"Minshew Mania" was born at Washington State in Pullman, Wash., and was brought to an NFL audience in Jacksonville, Fla. The jorts, the fu man chu and the electric play on the field made Gardner Minshew a feel-good story in 2019, even as the Jaguars went 6-10 and finished last in the AFC South.
Minshew started a dozen games for the Jaguars as a sixth-round rookie in 2019, throwing for 3,271 yards with a sterling touchdown-to-interception ratio of 21 to six. In 2020, Minshew upped his completion percentage to 66 percent and posted a passer rating of 95.9, but the Jaguars went 1-7 in his eight starts, ultimately finishing with the NFL's worst record.
In 2021, Minshew spent the entire offseason and training camp with the Jaguars, who brought in a new head coach (Urban Meyer) and a new top-picked quarterback (Trevor Lawrence) that year. The Jaguars traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a conditional sixth-round draft pick before rosters were cut to 53, ending his time in Jacksonville.
Minshew in Philadelphia was united with offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, and after two years as Jalen Hurts' backup, he re-united with Steichen in Indianapolis. With Anthony Richardson placed on injured reserve Wednesday, Minshew will start at least the Colts' next four games, beginning with one on Sunday against his former team: The Jaguars.
On Wednesday, Minshew was asked if he has any different emotions ahead of this weekend's trip to Jacksonville.
"Not really, man," Minshew said. "Just excited to get out there and play football. Wherever, whenever, it's always a good time."
Minshew's personality blends competitiveness with professionalism all under a good-vibes-only disposition. The Colts, collectively, hold him in high regard, with center Ryan Kelly saying Minshew is "one of the best (teammates) I've ever had." And on the field, Minshew has helped steer the Colts to three wins. He's done more than just kept the offense afloat with Richardson out; he's made critical plays late in games that've massively influenced the outcomes of wins over the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans.
"I think he can just relate to everybody, you know what I mean? There are different types of people, he can relate to everybody," Steichen said. "Again, going back to his passion, his love for the game, his love for people around this building, outside this building. I know it will big for him to go back to Jacksonville where he started his career. I'm excited to watch him play on Sunday."
The thing with Minshew heading into this game, though: It's hard to imagine him being more prepared or more intense than he already is. Even if he's playing his former team – he's one of the most prepared and most intense guys on the field regardless of the opponent. He's already dialed in to making the right reads and good decisions – Minshew hasn't thrown an interception this season – and the Colts don't expect that to change on Sunday, since they've seen it from him since he was signed as a free agent in March.
"The way he came in and started preparing even before Anthony was even here just goes to show you the level of professionalism he brings to this team," Kelly said. "... He's always prepared. He knows what the look is. He's been around this league for a while. Just putting his team in the best situation to be successful. That's all you can ask for a guy like that. To get into good checks and even if stuff doesn't work out, making plays with his feet — just a professional in every sense."