How Does Gardner Minshew Hone His Skills During the Offseason? Let QB Coach Ken Mastrole Explain
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew caught the attention of many when he announced he would kick off his offseason with an RV trip around the country. The jorts and mustache would go coast to coast to celebrate the end of Minshew's rookie season, finally giving him a chance to breathe after a nonstop period of months that included his senior college football season, preparing for the NFL draft, training camp, and then a rookie year in which he started 12 games.
But after taking some time to recharge himself, it was right back into the lab for the 23-year old passer. Like past years, Minshew has opted to use the spring to make himself better, not leaving his improvement up to the grueling training camp and OTA practices later in the year.
The person Minshew turns to when it comes to offseason training regiments that include film study, motion-specific exercises, and 3D motion principles is the same man Minshew has worked with for the past several years — former University of Maryland and NFL quarterback Ken Mastrole.
"I have been working with him since basically his time at East Carolina. So before he started like his junior year, he actually came down for the first time," Mastrole told JaguarReport.
"I think he came down two separate times during that and then we spent a lot of time in the offseason when he went to Washington State, and then obviously we worked together through the draft. So we have been together for a while. I have gotten to really know him really well."
Mastrole runs the Mastrole Quarterback Academy in Naples, Florida, where Minshew and countless other quarterbacks spend weeks throughout the year in hopes of bettering themselves away from the games. Mastrole has worked with quarterbacks such as Teddy Bridgewater, Jacoby Brissett, E.J. Manuel, and several others in the past, making Minshew just one of the latest of his pupils that he has helped find NFL success.
"He has come back every year and we have seen improvements, whether it be in like creating new ways to train or to develop," Mastrole said. "It is funny, I show guys the videos from before and after from when Gardner first came down from East Carolina to now in terms of like his release times, his velocity, and just his mechanics have really kind of tightened up and became more efficient.
"We show him the way, but the thing is that he put the work in. He constantly does it."
Minshew has been working with Mastrole for the past few weeks, with Minshew landing right back in Naples following his RV adventure. The two plan to work through March, giving Minshew enough time to work on the little parts of his game before he returns to Jacksonville.
"He did it right. He took a month off and just shut it down. Like, just no football," Mastrole said. "And I think that is what you got to do because you are on the go for so long."
When the two work together, Mastrole doesn't attempt to delve into the specific things the Jaguars' coaching staff or scheme may ask Minshew to do. Instead, he serves as a sounding board for Minshew and tries to help him become more efficient and effective in what he does.
The two break down film together, allowing Minshew to grow not only the physical part of his game but the mental part as well. Mastrole will watch film of Minshew's movements and breakdown the intricacies of his movements and where he can possibly clean something up, even marginally.
"What we try to go back to is like each week we are going to go in and I will video analyze him," Mastrole said. "Like I am going to look at just inconsistencies maybe in where he is maybe getting too broad of a base or some things are getting kind of inconsistent, but not taking away his playmaking ability, whether it be footwork in the pocket or anything like that .
"What I try to do is just look at it like, alright, here is a guy that is going to throw 10,000 balls throughout the course of a 16-game season, plus possibly playoffs, plus four weeks of preseason, plus OTAs. So there is a lot of wear and tear on your arm because you throwing basically a 15-ounce implement like all year round," Mastrole said. "And yes you are doing training, but we have to make sure that he is not breaking down late on in the season."
Minshew and Mastrole also use methods such as block training, in which Mastrole and the academy isolate specific quarterback movements and sequences. The two then proceed to go through drills to help these movements become more crisp and tight. They then go through a weighted ball program and eventually work on the whiteboard.
"I am more about how does he chunk information, how does he process, what are some things he can do in his film study preparation, note-taking," Mastrole said. "Those are things that I have like taken from a collective group of people, from coaches at the NFL level to players, and then I have tried to apply that to his preparation."
Everything the two work on together has a rhyme and reason to it, with no drill or breakdown being random or unproven, Mastrole said. This goes a long way for each party, with Minshew being given the tools to succeed and Mastrole being able to track tangible progress in his quarterbacks.
"All the things that we do have all been tested from medical review boards, from training, and there are numbers behind it. I mean, the numbers don’t lie. It is not something we just makeup on the street and say ‘Oh, this worked for me when I played,'" Mastrole said.
"When we are doing weighted balls, we are doing bands, we are doing certain rotational exercises, it is all stuff that numerous quarterbacks have done and have been tested and put through 3D motion on. It is tried and true."
This year, the two will build upon what Minshew did as a rookie when he went 6-6 as a starter and threw 21 touchdowns. Minshew's ability to step into the Jaguars' offense right away and not look like he was lagging behind mentally isn't something that surprised Mastrole in the slightest. Instead, Minshew's mental readiness is actually something Mastrole gushed to teams about before the draft.
"The whole time, I was telling coaches and people that this a guy that absolutely loves football," Mastrole said.
"Going into the draft, another thing I will add is I told Gardner, and I told several other coaches, I said out of all the guys I have done this with for the last eight years, from the Teddy Bridgewaters to Jacoby Brissett to all these different guys, I said this guy is so dialed in in terms of when he goes in, he is going to be mentally ready. I think that is a big hurdle for a lot of these players that walk in."
While the competitor in Mastrole would always like to see his quarterbacks get drafted highly, he was happy to see Minshew land in Jacksonville, a situation he thought was the best possible one for the passer out of Washington State. Mastrole's feeling went on to be proven right as Minshew won more games than any other rookie passer and has now given the Jaguars a potential answer at quarterback.
"Playing in Jacksonville, playing behind Foles, I thought if he could win that No. 2 job, he would be in a great situation," he said. "At the end of the day, I was extremely happy. I think for anybody, just the ability to get drafted and the situation that he went to, I was excited for him."
The duo will work together for the next several weeks, giving Minshew all the tools he needs to enter what will be a pivotal offseason with the Jaguars. While this time period is plenty of hard work, Mastrole has come to appreciate the attitude Minshew brings to the sessions, as well as the genuineness he displays each and every day.
While the work done at Mastrole Quarterback Academy is meant to develop Minshew and help him sharpen his skills, he isn't the only one learning. The two have developed a relationship that lets them talk things out with each other, helping each grow their knowledge and love of the game.
"For me, it is just awesome because he is such a good dude. He is a person that makes you better and when you get someone like that, it makes it a lot more enjoyable," Mastrole said. "That is the best part."