Foles Gold: How the Jaguars blew it again

Iron Pyrite has fooled prospectors at first sight for centuries.

Its metallic sparkle and light brass-yellow hue give it the same appearance as gold at first look. But pyrite is not gold.

In fact it’s the most common of the sulfide minerals according to Wikipedia, so you know it’s true. That’s why it has earned the nickname fool’s gold.

Like most prospectors to be tricked, the Jaguars really thought they had struck gold this offseason. Needing to rid themselves of the stench of the inexplicable second contract for Blake Bortles, Jacksonville signed Nick Foles to a four-year deal worth $88 million, with over $50 million guaranteed.

But the last two weeks show that the deal is more pyrite than gold. It’s been fool’s gold. Foles gold if you will (I can hear your eye rolls).

With the season on the line, and likely the livelihood of the front office and the coaching staff, Doug Marrone turned to Foles following the Jaguars’ Week 10 bye. The team was 4-5 and coming off a clunker of a loss, 26-3, to Houston in London.

It was the worst performance of the season for Jacksonville’s mustached hero Gardner Minshew, who had rescued the season with his bravado on and off the field to that point. Not coincidentally, the clunker came after a week of speculation that no matter what happened across the pond, Foles would regain the starting job after breaking his collarbone in the season opener.

Since regaining the starter’s job, the Jags have lost 33-13 to the Indianapolis Colts and 42-20 on Sunday to the Tennessee Titans. That’s three-straight losses of at least 20 points or more to divisional opponents if you’re keeping track at home.

Good for a 4-7 record and anther season on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

With Minshew under center the Jaguars offense had its scoring lulls, but always found its way out of the muck with chunk plays. Often created by his ability to escape the pocket.

Foles’ version has not gotten out the muck. It’s become fully submerged in it. Foles has engineered just two meaningful touchdown drives this season. One cost him his collarbone against Kansas City in the opener and the other was a five-play 60-yard touchdown drive last week against the Colts to take a 7-0 lead. Jacksonville didn’t score again until there was less than a minute left in the game.

The offensive group Foles is working with is the same one that Minshew was. Minus the often-injured Marquise Lee and a handful of tight ends neither you or I could name now or before the season.

Which is a major problem. If a quarterback — or any player on the roster for that matter — is going to command a salary of more than $20 million per year, he should be able to elevate those around him. And certainly you’d like him to at least be able to elevate those around him better than a rookie sixth-round pick.

But I don’t want to make this too much about Foles, because I don’t want to dislike the guy. His story is awesome. From the brink of walking away from the game, to leading the Eagles to Super Bowl off the bench, he’s been through a lot. And then he chose to come to Jacksonville, which I appreciate.

It’s also not like the defense has been playing great the last month either. It’s obvious there are issues across the roster.

Which is why my initial thought when Foles signed was that it was a lot of money for one player on a roster devoid of much offensive talent and needing to prepare to lock up its young defensive talent for the future.

It was another misstep by a front office that makes them more frequently than girls in high heels when the Jax Beach bars let out.

Yet Minshew’s play gave them a way out. He was performing at the level general manger Dave Caldwell and Executive Vice President Tom Coughlin had to hope Foles would be at when they decided to sign him. Minshew has completed 61 percent of his pass attempts for 2,285 yards, 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions this season.

Sure, there was plenty of room for growth in a number of areas, but the Jaguars were competitive. At the very least they could have rode the momentum this season to see how long they could stay in the hunt, and in a best-case scenario he proves to be the long-term answer to franchise’s toughest question — the quarterback position.

And because he was a late-round draft pick, Minshew could do what Dak Prescott did for the Cowboys when he took over for Tony Romo in 2016 and give the Jaguars legitimate competitive window.

The decision to bench Minshew has cost the Jaguars this season. It’s now up to Shad Khan to ensure Marrone, Caldwell and Coughlin don’t cost Jacksonville anymore. Once again it’s time to hit the re-set button and the interim head coach should get a mandate to play Minshew the rest of the way.

Because Jacksonville has to take the rest of the season to truly evaluate what they have in him, especially with two first-round picks the next two seasons as the result of the public divorce with Jalen Ramsey.

I don’t think the same prospectors who have put the Jaguars in their current predicament should be the ones making that decision. It’s time for the Jaguars to find some gold … well as long as it’s not on the back of the helmet.

(Photo: Getty Images)

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