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Minshew Mania returns to Jacksonville, could be limited shows remaining

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II, left, throws a pass over Tennessee Titans linebacker Derick Roberson (50) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla.  (Associated Press)
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II, left, throws a pass over Tennessee Titans linebacker Derick Roberson (50) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Associated Press)
By Mark Long Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Minshew Mania is back, at least in theory.

Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone switched to quarterback Gardner Minshew for the third time in two seasons this week, naming Minshew the starter for Sunday’s game at Baltimore.

The latest move has little chance of being permanent.

The Jaguars (1-12) are a virtual lock to take a quarterback with their first pick in the 2021 draft, meaning Minshew will be out of a starting job sooner or later.

Personnel chief Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell, the two responsible for drafting Minshew in the sixth round in 2019, already have been fired. Marrone is expected to be next.

So there’s a good chance Minshew will have an entirely new regime next season, and that could leave Minshew Mania on the move.

“That very well might happen,” Minshew said Wednesday. “That has nothing to do with us playing the Baltimore Ravens or the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts. I can control what I can right now. Whatever happens down the road, we’ll face it as it gets here. But we’re not going to put the wagon before the horse right now.”

Minshew started Jacksonville’s first seven games this season, throwing 13 touchdown passes and five interceptions but also getting sacked 22 times.

Marrone turned to rookie Jake Luton at the bye week, partly because of Minshew’s struggles to get the ball down the field and partly because of a sprained thumb on his throwing hand.

Equally troubling for coaches was Minshew’s propensity to leave the pocket too early, an issue since Jacksonville has one of the league’s youngest and most inexperienced receiving corps.

“You see some of the great ones, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes, I don’t think they script those off-schedule plays, but they happen, and they usually happen in a favorable manner,” offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. “Hopefully our receivers understand Gardner. Sometimes he’ll break the pocket and we have to do a better job around him to get open and escape.”

Luton made three starts, but ended up getting benched after a four-turnover performance against Pittsburgh. Veteran Mike Glennon replaced him and started the last three weeks, a run that ended following his fourth turnover in six quarters.

Minshew came off the bench to a rousing ovation and led the offense to a touchdown on his first drive in seven weeks. Minshew moved the Jaguars into the red zone two more times against a prevent defense, but both drives ended with incomplete passes on fourth down.

He ended up throwing for 178 yards in 24 minutes, scrambling for 22 more and didn’t get sacked. Marrone said Minshew’s mobility, which is by far the best of the three QBs, factored into his decision.

“Extending plays and being able to make plays on his feet. That’s what we’re looking for, someone that can do it,” Marrone said.

It might come in handy against the Ravens (8-5), who have 28 sacks and an NFL-leading 21 forced fumbles. They also have former Jaguars pass rushers Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue, who will face Minshew for the first time outside Jacksonville’s practice fields.

“I’m not going to talk trash to Calais,” Minshew said. “I know Calais. Calais is too nice of a guy. I know it’s not real coming from Calais. We’re too cool, I hope.

“Now, Yannick. Yannick’s gonna be out for blood.”

Minshew will be out to score more points than Jacksonville has in recent weeks. The team averaged 22 a game in Minshew’s seven starts, but that number dipped to 16.6 with Luton and Glennon under center.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a ton of pressure right now,” Minshew said. “I don’t think anybody really expects much out of a 1-12 team. But we expect a lot out of ourselves. We’re going to go out there and try not to let what’s going on this season determine what happens these next three games.

“I’m going to try to have a lot of fun, make the most of them, put some good stuff on tape.”

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