Gardner Minshew Can Help QB-Needy Teams in 2022

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistDecember 7, 2021

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew (10) reacts against the New York Jets during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Adam Hunger/Associated Press

Minshew Mania is once again running wild across the NFL after a brief spot start by Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew

Starting in place of Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia's Week 13, 33-18 win over the New York Jets, Minshew fired off a reminder to NFL teams that he can be a stop-gap starter or possibly develop into a long-term option for a franchise with an uncertain quarterback situation. 

Granted, lighting up the 3-9 Jets and a defense that has allowed a league-worst 30.6 points per game isn't the most stunning development. But going 20-of-25 with 242 yards and two touchdowns on relatively short notice is still a nice feather in the proverbial cap for Minshew. 

A sixth-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019, Minshew arrived in Philadelphia last August, with the Eagles sending a 2022 sixth-round pick (that could turn into a fifth based on playing time). He went 7-13 in Jacksonville, completing 62.9 percent of his passes with 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. 

While he's not an elite athlete and doesn't boast a booming arm, NFL teams often have problems finding quality starters, so it's safe to say there aren't 32 better starters than him in the NFL currently. And the simple fact he takes care of the football—something many passers can't claim—puts him among some very notable names: 


Best Pass TD/INT ratio since 2019, among qualified active QB 1. Aaron Rodgers 7.46 2. Patrick Mahomes 4.05 3. Russell Wilson 3.95 4. Kirk Cousins 3.82 5. Gardner Minshew 3.36 6. Tom Brady 3.24 https://t.co/7RZwEayuBH

Jacksonville, clutching the first pick this year and the rights to Trevor Lawrence, understandably moved on, in part to avoid any potential distractions if the rookie struggled. Minshew has one year left on his rookie deal and might now be in the same situation with the Eagles. Barring a collapse down the stretch, Hurts has played well enough to remain the starter next year and allow the Eagles front office to utilize its possible three first-round picks in this upcoming draft on other positions of need.

Minshew, already hitting an unlucky circumstances streak with his first two pro teams, might not be viewed as a potential franchise passer by NFL clubs. But he'll still be one of the most sought-after passers if made available, as he's the perfect starter or depth-chart competition for teams undergoing a transition under center.

This would include franchises moving on from a veteran but still too good to get a high enough pick to draft a premier talent at quarterback. Or, in some cases, Minshew would be an upgrade over the current starter while the team works behind the scenes to find a longer-term solution.

Either way, Minshew has the ability to help needy teams in these categories, best exemplified by the following clubs.


Pittsburgh Steelers

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Banged up or otherwise, 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger hasn't played his best ball this year in what he's indicated will be his final season. He's thrown 16 touchdowns and six interceptions for the 6-5-1 Pittsburgh Steelers, but he's thrown more than a single touchdown in a game just four times and has struggled against teams he typically excels against (like a two-interception showing in a 41-10 loss to Cincinnati in Week 12).

Still, the record is good enough for the Steelers to sit just inside the top 20 in draft order for now, which might put them out of range for an opening-round passer they can start immediately. 

Behind Big Ben, Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins haven't inspired as long-term options. The former is a career 61.4 percent passer with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions to his name, and the latter is a first-rounder from 2019 who lasted one and a half seasons with the team that drafted him and is now a third-stringer. 

This means Minshew could come in and win the starting job with ease, whether he's starting while a first-round passer develops or not. That would let the Steelers straddle the rebuild-contend line fairly well while taking their time in hopefully finding their next franchise passer.  


Washington Football Team

David Becker/Associated Press

Like Big Ben in Pittsburgh, one could argue Minshew would be an upgrade on the quarterback situation for the Washington Football Team. 

There, Washington starts the 28-year-old Taylor Heinicke, a veteran who, before this year, had never reached the 60-attempt threshold in a pro season. He's thrown 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, with multiple touchdowns in just five showings and 300-plus yards once. His first real audition as a starter has earned him a 65.9 Pro Football Focus grade, slotting him in the "backup" category. 

Also similar to Pittsburgh, Washinton sits 20th in current draft order because it's good enough in many respects to scrap for a playoff spot. Sending a mid-round pick to Philadelphia (paying some NFC East tax) to start Minshew for a year or two in a so-so NFC East while working in the background to find a long-term solution would make perfect sense. 


Carolina Panthers

Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

Is Minshew the next option in Carolina's exhausting search for a starter?

The Panthers ended the Cam Newton era, didn't love what they saw from one season of Teddy Bridgewater and traded for former first-rounder Sam Darnold. 

Over nine appearances this year, Darnold couldn't complete 60 percent of his attempts, throwing seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Newton returned to much fanfare, only to get benched in a poor performance against Miami. Meanwhile, P.J. Walker has just one touchdown to seven interceptions in his two-year tenure in Carolina. 

At 5-7, Carolina currently has a top-10 pick, so a first-round passer could be in play. But Darnold's $18.9 million dead-cap charge next year muddies the outlook. The Panthers could roster three quarterbacks, of course, but maybe the move is trading for and starting Minshew while addressing another major need in the first round. 

Either way, Minshew would be an upgrade on whatever it is the Panthers want to run after firing offensive coordinator Joe Brady mid-season. And that could be true for whatever the Panthers do otherwise at the position this offseason, too. 


Atlanta Falcons

John Bazemore/Associated Press

The 5-7 Atlanta Falcons are already smack in the middle of a transitional period after hanging on to quarterback Matt Ryan this past offseason but trading away star wideout Julio Jones

Ryan, 36, has been solid amid a rebuild, completing 68.1 percent of his passes but is averaging just 6.9 yards per attempt, which would be his lowest mark since 2013.

After accounting for tiebreakers, the Falcons currently have a top-eight, and an out built into Ryan's contract could mean letting him walk after this season. Otherwise, they're on the hook for a $40.5 million dead-cap charge in 2022. 

While Minshew might not be better than Ryan in 2022, freeing up the cash flow to address other problems on the roster could accelerate the rebuild. Plus, there's a chance the return from trading Ryan to a desperate team could do the same via assets gained during the move. 

Either way, Minshew getting to work with the likes of Kyle Pitts and Calvin Ridley might put him on the best supporting cast he's had as a pro, too, so fighting for a playoff spot in an NFC South where five wins is currently good for second place behind Tampa Bay might be on the table, too.