The Colts signed Gardner Minshew in March not yet knowing what his role would be – but knowing he'd excel in it.
Whether he would be the team's starting or backup quarterback, the Colts valued Minshew's accuracy, decision-making, schematic knowledge and general good-dude demeanor in bringing him in as a free agent.
Minshew on Saturday took the field at Lucas Oil Stadium as the Colts' starting quarterback – but only because head coach Shane Steichen opted to not play his first-team offense after back-to-back competitive joint practices with the Chicago Bears on Wednesday and Thursday at Grand Park. Steichen informed Minshew Monday night rookie Anthony Richardson would be the Colts' starting quarterback for the 2023 season, a decision Minshew met with disappointment but also grace.
"You always know it's a possibility, and it always disappoints you still the same," Minshew said. 'That ain't going to change anything I do. I'm not going to sit around and pout. I'm very grateful for the opportunity I do have. Grateful for coach Steichen for bringing me here, and grateful for Anthony and the guys in our room that make it so much fun every day."
Minshew on Saturday, though, took advantage of his opportunity to play for most of the first half against the Bears. He completed 13 of 15 passes (87 percent) for 107 yards and a touchdown, good for a passer rating of 118.6.
On his final possession, Minshew engineered a 12-play, 74-yard drive that included a key third down conversion to wide receiver Josh Downs and an impressive, buying-his-time-and-making-a-throw strike to wide receiver Juwann Winfree for a touchdown on third and goal from the four-yard line.
"He's playing with great poise," Steichen said. "He's played in this league for a while. Good leader for us — he had the huge conversion there on third down on the scramble. Just operating the offense and being efficient doing it ... he operated at a high level and it was good to see."
Minshew enters his fifth year in the NFL having appeared in 32 games (24 starts) with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 44 to 15 and a passer rating of 93.1. He spent the last two seasons with Steichen and the Philadelphia Eagles, where he tagged in for Jalen Hurts and averaged over eight yards per attempt over four starts.
Behind the scenes, Minshew's teammates have consistently praised his knowledge of Steichen's offense and the kind of presence he is not only in the Colts' quarterback room, but for the entire team.
"He can talk to anybody," center Wesley French said. "He can sit down at any table in the lunchroom and he can vibe with anyone. He can sit down and talk to anybody in any position."
As the Colts move toward the regular season with Richardson as their starting quarterback, they do so knowing Minshew can have a positive impact on the team whether he's on the field or not. For Richardson, having a teammate who's been in this offense is important – especially since Richardson is particularly proficient at peppering questions about Steichen's playbook to those who know it best.
"There's a little bit of a different relationship there," Minshew said. "They can tell you what they think and then sometimes, somebody with some experience can tell you a different way. Neither is right or wrong but it's good to have different opinions sometimes."
And if the Colts ever need Minshew to play this season, they trust he'll make a similarly positive impact – just like he did Saturday night.
"Gardner is the ultimate pro," Steichen said. "We are so thankful that he is on this football team. I can't be more thankful for Gardner."