Winners And Losers From Jaguars' Let Down vs. Buccaneers

John Shipley

Well, the Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8) are officially on the path to their eighth non-winning football season in the last nine seasons (8-8 or worse) after they fell 28-11 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at TIAA Bank Field on Sunday. Once again, a season has gone sideways, only this time with a bit more flair.

After a disastrous first half, which saw the Jaguars fall into a 25-0 hole thanks to three turnovers and three consecutive three-and-outs, Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone pulled the plug on starting quarterback Nick Foles and let rookie Gardner Minshew II once again take the reins of the offense.  

From this point on, the offense, defense, and even the special teams unit played better. There is no great explanation for why other than Minshew provided energy to the sideline and stadium. Following what we saw Sunday, countless questions loom over the franchise at really every single level. But until those are answered, we will examine who came out of Sunday a winner and who was setback.

Winner: QB Gardner Minshew

This one is as obvious as obvious gets. Minshew started eight games for Jacksonville after Foles was injured in Week 1 and went 4-4 in the process, but he was benched after an awful game against the Houston Texans in Week 9, with the thought process being that Foles' veteran experience would help the offense in the red-zone and cut down on turnovers.

None of that happened though and it all came to a head on Sunday. Minshew didn't play particularly well against the Buccaneers, but he was noticeably more effective than Foles was on Sunday or at any other point in the last month. Minshew at least giving Jacksonville a chance to get in the game on Sunday shows why he is likely going to remain the starting quarterback over the final month, and why he is a big winner from Sunday.

Loser: QB Nick Foles

Aside from a beautiful touchdown to DJ Chark in Week 1 of the 2019 season, Foles has never looked like the franchise quarterback the Jaguars paid him to be. On Sunday, with Jacksonville desperately needing Foles to turn a corner, he regressed even more and turned the ball over on each of his first three possessions, which led to 22 Buccaneers points.

Foles' lack of mobility and awareness was staggering but somehow not too unsurprising. They are the same traits that have hindered him in past games with the Jaguars and the large reason why Minshew is a better option today and moving forward. Foles simply hasn't gotten the job done, and the fact that head coach Doug Marrone was willing to bench him so quickly in his return to the lineup is a testament to how fractured the situation has become.

Winner: LB Donald Payne

Before Sunday's game, third-year linebacker Donald Payne had only played 10 career defensive snaps, with seven of those coming in Week 12. Starting in place of an injured Myles Jack at middle linebacker, Payne put the rest some of the concerns people had with his inexperience on his way to a 13-tackle performance, which led the team. Payne also registered a sack and nearly had his first career interception in the red-zone as the Buccaneers were driving. 

Payne wasn't perfect considering he had a poor rep on Peyton Barber's 15-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but he looked better than many expected and inspired more confidence in Jacksonville's linebacker depth.

Loser: RB Leonard Fournette

Leonard Fournette entered Sunday's game only 49 yards away from eclipsing the 1,000-yard rushing mark in 2019, but he left Sunday still looking to join the club after totaling only 38 yards on 14 carries. It was the sixth time in Fournette's career that he finished a game with less than 40 yards rushing, but Sunday was frustrating considering the fact that Fournette was running well early on, totaling 33 yards on his first eight carries.

The Jaguars going into a 25-0 hole thanks to Foles' turnovers obviously didn't help matters, but for whatever reason, the running game fell off of a cliff with Minshew in the game even though they still tried to get Fournette involved.

Winner: Doug Marrone

Marrone shouldn't get a free pass for the failure of the 2019 season, even though he has been dealt a tough hand. His best player, cornerback Jalen Ramsey, forced his way out of town thanks to issues with the front office and said front office has repeatedly made decisions over the last two seasons that have made Marrone's team weaker and increasingly difficult to win with.

But on Sunday, it appeared as if Marrone took a stand for himself and his team when he benched Foles for Minshew. Many doubted the organization would ever bench a healthy Foles considering his four-year, $88 million contract, but Marrone put that doubt to bed and it didn't seem like he had any regrets about doing so when he spoke to the media after the game. 

Marrone will have a strange legacy in Jacksonville when his time is up, which will likely be sooner than later. But on Sunday, he took a stand for what he thought was best.

Loser: Jaguars Front Office

Jacksonville's front office tandem of executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin and general manager Dave Caldwell hedged their bets on Foles being quarterback upgrade the roster needed to get back to the playoffs after a disastrous 2018 season. As we have seen, that was a bad bet. That bet was made to look even worse on Sunday, drawing into question if the duo really knows what is best for Jacksonville. 

After all, when the quarterback the two guaranteed over $50 million to, the largest contract guarantee in franchise history, is unable to perform better than a sixth-round quarterback at any point in the season, someone needs to shoulder the blame. At the end of the day, Coughlin and Caldwell thought Foles would be the final piece to the puzzle and bid against themselves to obtain him. The decision looked bad in March but now? It looks like potentially the most short-sighted move in team history.