By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s pretty amazing that despite following this league 24/7/365, despite roughly 1,700 players being on active rosters at any given moment, and despite endless hype on social media and everywhere, we still manage to get new NFL stories that are really difficult to believe.
The latest entry into that category would be the fascinating tale of Gardner Minshew, a 23-year-old out of Flowood, Mississippi, who will be quarterbacking the Jacksonville Jaguars for the foreseeable future.
For starters, he looks like this, which is pretty badass.
— Phillip Heilman (@phillip_heilman) September 11, 2019
If you’re not a college football fan/if you like to actually go to sleep on Saturday nights, you may have first learned who he was during the preseason … when this happened to him.
Boom! "Welcome to the NFL". Kenny Young säger hej till Gardner Minshew. pic.twitter.com/PvpzEheMOt
— Magnus Adolfsson (@magnus_nfls) August 9, 2019
(I can only assume “sager hej till” means “nearly lost head” in Swedish.)
Turns out, the fella had a pretty interesting story prior to being on the wrong end of that devastating hit.
He originally set out to play for Troy, but transferred to Northwest Mississippi Community College after one semester. At NMCC, he led his team to a national championship, throwing for 421 yards with five touchdowns and no picks in the title game. (That was the year that East Mississippi Community College was banned from the playoffs, as “Last Chance U” viewers certainly recall.)
Minshew transferred to East Carolina, where he put up some decent stats in his 17 games played. Having wrapped up his bachelor’s degree, Minshew was all ready to head to Alabama as a graduate student, where was going to be the backup to Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, a low-stress quarterbacking job to eventually help him get a graduate assistant job with Nick Saban. That’s not a bad plan for a young man who loves football.
But then, someone else who loves football came calling. Mike Leach dialed up Minshew and asked a simple question: “So do you want to come lead the country in passing?”
Minshew took him up on the offer at Washington State, though he came just shy of leading the nation in passing, finishing the 2018 season with just 52 fewer yards than Dwayne Haskins. Minshew did lead the nation in completions, and he was fourth in touchdown passes, helping the Cougars to an 11-2 record and an Alamo Bowl victory. The Mustache Sensation was very real.
Mike Leach on Gardner Minshew’s mustache: pic.twitter.com/OvdfOSEFEv
— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) November 10, 2018
As a result of that season, Minshew went from life as a graduate assistant to an NFL draft prospect. The Jaguars drafted him in the sixth round, without much fanfare.
Yet in an instant, Gardner Minshew’s football life took another sharp turn, when Nick Foles suffered a broken clavicle early in Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs. Just like that, Minshew was an NFL quarterback, playing against the defending AFC West champs, with millions watching.
That was a surprising enough twist. But most shocking of all, Minshew actually balled out. He completed an absurd 22 of his 25 passes (88 percent) for 275 yards and two touchdowns. He did throw a pick, technically, but did he really?
You asked for it, #ChiefsKingdom
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) September 10, 2019
No, he did not really.
And in what was a perfect ending to that whirlwind day, most people didn’t even see it happen. Most of the fans left the Florida heat early, on account of the Chiefs blowing out the home team, and technical problems prevented the fourth quarter from even being broadcast.
Kind of a perfectly crazy turn for what has been a crazy career path.
So before we dive into the Week 2 picks, let’s first celebrate one quote from Minshew regarding his stretching routine. Context is not needed.
“He came in the locker room looking for me, and I’m doing my bands in the jockstrap and I’ve got my shades on and my headband still on and he just comes in, looks and says, ‘Steve, just tell him I said good game.'”
“I’m doing my bands in the jockstrap and I’ve got my shades on and my headband still on.”
Minshew probably never set out to establish a brand. But he’s well on his way now.
OK, time for picks.
(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)
CAROLINA (-6.5) over Tampa Bay
I’ve been watching a lot of that “All Or Nothing” show and the thing that show does really well is show just how mediocre the Carolina Panthers are. It makes sense that they lost the Super Bowl after going 15-1 in 2015, because they were clearly flying over their skis. The all-time franchise record is 190-194-1. Their playoff record is 9-8. They are doomed for an eternity of mediocrity. It’s really something.
The Bucs, though, wish they were mediocre. Instead, they’ve got Jameis Winston.
CINCINNATI (-1.5) over San Francisco
The Niners are starting the season with two games far from home. That’s probably less than ideal.
Just to come out front with this, I’ll tell you, it’s going to be difficult for me to assess the Bengals this year, because I can’t even utter the word “Cincinnati Bengals” without falling asleep. I’m going to try to persevere, but it won’t be easy. I thank you in advance for your understanding.
New England (-19) over MIAMI
What a tough line. On the one hand, Miami just lost by 49 points, and their quarterback is Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the players who weren’t lucky enough to get dumped to other teams all want to leave.
On the other hand, the Dolphins clearly had no idea that Lamar Jackson could throw the ball down the football field. They set up in a certain defense and got burned. Chances are, they’ll have something better planned for Tom Brady and Co., considering Brian Flores and half of his coaching staff knows the Patriots inside and out.
But … I’m not sure the Dolphins will score. Maybe they’ll get a couple of field goals. But Ryan Fitzpatrick is bad. Real bad. As a team they rushed for 21 yards. And their special teams were a mess, too.
The Patriots won’t win by 50. But they’ll win by 30.
Dallas (-4.5) over WASHINGTON
Boy, do I hope that Dallas is actually good this year. The league is more fun to watch when Dallas is good.
Meanwhile, the Redskins deserve severe punishment for scoring a meaningless touchdown to cover the spread with 12 seconds left last week. Just rude.
Los Angeles Chargers (-2.5) over DETROIT
If ever there was a team that really could have used the pick-me-up of a Week 1 win, it was probably Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions. Alas, a blown lead and a tie is going to have a lingering effect.
NEW YORK GIANTS (+1.5) over Buffalo
There’s not a lot going on here.
Minnesota (+3) over GREEN BAY
I was in a wait-and-see mode with Matt LaFleur. Maybe he had some special things planned for his NFL debut on national television. But if that’s the best he’s got? Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
TENNESSEE (-3) over Indianapolis
Similar to the Lions, the Colts could have really used that Week 1 boost after a rather tumultuous end to their preseason. Alas. Seventy-five-yard overtime drives will get you every time.
Arizona (+13) over BALTIMORE
Come on. Thirteen points? Even against the Cardinals, who have stunk and will forever stink? Don’t be so rude.
Jacksonville (+8.5) over HOUSTON
What, did you not read the intro? You can’t bet against Gardner Minshew. Can’t be done.
I do actually harbor great concern about the Jaguars, who somehow entered the season without any ability to display any sort of composure. Any time your defensive captain gets ejected for punching a helmet in the first half of the first game of the season, things aren’t quite right with the collective mind-set of the team. As such, I’m one and a half steps out on Doug Marrone. One more gruesome week, and this #JagsTrain will be empty. For now, with plenty of legroom, I’m staying on board.
Seattle (+4) over PITTSBURGH
I think … the Steelers … who didn’t make the playoffs last year … might be … bad?
Kansas City (-7.5) over OAKLAND
I think … the Chiefs … who came up just a hair short of the Super Bowl last year … might be … not bad?
Chicago (-2.5) over DENVER
We should all be fortunate enough to find something we love as much as Joe Flacco loves hitting the deck to take a third-down sack.
LOS ANGELES RAMS (-2.5) over New Orleans
I ffffeeeeeeeeeeel … OK now help me out here … because I ffffffffffffffffeel … I feel as though these two teams played each other recently. Yeah? I vaguely recall something like that happening on my television within the past nine months or so. It’s foggy and fuzzy, honestly. But I think it did happen.
Will be interesting to see if the best team can win!
Philadelphia (-1.5) over ATLANTA
Cleveland (-2.5) over NEW YORK JETS
It’s probably time that I address last week’s record, considering we are nearing the portion of the program where I reveal the wins and losses, the hits and misses, the successes and failures of yours truly.
The thing is, with Week 1, a realistic hope is to come out with an 8-8 record. It’s tough to predict Week 1, I’ll tell you that. It’s tough. Preseason results are more than meaningless, and last year might as well be 1996. The only week tougher than Week 1 is Week 2, when you have to be careful to not overreact to the events of Week 1, thus putting you in a real big hole. It’s especially important to not overreact in Week 2 if a team really stuck it to you good in Week 1, because half of those teams are going to respond with big wins in Week 2.
So … with that being said … I am NEVER PICKING THE ATLANTA FALCONS EVER AGAIN. And THE NEW YORK JETS STINK.
And that is how you restrain yourself from overreacting.
Lesson over, kids.
Last week: 6-10
Consolation: Multiple members of my family swear that I’m a swell guy and I’m occasionally punctual.