JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The switch came at halftime and the reality check came shortly after that.
Nick Foles, the $88 million franchise quarterback, the one who coach Doug Marrone has said gives the team the best shot to win now, isn’t the right person for the job.
As the losses pile up — Sunday’s debacle was a 28-11 defeat at TIAA Bank Field to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — one thing became clear.
The Jaguars (4-8), who lost their fourth straight game by double digits and were humiliated in the first half by the Buccaneers, were as bad as they’ve looked all season with Foles in charge.
The Jaguars trailed 25-0 at halftime and yanked the franchise quarterback at the break in favor of rookie Gardner Minshew II.
That switch provided a spark, and likely a path forward in another lost season, should Marrone take it.
“I know I’m going to get a lot of questions on it, on what’s going to happen, which is fine,” Marrone said. “I’m going to tell you the answer already. I haven’t spoken to them, and I always believe in doing things the right way. I’ve got to talk to them first. It’s obviously emotional right now and we’re really disappointed, so we’ll wait, and I’ll talk to them before any announcement comes out. I just think it’s the right thing to do.”
Minshew moved the team forward, helping erase a 25-0 hole with a solid second half.
He led Jacksonville to its first points, a Josh Lambo 53-yard field goal in the third quarter, and tossed a 3-yard touchdown — and a two-point conversion pass — to Dede Westbrook in the fourth.
Minshew got Jacksonville to the 1 after that, but had a pass deflected off Westbrook’s hands and intercepted to smother any realistic attempt at a comeback.
Minshew finished 16 of 27 for 147 yards and a touchdown.
“It was a lot of love. We’re all in this together. When he’s out on the field, I’m there with him. When I’m out on the field, he’s there with me," Minshew said. "We’re all battling this together; we’re all trying to figure out what we have to do to get this thing turned around.”
With the playoffs out of the question, the attention now shifts to the quarterback position and what Jacksonville does in the immediate future.
Foles’ offseason signing, which included $50 million in guaranteed money, was supposed to usher in a new era for the Jaguars.
It hasn’t gone smoothly at all and Sunday’s performance solidified that.
Foles’ third start since returning from a broken collarbone was about as bad as it gets. His third pass of the game was picked off by Devin White and the Buccaneers stretched that into a Peyton Barber rushing touchdown.
Foles was just getting warmed up — or cooled down.
He was sacked on the Jaguars’ next drive and lost the ball, which White returned the fumble for a 14-yard score. Foles fumbled again on Jacksonville’s next drive, which Tampa Bay converted into another Barber touchdown.
Those giveaways, compounded by the offensive line’s inability to keep Tampa Bay’s pass rush off of Foles, led to 22 points.
Foles’ following three first-half drives ended in three-and-outs.
An $88 million man or not, coach Marrone had seen enough. Foles finished 7 of 14 for 93 yards and an interception. He was sacked three times.
“I just thought it was going to give us the best chance to win. I really did," Marrone said. "I don’t think any decision like that is easy. It’s very painful because you know it’s not just one person. I look at it as if I ever have to bench someone or pull someone or whatever words we want to [use], it’s a direct reflection on me in not having guys ready or whatever it may be. It’s not easy, those are the decisions that have to be made.”
Leonard Fournette was hemmed in on the ground, rushing for just 39 yards on 13 carries. Jacksonville’s defense, gouged during its current four-game skid, played better against the run (74 yards on 28 carries).
It sacked Jameis Winston four times, including Josh Allen’s ninth of the season, which set a Jaguars rookie record.
“We just have to lock in until we get an advantage over our opportunity. Frustration is a part of the game," said Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell. "It’s an emotional game and when things don’t go right, we are going to have some frustration. But we have to use that to prepare us to be the best that we can and also lock in so that way, at the end of the day, we will be able to come out with a win as a team.”