EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.- There is no denying that Gardner Minshew was fun to watch, for both players and fans alike on Sunday.
The Eagles' backup quarterback, who sparked a 33-18 win over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium, peppers some of his sentences with “dude” and there is still a leftover trace of an accent learned during his Mississippi upbringing.
He went to the postgame interview room looking like he had just stepped off the set of a Top Gun sequel wearing a brown leather, bomber jacket with a fuzzy collar and an Eagles logo embroidered on the right side, over his heart. And there's the mustache that runs past his lower lip, stretching toward his jawline.
His teammate called him a character.
To most everyone else in Philadelphia, he was a curiosity, someone who hadn’t been seen or heard since the Eagles acquired him from the Jacksonville Jaguars on Aug. 28, except for one introductory news conference.
So, what did we learn?
He’s a pretty decent backup quarterback.
Maybe he can even be a starter, but it won’t be this season.
Head coach Nick Sirianni shot down any quarterback controversy when he said Jalen Hurts will remain his guy when he is able to return from a sprained left ankle suffered a week earlier in the second half of a loss to the New York Giants, also at MetLife Stadium.
Maybe Minshew gets a shot to wrest the job away from Hurts in an open competition next summer.
There aren’t many quarterbacks in team history who played first halves with a perfect passer rating of 158.3 as Minshew did. on Sunday.
In fact, only three others have: Nick Foles (Nov. 3, 2013, at Oakland), Michael Vick (Nov. 15, 2010, at Washington), and Donovan McNabb (Sept. 23, 2007, vs. Detroit).
He’s funny, in a charming, goofball sort of way.
Oh, but there’s a serious side to him as well. He wants to be the starter, here, there, anywhere.
“I think anyone that’s halfway competitive wants to play,” he said. “That’s what’s fun. That’s why you play the game, but I know whatever role I’m in I’m going to give it 110 percent and do whatever I can for the team.”
He added, “When you’re in there, you’re the quarterback. I don’t think you think of it as a backup or anything else. You’re just the guy. I was grateful for the opportunity.”
In the huddle, he can be a wise-cracking jokester.
Like the fourth-and-one QB sneak that was ruled short but reversed on a challenge from head coach Nick Sirianni.
Running back Miles Sanders gave the QB a nudge from behind on the play then when he brought it up, Minshew said to him, “Maybe it’s just because I’m strong as hell.”
“Gardner is a character,” said Sanders, who ran for 120 yards to complement his QB, which was just three years away from breaking his career-high. “…he loves to compete, and you can see it. He took this game very seriously. He didn’t come in as a backup. He looked at it as though he was the guy. And that’s what I expect out of him. He got us a ‘W’ today.”
Dallas Goedert was familiar with Minshew since he entered the league as a sixth-round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019.
“Ever since Gardner got into the league, I enjoyed watching him play,” said the tight end who was on the receiving end of two touchdowns throws from Minshew, covering 36 and 25 yards.
“When he was in Jacksonville, all the stories you hear, all the things that he said in the media ever since he got here, I had some questions: Do you prepare for that stuff? Or are you just that witty all the time when the questions come? … It’s been awesome just having him here. He’s a funny guy. He’s a great guy. Everything that you expect from Gardner, he is. He’s a character, an awesome guy, happy guy.”
The personality difference between Minshew and Jalen Hurts is night and day as are their games, with Hurts a threat with his legs and Minshew seeming to be a better midrange thrower - at least for now.
Hurts is all business, steeped in cliches such as rent being due and daily deposits, and very straightforward in his new conferences. He has every intangible a team can want, and is a born leader.
Minshew’s approach is much different.
“I’m always dead serious all the time,” said Minshew with a straight face that is, in part covered with that moustache. “I would never, ever joke, especially in a game…Nah, I like to have fun.”
Minshew left the field bouncing, with a face that alternated between smiles and intensity.
As he got closer to the tunnel, a fan approached him, a fan who looked just like, well, Minshew. At least he was trying to, with a headband and moustache.
The fan handed Minshew a poster to sign.
“Hell, yeah man, it’s awesome dude,” said Minshew of the fan experience. “We have great fans here. Every time we travel, they show up and show out. It’s been a lot of fun and having the reception we had today was awesome. By the second half it felt like a pretty good home game there.”
Minshew added that he had seen the same fan at other games.
“Dude, I kind of developed a relationship with him because he always wore a Jim McMahon Eagles jersey and I thought that was so cool,” said the QB. “He had a headband and a cool mustache, too, so naturally we would get together.”
Minshew will likely be put back in mothballs because the expectation is Hurts will be ready to play when the Eagles take the field again in two weeks.
The backup, though, is no longer a curiosity.
We know more about him now, and like what we saw, and chances are good that we haven’t seen or heard the last of him.
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.