Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Jackpot: Former WSU star Gardner Minshew experiencing ‘more ups than downs’ with Las Vegas Raiders

By W.G. Ramirez The Spokesman-Review

HENDERSON, Nev. – Gardner Minshew has been in familiar situations, hoping to land the starting role as he sets his sights on whatever NFL training camp he’s set to attend.

This year feels different, though, the sixth-year pro said, crediting the Las Vegas Raiders’ locker room and a reverberating energy that has him excited to compete against Aidan O’Connell while building new bonds.

“As soon as I walked in this building, the first day that I signed, you can just feel it from the defense, offense, coaches,” Minshew said last month during mandatory minicamp. “Everybody feels like they’re pulling in the same direction and wants to get this thing going the right way.

“And I think if everybody’s on the same page, we will be able to get it done.”

O’Connell is certainly on the same page as Minshew, as the two will begin arguably the NFL’s most competitive battle for QB1 when the Raiders head to Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa, California, for training camp.

It’s the first time the Raiders will hold their training camp in California since moving to Las Vegas, and the first time they’ll head into camp without a starting quarterback in more than a decade.

“I think it’s been awesome,” O’Connell said. “Gardner is a great guy and he’s really ‘what you see is what you get.’

“He’s been awesome with me. I think we do a good job of communicating with each other of what we’re seeing, what we’re thinking on each play, because we are both trying to learn this offense at the same time together, and also at the same time we are both the leaders of the offense.”

Jackpot, baby!

Minshew, who signed with Las Vegas in March, arrives after playing his lone year with the Indianapolis Colts, the third team in his career. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound former Washington State quarterback stepped in for starting quarterback Anthony Richardson when the rookie was held out on concussion protocol.

Minshew led the Colts to a 22–19 overtime victory after completing 27 of 44 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown and was later named Colts starter after Richardson suffered an AC joint sprain in Week 5 against the Tennessee Titans.

Minshew, who finished with a career-high 3,305 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions, went 7–6 as a starter and was named to his first career Pro Bowl as an alternate.

Now with his fourth team, with stops also in Jacksonville (2019-20) and Philadelphia (2021-22), Minshew is again learning a new system and hoping to hit the jackpot in what’s turned into the nation’s hotbed for professional sports.

“Obviously, not every day is perfect, there’s been some ups and downs, but I think more ups than downs,” said Minshew, a sixth-round pick (178th overall) by the Jaguars in the 2019 NFL draft. “And we’re playing against a good team across the ball. Our defense is doing some great stuff, really challenging us, and it’s been a lot of fun.”

While he may compete with O’Connell, the 2018 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year said he’s having just as much fun building a camaraderie with the same guy he’ll share the quarterback room with regardless of who wins the job.

“I think we both put together a good (mini) camp, man, been pushing each other,” said Minshew, who has played in 49 career games (37 starts) and thrown for 9,937 passing yards, 59 touchdowns and 24 interceptions with a 90.2 passer rating. “But also, just enjoying each other, enjoying our room. We got an awesome room not only with Aidan, but with Anthony (Brown Jr.) and Carter (Bradley). We’re having a ton of fun right now being very competitive, and I think that’s only going to make our team better.”

That’s something Raiders coach Antonio Pierce needs, with plenty of pressure on the staff to prove owner Mark Davis made the right choice when removing the interim tag.

A vibe

A fiery and competitive coach in his own right, Pierce is appreciative of what he’s seen from the quarterbacks who will head to camp. It’s the battle for QB1, he said, that is fueling other players to compete at a higher level across the board.

“I think they embrace the competition,” Pierce said. “It’s great. I mean, the best part about it (is) it’s a friendly competition. And when I say friendly, we shake hands and kiss babies, but when we go out there, we’re trying to both be the guy and you love to see that, and our team sees it.

“Some people see competition at the quarterback position as like, ‘Oh my God, we’re scared.’ No, I love it. Because the rest of our team, we’re looking at them. So, what does everybody else on our team have to do? They have to compete. And what we now have is competition throughout our entire roster.”

That’s why Minshew said it was important for him to figure out where to draw the line between being a good teammate and keeping the competitive level on high.

“One good thing about Aidan is he’s a team guy, I’m a team guy, we both want to win, we both want to get better,” said Minshew, whose 2.5 passing touchdowns to interception ratio ranks 10th in the league among quarterbacks with a minimum 1,400 attempts since 2019. “So, I mean, there’s really not much conflict of interest there. I think as any real competitor, you don’t want them to be worse, you want yourself to be better. So, the better he is, if I’m beating him out, that means I’m just raising it that much more.

“So, that’s kind of how I’ve always viewed it, like if he’s pushing me and he’s completing every pass, I got to figure out a way to do better. So, I think that’s the only way to really ever improve.”