JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Minshew Mania was fun while it lasted.
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone is turning the quarterback position back over to Nick Foles when the team returns to the field on Nov. 17 at Indianapolis, putting rookie Gardner Minshew II on the bench after a strong run as the team's starter.
Marrone made the announcement Tuesday afternoon. The Jaguars originally had player availability scheduled, but scratched that and only made Marrone available to the media.
"Nick will be our starting quarterback going forward," Marrone said.
The decision wasn't completely unexpected.
Foles has been on injured reserve since suffering a broken collarbone and undergoing surgery after a Week 1 loss to Kansas City. Minshew filled in for Foles and performed much better than anyone could have expected. The Jaguars are 4-5 at the bye week. While not eliminated from playoff contention, the Jaguars need to probably close with a 6-1 finish, it's going to be an uphill climb to get there.
While he had his growing pains, Minshew kept Jacksonville's season from completely going off the rails. Marrone said that Minshew's performance against the Texans in Sunday's 26-3 loss wasn't an overriding factor in the decision.
"I try to take that out and put it as a body of work, and that's what I did," Marrone said of his decision to go with Foles as the starter. "I think that's important. I think emotions can run sometimes differently, so I looked at the body of work."
The sixth-round rookie draft pick from Washington State led Jacksonville to a 4-4 record as a starter and won six of eight NFL rookie of the week awards. And he spawned Minshew Mania, which took the league by storm.
Minshew's mustache and jorts and personality won over fans and gave Jacksonville attention that it had never had.
It was bound to end at some point.
With Foles eligible to return and Minshew struggling in a Week 9 loss in London to the Texans (he had four turnovers), it was probably the time to make a change.
"You play the quarterback that gives you the best chance to win. And in light of how Gardner played against the Texans in London, you don't know how he's going to recover from that," said News4Jax sports analyst and former Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell. "Nick Foles was brought in here to be the guy. He's healthy. He's won the biggest game in football, which is the Super Bowl, he was the MVP. Again, the timing's right. I think it's set up perfectly for the Jaguars."
Foles signed a four-year, $88 million deal with the Jaguars in the offseason and was expected to be the face of the franchise in a make-or-break year for Marrone and the front office. Besieged by underwhelming quarterback play with Blake Bortles, the veteran Foles was considered the missing piece for a team that already had an elite defense.
But he was done almost immediately due to the collarbone and Minsew took over and delivered almost every week. He passed for 2,285 yards and 13 touchdowns in nine games and threw just four interceptions.
Marrone said that the team has brought Foles along at a steady pace since he was eligible to begin practicing. His first day back was Oct. 23.
"He's had a 21-day window, which we've brought him back," he said. "We've progressively brought him back into drills and brought him into some high speed, close quarter rushing [drills], where guys were coming at him, blitzes where people were coming free. We felt like we did the best job to make sure that he was in position to be ready once he was healthy."
His growth gives the Jaguars an interesting quarterback situation — and depth — going forward. Foles' health has been one of the knocks against him. The former Super Bowl MVP has never made it through a full season.
"He really did have some magic, it's not the last of Gardner Minshew," Brunell said. "He's going to be around for awhile. He'll get another opportunity down the road."