That’s really the only way to sum up the first two weeks of the 2019 season for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In Week 1 the new franchise quarterback, Nick Foles, delivered the most crisp pass in many moons for the Jaguars on a 35-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Chark, only to break his collar bone on the same play. Kansas City went on to dominate 40-26.
But there was some hope. His replacement, sixth-round draft pick Gardner Minshew II, completed 22 of 25 passes for 275 yards and two TDs in the loss.
The next week Minshew showed what he was made of as the Jaguars nearly stole a division win on the road. Jacksonville had struggled on offense all game, but with 3:36 left in the game Minshew drove offense to its first touchdown drive. It took him 3:06 and he capped off the 14-play drive with a 4-yard pass to Chark.
Head coach Doug Marrone decided to go for two and the win. Which was the right decision, they just didn’t make play-call. Leonard Fournette was stopped inches short on a run up the middle as the Texans hung on for the 13-12 win.
Making matters worse, following the loss reports became public that all-pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey had requested a trade from the team. Ramsey insinuated on the “17 Weeks” Podcast that someone in the front office — all signs point to Tom Coughlin — decided it was their job to discuss a blow-up that occurred during the loss in Houston between Ramsey and Marrone with him. He interpreted the conversation as disrespectful.
It was the last straw for Ramsey (for the moment) as his frustrations have built with the front office over its personnel decisions (such as extending Blake Bortles and then playing hardball with Yannick Ngakoue), including not working on long-term deal for him until at least this offseason.
Winless and with the franchise’s best player in years requesting a trade, it was an all-too-familiar feeling for Jags fans. One that we’ve had to become accustomed to over the years as we support a franchise that has taken two steps back every time it’s gotten any positive since the late ’90s.
Yet, that’s when the familiar script took a detour. Normally the next chapter would feature a loss to the Tennessee Titans in front of a national TV audience. But that’s not what happened.
The Jaguars blocked out everything and dominated the game 20-7. Minshew was 20-for-30 with 204 yards passing and two touchdowns. The Mississippi native made post-game appearances on both the NFL Network and ESPN that night.
Scott Van Pelt declared him the king of the world as he interviewed Minshew while he as wearing an American flag bandana.
Minshew Mania had arrived. Then last week happened and everything really kicked into overdrive.
After the defense surrendered the lead to the Denver Broncos with 1:32 left in the game, the mustached gunslinger went back to work. He led the Jaguars 60 yards in eight plays to set up a 33-yard Josh Lambo field goal as time expired for a 26-24 victory.
To sum it up, Uncle Rico threw the football over them mountains.
By now, Minshew’s story has become well known. He walked on at Troy but left for junior college back home in Mississippi. Then he played two seasons at East Carolina, but was up and down and never became the full-time starter. He even tried to break his hand with a hammer in the hopes of a medical redshirt while in Greenville.
With two years of eligibility left (one to sit, one to play), Nick Saban recruited him to be an insurance policy at Alabama where he’d be handed his coaching khakis and polo to become a cog in the machine once those two years were up. Luckily though, Mike Leach convinced him to come to Washington State instead and “lead the nation in passing.”
He did just that with an average of 376.7 yards passing per game for the Cougars. It earned him an invite to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. He impressed the Jaguars so much in the pre-draft process that they used the 178th overall pick in the draft on the 6-foot-1 signal caller.
After a rough preseason he’s proven to be the steal of the draft. He’s completed 69.4 percent of his pass attempts for 905 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception. According to the Jaguars’ game notes he is the first NFL player in the last 30 years and just the second in NFL history (Washington QB Mark Rypien in 1998) to post a passer rating of at least 95.0 in each of his first four career games.
He’s just what the doctor ordered for a maligned franchise. Minshew’s signature look has made him a league favorite of Jaguars and non-Jaguars fans alike. He improvises; he’s accurate and gets the ball out quick.
I want Jaguars fans to enjoy reading this post so I won’t list the names, but you know who has been under center since Mark Brunell for the team and it hasn’t been pretty. We deserve to have some fun and enjoy the mustache magic.
Foles is eligible to come back Week 11 and whether or not he gets his job back is a discussion for then. But for now the Jaguars are 2-2 with upcoming games against Carolina (2-2) and New Orleans (3-1), both of which are also without their starting quarterbacks due to injury. After that the Jaguars have Cincinnati (0-4) and the New York Jets (0-3).
The entire AFC South is 2-2, so the division is wide open. And thanks to Gardner Minshew, Jaguars fans have hope in what seemed like another lost season just a few weeks ago.
I guess it’s time to see if I can grow a ’stache and just enjoy the ride.
(Photo: Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports)