When you think you have a plan at QB, Gardner Minshew laughs. Throughout his career, Minshew has been the name coaches have called when their starters go down. He’s not the most physically gifted quarterback, but there’s a certain je ne sais quoi to a peak Minshew performance. Minshew’s future doesn’t reside in Indianapolis. His offseason quarterback competition against Anthony Richardson was a sham. That’s fine. The Colts are committed to Richardson’s development. But Minshew Mania should be the main attraction in an NFL city of his own next season.
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He’s been here before, though. In separate spells with Jacksonville and Philadelphia, Minshew proved to be a reliable caretaker quarterback. When Nick Foles went down, Minshew earned Rookie of the Month, and Minshew Mania was born. I don’t want to hear about what Garnder Minshew can’t do. Here’s what he can do. He can duel with Dak Prescott. While Jalen Hurts nursed a sprained shoulder late in the 2022 season, Minshew threw for 355 yards and two touchdowns in a near upset of the Cowboys and flashed some promise.
His career 1.7 percent interception ratio is equal to Patrick Mahomes. That percentage only trails Aaron Rodgers, Tyrod Taylor, and Jacoby Brissett, but unlike Minshew, each of those quarterbacks has been handed the reins to a team at one point or another. Minshew is closer to Taylor and Brissett than the other two, but the next two months will give us an indication of where Minshew stands.
Since his rookie year set the stage for Trevor Lawrence, Minshew has started sparingly, but excelled in limited appearances. In a low-budget Jags disaster, Minshew was the rare bright spot. Shane Steichen began this season with Anthony Richardson as the Colts’ starting quarterback. However, multiple injuries to Richardson have forced Minshew into action. And yet, nobody is complaining about Indianapolis’ misfortune. Minshew has once again outperformed expectations. These Colts have a bit more talent than those tanking Jags, but he’s still throwing to the same mediocre targets Matt Ryan struggled to connect with.
He’s powered the Colts’ offense to multiple wins in relief of Richardson and has formed a rapport with receiver Josh Downs. He’s done all this in an offense that was designed around a quarterback who runs like Derrick Henry.
The Colts spent their offseason assembling components for their terrestrial offense built around the RPO strengths of Richardson, Jonathan Taylor, and their A-List run-blockers. Their receivers were mostly devoid of game-breaking speed. Their leading receivers are rookie Josh Downs and Michael Pittman. Sunday would have been a statement game for Minshew if the officials hadn’t flicked on their ex-machina mode.
The Cleveland Browns should have devoured Minshew whole. A week earlier, Indy’s hipster quarterback threw three picks. It was the rare struggle bus outing from Minshew. No one would have faulted Minshew for a second mediocre showing against the Browns. His bounce back against the NFL’s most ferocious defense nearly toppled Jim Schwartz’s carnivorous defense in a shootout.
This wasn’t Tyson Bagent dinking and dunking the Bears’ creaky offense in a low-scoring affair. Fumbles helped sink the Colts, but Minshew did enough to win, completing 15-of-23 passes for 305 yards, two touchdowns, and threw one interception. On throws that traveled at least 10 air yards, he completed 7-of-10 attempts. He beat a pursuing defensive back on an RPO for his second touchdown of the afternoon. Extra points for avoiding the hit instead of trying to run through him like Anthony Richardson has done too often.
Peep Minshew’s wheels on his first rushing touchdown of the evening
Entering the season, Indianapolis was given the league’s third-worst odds to win the Super Bowl.
So what if he’s got some Ryan Fitzpatrick in him without the beard growth? If Baker Mayfield can receive multiple chances to prove himself because he’s still assessed as a former No. 1 overall pick, why can’t Minshew? If he weren’t a former sixth-round pick, teams would have invested in him the way they have Jimmy Garaoppolo. Richardson being shut down is a blessing in disguise for Minshew, who gets to audition for his next job. There are too many teams looking for a spark for Minshew to be taking second-team reps again next summer.