EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Gardner Minshew, the NFL’s most colorful character, wore aviator shades, a leather flight jacket, and blue jeans to MetLife Stadium on Sunday. It was an homage to his parents, Flint and Kim. “That movie was their first date,” he said.
His teammates got a kick out of it.
“A lot of guys called him ‘Top Gun’ all day,” tight end Dallas Goedert said. “We knew he was gonna let it fly.”
By the end of the afternoon, he’d earned that nickname, shot down the Jets, outplayed injured starter Jalen Hurts, and placed Philadelphia dead in the sights of Minshew Mania for the next two weeks.
And, of course, there was the Minshew Flava.
When he converted a messy fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak in the third quarter Sunday, while the replay officials reviewed the play, he joked to running back Miles Sanders, “Maybe it’s just because I’m strong as hell.”
Minshew later confirmed his jorts-friendly fetish:
“Yeah, dude. That’s why I wear short shorts. You can dig my legs, bro,” he said, poking his thigh. “Felt it, right there.”
For the Halloween game in Detroit, Minshew dressed as Uncle Rico from “Napoleon Dynamite,” whose mustache he mimics.
On Sunday, Minshew played as well as the fictional, delusional benchwarmer imagined he might’ve played at States.
Minshew hit his first 11 passes, went 20-for-25 for 242 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers, and beat the Jets, 33-18. His 133.7 passer rating was the second best of his short career and was better than anything Hurts ever posted.
Minshew did this a week after Hurts threw three interceptions in an upset loss to the Giants and imperiled the Eagles’ playoff chances. The Birds now stand at 6-7 entering their bye week, and they’re back in the playoff picture, thanks mostly to a wise-cracking Tom Cruise wannabe.
Yeah, the Jets stink, but so do the Giants. Same site, same weather, same teammates, wildly different outcome.
Do the Eagles have a quarterback controversy? Absolutely. The question:
Do you want to start a polished, competent quarterback and win the most games possible with the Eagles’ talented offensive line, good weapons, and decent defense ... or do you want to justify the presence of Jalen Hurts at all costs?
The Eagles chose the latter early in the season. Hurts lost five of the first seven games, mainly because he could not run a pass-heavy offense. They could have benched him, but instead head coach Nick Sirianni changed the scheme from a 70% pass concentration to 60% run.
Will they choose Hurts again when he returns from his ankle injury?
“Yeah,” Sirianni said. “Of course.”
Too bad. It would be fascinating to posit this anonymous locker-room poll question:
Fellas, do you want to try to run the table and make the playoffs with a good passer, or do you want to roll the dice with a run-first quarterback whose injured legs are the only thing that compensate for his arm and his inexperience?
First Nick Foles, now Jalen Hurts?
Minshew Mania first descended upon the NFL in Jacksonville in 2019. Minshew made the team as a vagabond sixth-round pick who’d won a junior-college title in his home state of Mississippi, then played little at East Carolina, but blossomed as a graduate student under quirky Mike Leach at Washington State. As a rookie, Minshew replaced injured Eagles hero and former Carson Wentz backup Nick Foles. Minshew stole Foles’ job.
But the Jags drafted Clemson stud Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 pick in June, traded Minshew to the Eagles for a sixth-round pick in August, who traded Joe Flacco to the Jets in October, leaving Minshew as Hurts’ overqualified understudy.
Now, two years after burying Saint Nick, Minshew has upstaged another former Carson Wentz backup: Hurts.
There’s just no other way to put it.
Minshew’s 133.7 passer rating was 7 points higher than Hurts’ career best, and it was the eighth time Minshew went over 102. He’s 6-2 in those starts. It’s not a fluke, and it’s not a hollow stat. Hurts has been over 102 five times, but he’s 1-4, because Hurts pads his rating in garbage time.
Anyone with eyes always knew Hurts does not approximate an NFL-caliber passer. Anyone with eyes Sunday saw Minshew run the same offense and produced yards (418-281) and points (33-18) and time-of-possession (35 minutes, 36 seconds-24:24) dominance thanks largely to his competent NFL arm.
Eagles fans went wild as Minshew left the field: “Minshew Mania!” they cried.
And it was.
“Just taking what they gave us,” Minshew said. “The O-line gave us a plenty of time so I could see the field and get it to our guys in space.”
They always do. Hurts leads the NFL in time-to-throw from the pocket, at 2.7 seconds. A comfortable quarterback with a competent NFL arm gets it to his guys in space, and Hurts hardly ever does that. He’s gun-shy, with a slow release, and he throws behind players in motion.
Goedert caught all six passes thrown to him for 105 yards, with two touchdowns. Why? Because he averaged 10.3 yards after the catch Sunday, according to NFL.com.
Again: Do you want to give yourself the best chance to win, with an actual NFL quarterback?
Or do you want to play Power Five college football for the final four weeks?
Don’t be sentimental
Minshew made decisions Hurts fails to make; quick check-downs, instinctive pre-snap reads, proper run-pass option determinations. Minshew made passes Hurts seldom makes; floaters into the flat, shallow crosses that led their targets so they could run after the catch, 20-yard outs thrown to the proper shoulder. Minshew decoded defenses Hurts never seems to comprehend.
You saw all this. So did their teammates. So did their coaches. So, most significantly, did general manager Howie Roseman.
It was Roseman who drafted Hurts in the second round last season, which poisoned the team’s relationship with franchise starter Carson Wentz, which hastened the firing of Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson and led to the catastrophic trade of Wentz in March ... which left the Eagles with Hurts, and, eventually, with Minshew.
Roseman could never bear benching Hurts for Minshew, even if doing so is the only logical answer to the simplest of questions:
Which quarterback gives the Eagles the best chance to win?