Doug Marrone’s Decision to Give Gardner Minshew Live Practice Reps As Backup Is Unprecedented
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When Jacksonville Jaguars made the move to bench starting quarterback Nick Foles for Gardner Minshew II at halftime of the team's Week 13 game vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and then officially doing so for the rest of the season the next day, it was clear where Marrone stood between the two passers.
But maybe what Marrone and others have said since the Sunday's game ended has said even more.
“We’ve been working with him extra. We liked him, like I said before, so we got him extra work after practice working on the things that he needs to improve on," Marrone said during his postgame press conference following the 29-11 loss. "We didn’t want to just stop his development, and a lot of times that happens when you’re not playing, so we tried to do the extra things with him to keep him going and then our focus was on getting Nick [Foles] comfortable and getting him ready to play and win games.”
As Minshew explained after the game, the extra reps were an entire full period. Marrone said during his Wednesday press conference at TIAA Bank Field that these reps included 3rd down work on Thursday's and red-zone work on Fridays.
"We know he can extend plays; we know he can run. Now we just want to get him on the different types of coverages that he might not have seen in college as much," Marrone said. "And then like I said, Thursday, we spent all these Thursdays working on third downs and all these Fridays we’re on red-zone for him, so I think that’s going to help him."
Giving the backup quarterback live reps during practice is unprecedented in the NFL, to say the least. There are typically not many practice reps to begin with so the starting quarterback gets the vast majority of them.
And as Jaguars offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said Thursday, it was the first time in his career that he had ever done that; and he credited Marrone for the idea.
"Coach Marrone did a great job, and it’s something I’d never done before which I’m going to always put back in my memory bank. He had a great idea," DeFilippo said during his press conference at TIAA Bank Field.
"We gave Gardner extra reps with practice squad guys and took him through the red zone script, and the third down script and those things so we could keep him going. I thought that was a great idea by Coach Marrone. I know it only sounds like, that was eight reps a day, but that’s a decent amount of reps in an NFL practice, so I think he still homed in on his skills while he was number two.”
Marrone's decision to continue the development of his rookie quarterback despite Foles returning from the injured reserve is interesting on the surface and curious when you dive even deeper into it. This is something that simply doesn't happen at the NFL level, but Marrone decided to go with it for the sake of Minshew.
Did Marrone always want Minshew to remain as the team's starter? That will likely never be publicly known. But if the practice reps given to Minshew by Marrone are any indication of Marrone's confidence and trust in Minshew, it is fair to say the rookie has a fan in his head coach.