The 2020 season is now firmly in the rearview mirror. For the short and long-term future, most will remember 2020 as the year the Jaguars lost just enough to land the No. 1 overall pick. But while the future is always appealing, there is still value in learning from the past.
As a result, we are going to go through each of the Jacksonville Jaguars position groups and review the season we just saw play out. Despite Jacksonville's franchise-worst 1-15 record, some position groups still flashed impressive play. Meanwhile, others failed to take the step forward the Jaguars ultimately needed.
With this in mind, we are looking at the quarterback position for the first edition of this series.
The quarterback position has been the main focus of Jacksonville's offseason, but not because of the quarterbacks on the roster. The Jaguars' entire base has Trevor Lawrence fever and it seems like a lock the Jaguars will draft the Clemson quarterback to be their next franchise passer.
But while all of the attention is on Lawrence, it is worth examining what went wrong for the Jaguars at quarterback in 2020. There are a lot of reasons the Jaguars currently have the No. 1 overall pick, but poor play and instability at quarterback were among the most significant factors.
What the Jaguars said
“It’s been tough. I think we all know that. I think it’s been tough. It’s not necessarily from the people you’re dealing with, the players themselves. All the players have been great. They’re trying, they’re doing their best, and we’re trying to do our best to put them in that position," former Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said on December 28. "It’s just been tough when you don’t get that production out of that position. There’s been a lot of things that go into it but obviously I haven’t really had an opportunity to really have someone in that position that can really get a lot of things done. That’s not the players’ fault.”
"I sat with Doug [Marrone] for two hours after the Bears game to really [talk]. One of the things or concerns I had [was that] we’ve had six starting quarterbacks over the last three years. It’s very clear that obviously that’s been something sorely missing, how we would develop them, and what is the criteria on that," Jaguars owner Shad Khan said on January 4.
"I think obviously developing a young quarterback, we’ve been very unsuccessful at that. [The] last eight years, we haven’t had a franchise quarterback, so I think that is very, very important," Khan also said.
2020 in review
2020 stats: 216/327 passing (66.1%) for 2,259 yards, 16 touchdowns, and five interceptions. 6.9 yards per attempt, 6.23 ANY/A, 95.9 quarterback rating, 51.6 ESPN QBR. Sacked 27 times. 1-7 record as starter.
No Jaguars player had their stock fall more than Gardner Minshew in 2020, even if it wasn't quite Minshew's fault completely. The 2019 sixth-round pick entered the year as the unquestioned starter after an encouraging rookie year in which he went 6-6 as starter and broke most Jaguars rookie passing records, but he ended the 2020 season on the bench.
Despite how 2020 ended, Minshew did start the season off hot. The Jaguars scored 57 points in the first two games of the season, a span of games where they went 1-1 and lost to the Tennessee Titans by three points. In those games, Minshew had a 6:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, a 115.7 quarterback rating, 7.88 yards per attempt, 75.38% completion rate, and an average of 256 yards per game.
Minshew's play dipped over the next few games as the Jaguars continued to stack losses. In the following five games, Minshew threw just seven touchdowns and turned the ball over six times (three interceptions, three fumbles). His completion rate slid to 62.87% and his quarterback rating fell to 87.5 as the team scored just 19.4 points per game.
A good reason for this was likely a thumb injury that Minshew reportedly sustained in Week 5. Minshew had to recover from the injury once he informed the team of it, which put him on the sidelines following the team's Week 8 bye.
Minshew was inactive up until Week 13, and even then he served as Mike Glennon's backup. Minshew replaced a benched Glennon during the second half of Week 14 against the Titans and then started in Week 15 against the Ravens, but Glennon replaced him for the final two games of the year.
2020 stats: 111/179 passing (62%) for 1,072 yards, seven touchdowns, and five interceptions. 6.0 yards per attempt, 4.97 ANY/A, 80.1 quarterback rating, and 36.6 ESPN QBR. Sacked nine times. 0-5 record as starter.
Mike Glennon went from not making Jacksonville's initial 53-man roster to starting over 25% of the team's games. Signed to give the team a veteran quarterback presence behind Gardner Minshew, Glennon served as Minshew's backup for the first half of the season and then was Jake Luton's backup from Weeks 9-11.
Following Luton's four-interception performance against the Steelers, Glennon was given the starting nod over both Luton and Minshew. The Jaguars lost Glennon's first two starts by a combined five points, but he had three turnovers to go with three touchdowns. Somewhat predictably, the trains came off the offense under Glennon in Week 14 against the Titans as he completed just 3.7 yards per attempt before being benched for Minshew shortly after the start of the second half.
Glennon was given another crack at the starting job over the final two weeks of the season, but this seemed much more like a personal preference of the Jaguars' coaching staff for Glennon's pocket passer style over Minshew's mobility.
The Jaguars were blown out in Glennon's final two starts, losing by 24 and 14 points. He gave the Jaguars a few bright spots, but ultimately he didn't give them any consistent stretches of play that could be deemed quality quarterbacking.
2020 stats: 60/110 passing (54.5%) for 624 yards, two touchdowns, and six interceptions. 5.7 yards per attempt, 2.92 ANY/A, 54.5 quarterback rating, 40.3 ESPN QBR. Sacked seven times. 0-3 record as starter.
The Jaguars wanted to see what they had in rookie sixth-round quarterback Jake Luton once Minshew was first injured. Considering the success the Jaguars had with a rookie quarterback the previous year, it is understandable for the Jaguars to try to replicate it with Luton.
Jacksonville more or less got what they asked for. Luton showed a big arm and genuinely made some impressive throws in his three starts, with his first start featuring him throwing for over 300 yards and delivering two huge touchdowns in a close loss. His next start against Green Bay showed a lot of missed chances and errant throws, however.
Then Luton's last appearance came against the then-undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers. Luton completed just 43.24% of his passes and threw four interceptions in a blowout loss, resulting in him losing his job to Glennon and eventually lose the backup job to Minshew.
Outlook for 2021
At this point it is a legitimate question if any of the three quarterbacks from the 2020 roster will be on the opening day roster in 2021. Trevor Lawrence, or whoever else the Jaguars draft at No. 1 overall, will be the team's starting quarterback the second he steps foot into the team's facilities.
But what about the rookie passer's backup? That still needs sorting out. It is hard to make an argument for Luton as a QB2 after what he showed as a rookie, while Glennon seems like a cheap option with no real upside. There aren't many quality backups quarterbacks in the NFL, but surely Glennon could be upgraded from.
The Jaguars could keep Minshew as a cheap and experienced backup as well. He still has two years left on his rookie deal and could start for the team in a pinch if ever needed. If the Jaguars get any serious inquires into his services this offseason, maybe that changes.