Gardner Minshew Returns to Jacksonville as Colts New Starting QB
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — When Gardner Minshew reflects on his magical 2019 season in Jacksonville, he cherishes the moment.
The fast start, the trendy mustache that turned the rookie quarterback into a league-wide sensation. Yes, "Minshew Mania" was all the rage. Less than two years and seven straight losses later, it was over.
Minshew may never experience anything quite like those months again, but returning to Jacksonville this week as the Indianapolis Colts starter rekindles memories of the best of times.
“It was awesome, man, it was a dream. It was everything you wanted as a kid and then some,” he said Wednesday after rookie Anthony Richardson went on injured reserve.
“It seems like forever ago now, but it's an experience I was really grateful for. I'm really grateful for my time in Jacksonville, those fans, that community. It was awesome.”
Clearly, Minshew harbors no ill will toward the team that drafted him and started him before opting to trade him to Philadelphia in August 2021.
But nothing has been the same for the former Washington State star since his rookie season.
He struggled in Year 2, which led to a two-year tenure with the Eagles. There he bided time behind the rapidly improving Jalen Hurts, fine-tuning his mechanics, working overtime in the film room, mastering the offense constructed by Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen and staying ready for whenever he might be needed.
The results were good. He made it to the playoffs twice and last year won an NFC championship before losing in the Super Bowl. And though he appeared in only seven games with the Eagles and went 1-3 as the starter, Minshew emerged as the consummate pro with a steady, reliable presence.
It was one reason Steichen, hired by the Colts in February, lobbied the team to sign Minshew in March. Steichen and his offense also played key roles in Minshew's decision to go to Indy, which also was willing to give him a real chance to fight for the starting job — even after selecting Richardson with the fourth overall pick in April's draft.
“They were very straight forward from the jump. They said if they pick somebody at that spot, most likely they're going to be out there playing,” Minshew said. “I'm just glad they thought of me.”
Minshew found out he'd lost the competition after the preseason opener.
Still, the 27-year-old Mississippi native was not dissuaded. He kept working, pushing himself so he would be ready — if needed — and he's played better than some expected.
In the Colts first five games, he's relieved an injured Richardson three times. Indy (3-2) won two of those games as well as Minshew's first start, in overtime at Baltimore.
And while the numbers might not mesmerize fantasy football fans — 57 of 83 with 553 yards and two touchdowns — Minshew has not thrown an interception and has looked poised in the pocket.
Perhaps most important, Minshew has been a welcome addition in the locker room.
“Everything he does, whether it's a team meeting, whether it's a good-on-good period in practice, whether it's watching one-on-ones — you all know me I'm going to talk trash and he's going to talk back to me,” said linebacker Zaire Franklin, who leads the NFL with 69 tackles. “That's the type of energy he brings. It's infectious and that's what you want."
Steichen & Co. at least know they're in good hands for the next four weeks as Richardson recovers from the injured AC joint in his right shoulder — something Indy lacked a year ago when three different starters won a total of four games.
One of them, Sam Ehlinger, will serve as Minshew's backup for the matchup of AFC South co-leaders. Indy signed former Vikings and Browns quarterback Kellen Mond to the practice squad Wednesday.
But when Minshew makes his first trip to his former team since the trade, it will bring back good, old days when Minshew was Jacksonville's featured attraction.
"He’s always been a great player. It’s unfortunate how he kind of got ran out of the building here,” said safety Andrew Wingard, who also was part of the Jags' 2019 rookie class. "But he is where he is, and I’ve always said he’ll play in this league as long as he wants to. I think the Colts are just as good, if not better, with him behind center. He’s so smart, so cerebral, knows where you’re rolling, knows where you’re not covering guys, checks it down, gets it out of his hand quick. He does everything.”