Jaguars bench QB Nick Foles, go back to Gardner Minshew

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars benched the player they signed to be their franchise quarterback after a terrible first half in Sunday's 28-11 loss to Tampa Bay. Coach Doug Marrone, however, wouldn't say whether the move from Nick Foles to Gardner Minshew will be permanent.

One thing is definite, however: Foles had struggled badly since his return from a broken collarbone, and something had to be done.

"I wanted to get a spark," Marrone said. "It was kind of dead, and I wanted to get things going and made the switch at quarterback. ... I haven't spoken to either quarterback afterward. I know I'm going to get a lot of questions on it, on what's going to happen, which is fine. I'm going to tell you the answer already. I haven't spoken to them, and I always believe in doing things the right way. I've got to talk to them first.

"It's obviously emotional right now, and we're really disappointed, so we'll wait, and I'll talk to them before any announcement comes out. I just think it's the right thing to do."

Foles has produced 782 yards and 33 points in three games since his return. Only 10 of those points came in the first half of those games, including zero points and 105 total yards against the Buccaneers. Foles also turned the ball over on the Jaguars' first three drives, making him the first QB to do that since Chicago's Mike Glennon in 2017, and posted three consecutive three-and-outs after those turnovers.

That generated a lot of boos, especially as the team headed to the locker room, and Marrone had no choice but to bench the player the Jaguars signed to a four-year, $88 million contract that includes a franchise-record $50.125 million guaranteed.

"It's not easy," Foles said of the benching. "This is not an easy game. Tough situation, but I'm going to continue to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving. Like I said before, it's a trial, and the trials keep coming. Not easy, but I know where my heart is and where my faith is and what I'm going to lean on in this time like I always do in the good and the bad.

"Never want to go through it. Difficult, but you know what? I'm going to look at the bright things and continue to keep my head held high and continue to keep moving forward."

It was a frustrating day all around on the field, and it spilled over in the postgame locker room. Two players, one of whom was defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, were in each other's face as the media was allowed into the locker room. Players separated the two, and no punches were thrown.

There also was some loud, indistinguishable shouting in the shower room.

"I know how to maintain myself. I know how to control my emotions," rookie defensive end Josh Allen said. "Hopefully everybody else can control theirs through this tough situation. We're all grown men, and we handle things differently, and hopefully they'll get their act together."

Minshew, who led the Jaguars to a 4-4 record after Foles was hurt just 11 snaps into the season opener, completed 16 of 27 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown Sunday. The rookie directed Jacksonville (4-8) to 11 points, and the interception he threw was a pass that bounced off receiver Dede Westbrook's hands in the end zone.

"It's tough," Minshew said. "I've been in the same situation. I've been booed off the field at [East Carolina], and it's not a place anybody should have to be in. There's so much love in that room. We all support each other.

"To see [the boos] was absolutely brutal. I hate that for him, but in the same vein, all he wants is a win. All I want is to win, and whoever's out there, that's what we're going to try to do."

Marrone's decision to go with Minshew might be for this week only as a way to spark a stagnant offense. If it's for the rest of the season, however, it will create an interesting dilemma for 2020. Do the Jaguars have an open competition? If they do and Minshew wins the starting job, what do the Jaguars do with Foles?

He has a dead cap hit of $33.875 million if released before June 1, and that number drops to $21.375 million if he's released after June 1. A post-June 1 trade would save the Jaguars $15.875 million and include a dead cap hit of $6.25 million.

When the Jaguars signed Foles in March, owner Shad Khan said it was his dream to land the player who led Philadelphia to a Super Bowl LII victory over New England. In that game, Foles threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass to earn Super Bowl MVP honors.

Foles didn't make it to halftime of the 2019 season opener before Kansas City defensive lineman Chris Jones landed on him after Foles let the ball go on a 35-yard touchdown pass to DJ Chark.

Minshew stepped in for Foles and had an impressive debut: 22-of-25 for 275 yards and two TDs with one interception. Minshew started the next eight games and led the Jaguars to a 4-4 record, throwing for 2,285 yards and 13 touchdowns with four interceptions.

His attitude, attire (jorts, headband, aviators) and mustache -- coupled with his freewheeling style of play -- led to "Minshew Mania" across the country. That came to a crashing halt against Houston in Week 9, however, when Minshew turned the ball over four times (two interceptions, two fumbles) and led the Jaguars to just one field goal in a 26-3 loss at Wembley Stadium in London.

Minshew had his problems holding on to the ball, too. At one point, he led the NFL with seven lost fumbles, and he had another Sunday, but he is second in the stat now, behind the New York Giants' Daniel Jones (10).

Even with that issue, Marrone said he had no choice but to bench Foles against the Bucs.

"I just thought it was going to give us the best chance to win," Marrone said. "I really did. I don't think any decision like that is easy. It's very painful because you know it's not just one person. I look at it as if I ever have to bench someone or pull someone or whatever words we want to [use], it's a direct reflection on me in not having guys ready or whatever it may be.

"It's not easy. Those are the decisions that have to be made."