JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said he never considered benching quarterback Gardner Minshew despite his struggles during the team’s 34-16 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
But he didn’t rule out taking that step if things don’t get better.
“Maybe in the future, I think,” Marrone said. “I mean, I’d be naïve not to say [that’s a possibility]. That’s up for any position, any play that we can do for ourselves to get better.
“But no, I didn’t feel that way during the course of the game.”
That Marrone wouldn’t rule that out indicates that Minshew -- unless he goes on a tear the rest of the season -- might not be the quarterback around which the team can build. Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell gave Minshew this season to prove he can be the long-term starter, but he has not played well since the season opener.
Five of the eight TD passes he’s thrown since Week 1 have come with the Jaguars down double digits. He has turned the ball over eight times (five interceptions), and he’s been sacked 13 times in the five-game losing streak.
Minshew threw for a season-low 243 yards with one touchdown, one interception and had three rushes for 14 yards and another TD against the Lions. He missed on several normal throws, including throwing behind DJ Chark on a fourth-down slant and overthrowing Chark when he was wide open in the end zone. He continued to look uncomfortable in the pocket.
Minshew also lost a fumble, but that was more on left tackle Cam Robinson, who let Trey Flowers get by him and behind Minshew to swat the ball out of his hand.
The Jaguars managed just 108 yards (99 passing) and three points in the first half and Minshew didn’t get the Jaguars into the end zone until they were trailing 24-3.
That’s another slow start, which has plagued Minshew and the offense since they scored 14 points in the first half of the season opener against Indianapolis. Since then, the Jaguars have been outscored 82-40 in the first half. Against the Lions, the Jaguars went three-and-out and gained zero yards on their opening possession.
“We ought to have some kind of a sense of urgency to be able to score every drive,” Minshew said. “But also, a lot of that is putting our defense in bad positions a lot of the time and not capitalizing when they put us in a good position. We have to do better at that and I think that will help us.”
Sunday was a disappointing day all around, but Chark seemed particularly frustrated after the game. He said the receivers are getting open and the right plays are being called, but the offense still is ineffective.
That’s on everyone, he said. Players and coaches.
“I feel like their defense came out, they played well, but I felt like, as receivers, we got open,” Chark said. “We have to get on the same page and we have to move the ball more efficiently so we don’t get to a point where we’re just throwing the ball and they can just sit back and not do anything."
“... Yes, the coaches have to put us in good positions to succeed. On offense -- I can’t really speak for defense, I don’t really know their schemes to a 'T' like that -- but offensively, coach [Jay] Gruden tries. We’re on him about getting James [Robinson] the ball, we’re on him about getting me the ball, we’re on him about all this, but at the end of the day, the plays are being called and the attempts are there. [Gruden] can’t go catch it for me, he can’t throw it to me, he can’t hand it to James [Robinson] himself. I think we just have to find a way to make things happen.”
That sounds like a shot at Minshew, but Marrone said it was Chark just being frustrated at the offense’s lack of execution and the fact that they’ve lost five games in a row.
“I think that when you’re losing, and this is not on DJ [Chark], it’s more of people are saying things that, ‘Hey listen, we’re open or we can run it or we can do this or we can do that,’ and I understand that. I definitely do,” Marrone said. “It’s like everything; there’s a balance in that so yeah, there were times that they were open and maybe we couldn’t get to the read because we were forced out of the pocket. There were times where we may have been covered. There were times where we didn’t throw the ball accurately to get it."
When the offense isn’t functional until the game gets out of hand and the defenses play softer coverages, that’s on the quarterback. It’s what happened in 2018 with Blake Bortles and last season when Nick Foles returned from his broken collarbone. And in each case, Marrone made a QB switch: He benched Bortles for Cody Kessler and Foles for Minshew.
This year, his options if he wants to bench Minshew are veteran Mike Glennon, who has thrown just 31 passes since he was replaced as Chicago’s starter by Mitchell Trubisky four weeks into the 2018 season, and rookie sixth-round pick Jake Luton.
“Everyone’s really trying to figure out how can this team get better and you appreciate that,” Marrone said. “And then I think that’s what happens when I get a lot of these questions like, ‘Hey, are you going to do this? Are you going to do that?’ My past has shown that I’ve done that everywhere I’ve been as a head coach and when that stuff is warranted, I feel very comfortable making that decision, wherever it may be.
“But this one is not [like that]. This one is really all of us that we all have to do a better job and we all have to dig ourselves out of this because it’s never as easy as what some people think. It’d be easy if it was one thing, but it’s not. We have to do better at all of it.”