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Gardner Minshew taking control of Jaguars' starting QB job

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Gardner Minshew had no idea whether he was going to be the Jacksonville Jaguars' starting quarterback in 2020 when he left the team facility back in late December.

But he made sure over the next several months that the team knew he should be.

"I had conversations with Dave Caldwell. I told him, 'Do what you think's best for this team. I believe that I'm going to give us the best chance to win no matter what,'" Minshew said. "I've just got to prove that every day and I'm excited for the opportunity to be able to prove that."

It wasn't clear that Minshew would get that chance until the Jaguars agreed to terms with veteran quarterback Mike Glennon on May 8. By that point the Jaguars had traded Nick Foles, passed on selecting a quarterback early in the NFL draft before taking Jake Luton in the sixth round, and opted not to try to sign Cam Newton, a three-time Pro Bowler and former MVP. The Jaguars belonged to Minshew, for 2020 anyway.

It really made no difference in Minshew's mind had the Jaguars not traded Foles or drafted a QB high or signed Newton. He wasn't going to alter his offseason training plan regardless of who was on the roster.

"Still going to work the same way," Minshew said. "Still going to lead the same way."

Minshew has already impressed new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden with his work in the virtual offseason program. Gruden likes the way Minshew has taken charge during the virtual meetings and seems to be getting a good grasp of the offense.

"He's a shining reason why once the opportunity presents itself, you take advantage of it," Gruden said. "He did that, and he's put himself in a great position to take the Jacksonville Jaguars and lead them into the future. He has shown a skill set where he can sit in a pocket, step up, make things happen outside the pocket. He's accurate, he's tough and obviously he's a great leader, so he's got the intangibles you want in a quarterback.

"Now he's got to get to know the team, get to know the offense a little bit so we can all jell together."

Even though he's learning a new offense, this should be a much more productive offseason for Minshew than last year, when he was trying to learn a new offense and adjust to the speed of the NFL at the same time. Considering that he went 6-6 as a starter and had a higher passer rating and fewest interceptions than any other rookie quarterback despite learning on the fly, the expectations for Minshew are pretty high in 2020.

Inside the building, anyway. Outside, not so much.

Numerous way-too-early 2021 mock drafts predict the Jaguars will have the top pick and take Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Minshew not playing well would be a big reason the Jaguars would be in that spot, but it certainly wouldn't all be on his shoulders.

But clearly the early consensus is that the Jaguars will be one of the NFL's worst teams this season.

"I think it should put a chip on everybody's shoulder on our team, being kinda counted out like that," Minshew said. "I think we do have a lot to prove. Prove that we're not what anybody says about us. The only people whose opinions matter is who's in that huddle, who's on that team.

"I think we're going to set those expectations for ourselves and not worry about what anybody has to say about us."