JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jay Gruden knows that the relationship is important, perhaps the most integral one on the team.
That’s why the new Jaguars offensive coordinator can’t wait to get to work on the field with quarterback Gardner Minshew, whenever that may be. He’s hoping that comes sooner rather than later. Gruden said that the two will get along well because they both share the same goal — winning football games.
Gruden met with the media on Tuesday and said that getting to know Minshew off the field has been a priority for him. That relationship is amplified further because the COVID-19 pandemic has erased in-person contact.
“Now, it’s just a matter of him getting some general knowledge of our offense and me figuring out what he likes, what he doesn’t like, what makes him tick and go from there,” Gruden said. "I’m pretty easy to get along with, I know he is, too, so I think it will be a great relationship between the two of us.”
Gruden was fired as Washington’s head coach following an 0-5 start in 2019. The Jaguars were a mess last year, too. They finished 6-10 and navigated one off the field fire after another. The on-field product wasn’t good either. Jacksonville benched high priced free agent Nick Foles and handed the reins of the team to Minshew.
Foles broke his collarbone in the opening quarter of the season opener and was ineffective in his return, paving the way for Minshew. The rookie sixth-round pick from Washington State went 6-6 in games that he started. Jacksonville dealt Foles and his onerous contract to the Bears and parted ways with offensive coordinator John DeFilippo after the season.
They hired Gruden last January and hope that he can bring out the best in Minshew during a critical 2020 season that has make-or-break scribbled all over it. Another woeful season, even in what is largely viewed as a teardown rebuilding campaign, could mean that owner Shad Khan brings in a new regime next year.
That’s why the Gruden-Minshew relationship is so important.
Gruden has worked with some talented quarterbacks during his coaching career including guys like Kirk Cousins and Andy Dalton. After watching Minshew play last season, Gruden thinks he has the qualities to lead the Jaguars into the future.
“He has shown a skillset where he can sit in a pocket, step up, make things happen outside the pocket. He’s accurate, he’s tough and obviously he’s a great leader so he’s got the intangibles you want in a quarterback,” Gruden said. "Now he’s got to get to know the team, get to know the offense a little bit so we can all gel together.”
Many successful NFL quarterbacks were drafted in the first or second round, but Minshew was the sixth-round project who wasn’t expected to contribute much, or at all last year. Everyone knows what Minshew accomplished as a rookie.
But Gruden said that playing in the NFL is about taking advantage of your opportunity and that is what Minshew did last season.
“He is a shining reason why once that opportunity presents itself, you take advantage of it, and he did that. He put himself in a great position," Gruden said.
For Gruden and Minshew’s relationship to take the next step, they will need to get on the field together. According to various reports, the NFL could allow coaches to return to team facilities as early as next week with minicamps that include players possibly coming as early as June 15.