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Gardner Minshew: I proved I can be 'a guy' in NFL

The Minshew Mania gear can be put in the closet with all the other summer and early-fall paraphernalia as the weather turns colder, and we press toward Thanksgiving and Christmas time. Minshew Season, for now, is over.

The Jacksonville Jaguars thanked rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew for his time served as the starter and sent him back to the bench in favor of high-priced veteran Nick Foles, who is returning from a broken collarbone suffered 10 snaps into the season.

Minshew added juice in his eight games this season, providing not only a unique stylistic brand that fans could latch onto off the field, but enough explosive plays to keep the Jags competitive on it as well.

"I think I proved I can be a guy in this league for a long, long time," Minshew said Wednesday, via ESPN. "I think they believe that. And there's other things we're going to get better at so the next time I do get this opportunity, I'll be ready and I'll be better and we're all going to progress together."

Jacksonville went 4-4 under Minshew, who completed 58.9 percent of his passes for 251 yards per game, 11 TDs to 3 INTs and an 89.4 passer rating. If not for a blowup in his final start -- four turnovers; two INTs -- the stats would look even better.

After entering as a relative unknown to most of America, Minshew Mania swept the nation. If he were just a shtick with gimmicks, it would have fizzled out quickly. The rookie, however, proved he has staying power in the NFL.

"He's done a great job," coach Doug Marrone said. "I feel a whole lot different about him now than I did prior to him playing, in a very positive way. We took some things and had some discussions on things that we're going to work on going forward which will give him the ability to be a player in this league for a long time.

"We really believe that."

A return to the bench could ultimately provide the best of both worlds for Minshew. He got his feet soaking wet for eight games, played under fire, gained confidence. Now he can sit back and watch the game from a different perspective, learn different processes, and learn how a veteran might handle a difficult situation. After all, Minshew didn't even sit on the sideline for a full quarter in his rookie season before being tossed to the wolves.

It's possible his struggles in Week 9 could have signaled the league catching up to his NFL tape, or he began to press -- both of which happen with rookies. We've seen young quarterbacks who spend time on the bench come back even stronger after getting a chance to take a step back.

"I was disappointed [at going back to the bench] a little bit, obviously, because everybody wants to be that guy in the huddle," Minshew said. "But if you told me at the beginning of the year that I'd get to play half the season and learn I'd say I'd take that deal 100 percent. I got a lot of good experience and mostly get to learn from one of the best dudes in the business."

The learning isn't over even if we don't see Minshew for the rest of the season.

If the Jags have indeed unearthed their quarterback of the future, we'll look back as this eight-game test-run as a blessing to Jacksonville.

Either way, Minshew's play will lead to several interesting questions for the Jags' front office come the 2020 offseason.

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