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Jaguars couldn’t pass up this tantalizing Nick Foles opportunity

It shouldn’t take long for Doug Marrone to know whether or not he made the right decision.

The Jaguars coach had made it a point not to pore over the decision about whether to start Nick Foles when he was healthy again or stay with popular backup Gardner Minshew. Marrone, adamant about staying focused on the games in front of him, said when it was time, the quarterback answer would come to him.

In the days leading into the Jags’ bye last week, Marrone decided Foles, whose Jaguars career was rudely interrupted just 11 plays into the season opener when he suffered a broken collarbone, would get his starting job back, beginning with Sunday’s pivotal game at Indianapolis.

Minshew, a rookie, did a more-than-admirable job filling in for Foles, posting a 4-4 record. He, too, became somewhat of a cult figure in Jacksonville and around the league for his thick mustache and quirkiness.

But the 4-5 Jaguars spent $88 million on Foles, just two years removed from being named the MVP of the Super Bowl, for a reason: to get them to the playoffs and a Super Bowl. They’d gotten as far as the AFC Championship two seasons ago, but quarterback play kept them from getting to the ultimate game.

Nick Foles
Nick FolesGetty Images

Though Jaguars players, like the team’s fans, grew to adore Minshew, they recognize why Foles was brought to the team.

“He is a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, of course we feel confident,” receiver Keelan Cole told reporters during the week.

The Jaguars are hoping history repeats itself for Foles, who forged a reputation as for being a clutch, second-half-of-the-season performer while in Philadelphia.

In 2017, Foles relieved Eagles injured starter Carson Wentz and led Philadelphia to a Super Bowl LII title. He, too, replaced Wentz last season and led the Eagles to the playoffs.

Over the past four seasons, Foles has a 10-2 record as a starter in November or later, including playoffs.

The Jaguars are in the thick of the AFC playoff race and have the easiest remaining schedule among AFC South teams, with opponents having a combined .431 winning percentage.

Minshew, an afterthought when the season began, performed better than anyone could have expected, throwing for 2,285 yards and 13 touchdowns to just four interceptions. He was dynamic with his elusiveness in and out of the pocket.

But his 11 fumbles leads the NFL and his seven lost fumbles are second-most in the league. The Jaguars, too, have been terrible converting touchdowns in the red zone. They’re the only team in the NFL averaging 350-plus yards per game but fewer than 20 points per game.

So, re-enter Foles.

“I have nothing but faith in Nick,” defensive end Calais Campbell told reporters during the week. “His work ethic, the way he prepares, I have nothing but respect for him.”

Colts coach Frank Reich was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator their Super Bowl season when Foles replaced Wentz.

“I have the utmost respect for him,” Reich told reporters. “He is an elite deep-ball thrower, very smart, can make all the throws, a great leader and really a good quarterback. So, this is a good test for us.”

It, too, is a good test for Marrone to see whether his quarterback decision was the right one.