It was easy to make the connection between the Indianapolis Colts and Gardner Minshew this offseason.
The 26-year-old quarterback played in new Colts head coach Shane Steichen’s offense for the last two years with the Philadelphia Eagles. And the fan favorite seems to have just the right mix of on-field experience and off-field personality to serve as an ideal bridge to the rookie expected to be drafted next month.
But Minshew is quick to warn against making assumptions.
He’s happy to reunite with Steichen and excited about the possibilities in Indianapolis. He’s also playing on a one-year, incentive-laden contract and taking nothing for granted.
“I really don’t have any expectations,” Minshew said Friday during a video conference call. “I’ve come here to work hard and to have fun. I think if we do that every day, we’re going to end up in a good place. Just get better every day, and we’ll end up where we do.”
Minshew has largely exceeded expectations since being drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the sixth round out of Washington State in 2019. He’s made 24 starts over four seasons with the Jaguars and Eagles and completed 62.8% of his passes for 6,632 yards with 44 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
He won fans over with a unique fashion sense that favors jean shorts, some iconic facial hair, an outgoing personality and an often electric playing style. But he’s never been given the keys to a franchise.
“Minshew Mania” was ignited during his rookie season when he went 6-6 in place of an injured Nick Foles. In 2020, however, Minshew was just 1-7 as a starter and lost time to veteran Mike Glennon and rookie Jake Luton.
The Jaguars finished 1-15 and drafted former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick. That paved the way for Minshew’s exit, and he was traded to Philadelphia just before the start of the 2021 regular season.
As a backup to Jalen Hurts in Philly, Minshew was 1-3 over the past two seasons while getting an up-close look at Steichen’s coaching style.
“Fired up to be working with Shane again,” Minshew said. “He’s a guy I have a ton of respect for, not only as a coach but just as a guy. I’m really excited for how he’s going to be as a head coach.”
Honesty is one of the biggest selling points for Steichen in Minshew’s eyes.
According to the quarterback, there is no pretense with the Colts head coach. He makes genuine connections with his players that translate to the game on the field.
“He tells it like it is,” Minshew said. “He’s himself all the time. I think that allows for open and honest communication, especially in the quarterback room — and that’s imperative. The connection between the quarterback and the play caller — you really have to understand not only what he’s calling but why he’s calling it. I think that’s huge.”
Minshew also spent a season in Philadelphia with new Indianapolis offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.
The latter spent time early in his career as an offensive assistant with the Colts and Denver Broncos working with Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. He later spent five seasons with Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions and has helped tutor Hurts with the Eagles and Lawrence with the Jaguars over the past two seasons.
Minshew sees some of the same qualities in Cooter as Steichen.
“I have a ton of respect for how he sees the game,” Minshew said. “I really look forward to working with him. He’s obviously been around, seen a lot of things. I love how he sees the game, and it’s going to be a lot of fun to work with him and Shane.”
Exactly what that role looks like for Minshew remains to be determined.
Indianapolis is assured of starting its seventh different Week 1 quarterback in as many seasons after releasing veteran Matt Ryan earlier this week.
Minshew, Foles and third-year signal caller Sam Ehlinger are the only quarterbacks currently on the roster. Foles still is a candidate for a possible release, and a rookie could arrive as early as the No. 4 overall pick in next month’s draft.
So, while Minshew might be the betting favorite to start the season under center for now, his personal philosophy on assumptions still applies.
“Assuming is always a dangerous game,” he said. “I’ve come here to work hard and to help the team in any way I can. So, whatever that role is, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”
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