After revealing Gardner Minshew was playing with a broken thumb, the Jaguars are not hiding that they’re tanking with the decision to start Jake Luton
Last week, during their bye week, the Jacksonville Jaguars revealed quarterback Gardner Minshew had been playing with multiple fractures and a strained ligament in his thumb. He will be out for Week 9 (and surely beyond), and on Monday ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Jaguars are expected to start rookie Jake Luton against the Houston Texans on Sunday.
The Jaguars were apparently not aware Minshew had been playing with his thumb injury since the first game against Houston in Week 5. His play fell off a bit the following week against the Detroit Lions, which lead to talk of benching him, then Week 7 against the Chargers was not great (14-for-27 for 173 yards and two touchdowns). Yet no coaches saw signs that Minshew was compromised physically, as his completion rate fell below 60 percent in both of the latter two games.
With Glennon and Luton as the other options, it’s a distinction without a difference in terms of replacing Minshew with a lesser option. But Glennon has at least started NFL games, 22 to be exact with a 6-16 record, while Luton didn’t have the benefit of preseason games to get up to speed.
So who is Jake Luton?
The Jaguars took Luton in the sixth round of this year’s draft (189th overall). He started his college career at Idaho, before transferring to Oregon State and starting 20 of his 23 games there. In 2019, Luton was one of three FBS quarterbacks (Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Fields were the others) with 20-plus touchdown passes and three or fewer interceptions (28 touchdowns and three interceptions).
Luton is big (6-foot-6, 224 pounds), and he’s sufficiently accurate (62 percent completion rate last year) and mobile in theory. Pro Football Focus graded him out well as a college quarterback, in a broad sense. But PFF gave him a lowly 35.8 percent completion rate when under pressure over his three seasons at Oregon State. That was of course mostly against the Pac-12, with at least one soft non-conference opponent each of those years.
At 1-6 and with a six-game losing streak going, the Jaguars might as well go all-in and try to finish 1-15. Continue to play Minshew, if he had been healthy (wink, wink), had a chance to yield just enough wins to push them out of the top-5 in next April’s draft. Starting Luton for the rest of the season is a better path to accomplishing a certain goal, even with head coach Doug Marrone surely gone after the season. Some might call it “Tank For Trevor”, or “Be Futile For Fields.”