With quarterback Anthony Richardson still in concussion protocol, his status for Sunday's Week 3 game against the Baltimore Ravens remains in question. However, if you ask around the locker room, you won't find a player who is worried.
That's because Richardson's backup, Gardner Minshew, not only has a proven track record as an NFL starter but has gained the confidence of those around him.
"He earned everyone's trust by working hard and being the guy he is," offensive lineman Wesley French said. "Being the confident guy no matter what position he's in. I think that's the most admirable thing about Gardner and guys like him. That no matter if you're backing up a guy, you're first, second, third string, it doesn't matter. You're gonna prepare like you're the starter and you're gonna act the same way."
After Richardson went out in the second quarter of last Sunday's game against the Houston Texans, Minshew stepped in and led the team on three straight scoring drives.
On that second scoring drive, Minshew had to guide the team during a two-minute drill. In the waning minutes of the quarter, he completed six passes for 50 yards. One of the most pivotal plays he made was an 11-yard pass to wide receiver Josh Downs, which set up a touchdown pass to tight end Kylen Granson on the next play.
Minshew and Downs' connection began during training camp, when the pair were working with the second-team offense.
"Just being with him every day and knowing that he's gonna be on time, he's gonna put it [the ball] where it needs to be," Downs said. "That right there gained my trust."
Minshew ended the game with an 82.6 completion percentage, 171 passing yards and a passing touchdown.
Not bad for a player who hadn't gotten any reps with the starting unit the week before.
"Gardner is one of the more heady, more astute players I've been around. When he was in that game, when it became evident to us that Gardner was going in that game – there was no hesitation, no friction," offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. "Sometimes, backup quarterbacks come in and it takes a second to get going. Gardner Minshew II, it doesn't take half a second. He's ready to roll, he's got his game plan. He knows the defense, kind of the looks, the adjustments and maybe the tells, if you will, of the defense. He's hitting the ground running. That's all due to his preparation early in the week. He puts the time in."
Head coach Shane Steichen saw Minshew's dedication to his craft during their time with the Philadelphia Eagles. During Steichen's two seasons as their offensive coordinator, Minshew was the backup to Jalen Hurts.
Even then, Minshew worked each week as if he was going to be a starter. Since joining the Colts back in March, Steichen said that quality has not changed, which has made it much easier when he does have to come into a game.
"The way he prepares week in and week out, knowing the system and going out and operating the way he did – taking completions, operating at a high level, moving the football," Steichen said. "I know he came in there and had the two scoring drives when he came in. Operated that two-minute drive really well. We were playing normal ball and then it turned into a two-minute there at the end and just the way he operated it was very impressive."
In 2021, Cooter was also in Philadelphia, where he served as an offensive consultant for a season. However, getting to work with Minshew over the past few months has helped him to develop a new appreciation for him.
"Just being around him this year really watching him go through his daily process and watching how he learns and digests the weekly game plan and the offense and the defense and all that stuff. I think Shane said it the other day but I'll steal his line, it is like talking to another coach," Cooter said. "Gardner has watched all the tape. You can say, 'Hey Gardner, did you see that blitz?' I'll just make something up, 'Did you see that blitz in the Pittsburgh game?' And he's, 'Oh yeah they brought this, and did this and I think we can do that to it, I think I can see that.' Things like that."
So, as everyone patiently awaits the announcement of Richardson's Week 3 status, Minshew will be ready no matter the outcome.
"You just show up every day and do what they tell you to do," Minshew said. "Get ready with whatever reps you got. I'm here today and they said I'm going [with the ones], so I'm fired up about it. I'll do my best."