JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars are seemingly stuck with another expensive quarterback mistake.
The Jaguars benched veteran Nick Foles for the final four games of the season Monday, switching to rookie sensation Gardner Minshew beginning Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The move came one day after coach Doug Marrone sat Foles at halftime of a 28-11 home loss to Tampa Bay. It also could create a complicated mess moving forward at the position — for embattled personnel chief Tom Coughlin or whoever’s in charge next season.
Foles’ contract pays him $15.125 million in 2020 — fully guaranteed — and he will count nearly $22 million against the salary cap. That’s a huge payout for a guy not guaranteed to be the starter. Cutting him would cost the Jaguars nearly $34 million against the cap and trading him before June would cost nearly $19 million.
It’s not unlike the situation Jacksonville faced with Blake Bortles earlier this year. Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell gave Bortles a three-year deal worth $58 million in 2018, months after making the AFC title game. Bortles fizzled last season and is now counting $15.5 million against the cap — the largest dead-money hit in NFL history.
Foles was supposed to end the franchise’s decades-long search for a QB. Now, it looks more likely to be Minshew.
Marrone said Minshew’s mobility and elusiveness give the Jaguars (4-8) a better chance to win down the stretch. It was the polite way of saying Jacksonville’s offensive line, receivers and tight ends aren’t doing their part.
“It’s really a lot of things,” Marrone said. “You’ve got to get open. You’ve got to protect. ... We’ve got to be able to run the ball better. There’s a lot of things that come into it. ... It’s not the way we want to be playing.”
Minshew Mania is the only thing that could possibly help Jacksonville avoid a half-empty stadium against the Chargers (4-8), who have lost three straight.
The rookie nicknamed the “Mississippi Mustache” wasn’t great in his last start, a 26-3 loss to AFC South-leading Houston in London last month, but he also was dealing with some shoulder soreness and recovering from a knee sprain.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Jaguars were flagged a season-high 16 times for 125 yards against the Buccaneers, including five on special teams.
Jacksonville has a league-high 105 penalties and five games with double-digit flags. Marrone’s team has been flagged a combined 27 times for 229 yards the past two weeks.
“I can tell you this firsthand, it’s hurting us from winning games,” Marrone said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
Defensive end Josh Allen, the seventh overall pick in the draft, broke the franchise record for sacks by a rookie with his ninth against the Bucs. Yannick Ngakoue held the previous mark of eight, set in 2016.
Allen has four games to reach double digits.
“I feel like I can go week-in and week-out where nobody can cover me, block me and try to have that mindset every week,” he said. “I’m going to continue that throughout the rest of my career and try to get better for myself and my teammates.”
Marrone called out his offensive line again Monday, saying it hasn’t been good enough for Jacksonville to be more effective on offense. Tackles Jawaan Taylor and Cam Robinson are getting beat routinely, and the line has been penalized 42 times.
The Jaguars hope to get safety Ronnie Harrison (concussion) and linebacker Myles Jack (knee) back against the Chargers.
82 — points the Jaguars have been outscored by during their four-game skid.
Work on team chemistry, which seemingly fractured with the team’s 18th loss in its past 24 games. Teammates had to pull Ngakoue away from others when the locker room opened following the game Sunday, and shouting could be heard in the shower. Veteran defensive end Calais Campbell also tried to calm down receiver Keelan Cole, who kept barking at media members.
“There’s a part of you that says, ‘Hey, at least they damn care, at least they show that,’” Marrone said. “But then there’s another part of you saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got to be smarter than that and channel that energy.’ I think that’s the way we have to go.”