” Foles said. “I know he’d never want to do that. It was probably just one of those things. It was just unfortunate it happened. I landed on it wrong and it happens in this sport. We’ll keep moving forward. Chris is a tremendous player, and I gave him a hug after the game because I was excited to see him. He’s a bright, young player.”
The Jaguars signed Foles to a four-year, $88 million contract in March believing he would be the answer to the franchise’s two-decade-long search for a quarterback.
Now, he’s sidelined indefinitely, and Jacksonville will have to sign another quarterback. The team has Chase Litton on the practice squad, and he signed earlier this week.
“I’m fired up for the challenge,” coach Doug Marrone said. “Obviously it’s unfortunate. … I really feel like we’ve got to step up and go. It’s a great challenge. … Players are going to look at it. Players are going to read it. Fans are going to read it.
“But I’m telling you, I’m fired up for this team. I’m going to get this team ready to go, and we’re going to win football games.”
710Sports.com staff contributed to this report.