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Mentor mania: Former Washington State star Gardner Minshew ready to team with rookie Anthony Richardson in Colts’ QB room

By George Bremer Tribune News Service

INDIANAPOLIS – Gardner Minshew spent some quality time with his rookie teammate this offseason.

Former Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson trained at the same facility in Jacksonville, Florida, as Minshew, and the veteran liked what he saw from the 20-year-old.

“The first thing is just how impressive – the ball just jumps out of his hand (and) physically (he’s) got everything you want,” Minshew said last week. “So, from that standpoint, just seeing it, I was like, ‘Wow, this dude’s really got a chance.’ And then getting around him and seeing how he works, how he takes criticism and wants to learn and get better, all those things are really, really encouraging.”

Minshew and Richardson will see plenty of each other in coming months as part of the Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback room.

The pairing seems like a good fit. Minshew spent the last two seasons playing in first-year Colts head coach Shane Steichen’s scheme with the Philadelphia Eagles, and he proved to be a valuable sounding board for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts during his rise to NFL stardom.

But Minshew is not here just to help teach the offense to his teammates and provide sage words of wisdom from the sideline.

The 27-year-old from Washington State University has made 24 starts over four seasons with the Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars, completing 62.8% of his passes for 6,632 yards with 44 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

He might be best known for his “Minshew Mania” rookie season with the Jaguars – when he filled in for an injured Nick Foles and threw for 3,271 yards and 21 touchdowns in 12 starts – but Indianapolis believes there’s much more to the quarterback than a cult of personality.

“He’s done a lot of good things in this league,” Colts quarterbacks coach Cam Turner said. “He’s proven that he can be successful in this league, and … he can play football. Anyone that watches the tape, turns it on – he knows what he’s doing. He can make plays. Guys play hard for him, and you know he’s gonna bring it every single play.”

It remains an open question how often Minshew will be asked to bring it in Indianapolis.

The assumption when he signed as a free agent in March was he would be a bridge quarterback to a rookie starter, and that might still prove to be the case.

But both Steichen and Colts owner Jim Irsay have spoken repeatedly about their belief young quarterbacks improve most by being on the field.

Richardson’s only been back in the building for three days since participating in the rookie mini-camp May 5-7, and the full team won’t begin practicing together until next week.

The three weeks of OTA practices will be followed by a three-day veteran mini-camp, then the players will get a break until training camp begins in late July.

All of those practices and the three preseason games will help determine the Week 1 starter. But even Minshew concedes playing early might be the best option for the rookie.

“The thing about quarterback, I think, really one of the only ways to get better is to play it,” Minshew said. “So getting that experience is huge, going out there and seeing looks, feeling the speed – it’s something you really can’t replicate in any other way. So it’s huge. Just getting any type of experience, any type of game snaps is really, really important.”

Minshew acknowledged there could be some challenges in preparing two quarterbacks to potentially start the opener, but he said it will be on the players to make the most of the opportunities they receive and to take as much as possible from the mental reps they’re getting between snaps.

The existing relationship between Minshew and Richardson has helped provide a smooth transition, and the quarterback room already is developing good chemistry with third-year pro Sam Ehlinger also in the mix.

Minshew said the quarterbacks will all pull for one another and support whoever is named the starter.

He is obviously aware Richardson has been anointed the new face of the franchise, but it won’t affect anything about the way he prepares for the season.

“I think for the team to be the best that we can be, every player has to be the best that they can be,” Minshew said. “So I think taking personal responsibility for yourself and then helping others after that – it’s kind of like fix your air mask before you put it on other people.”