In this absolutely crazy fairy tale of a season, perhaps nothing is as stunning as the ascension of Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew II.
Everyone knows he was Supposed To Go To Alabama And Learn From Nick Saban™, but the part that I think is underplayed is that he left a horrible program at East Carolina — his third school — because he hadn’t really done enough the last two years to ensure he’d be able to keep his starting job over a hotshot incoming freshman.
Now, after just seven games at WSU, he’s a legitimate NFL prospect.
The Spokesman-Review’s Theo Lawson caught up with a trio of college quarterback/NFL Draft experts to pick their brains about what they see in Minshew. The resulting analysis is absolutely fascinating. It’s presented in Q&A format, which I’m not typically fond of, but in this case, it’s enlightening to read the full responses, which carry a lot of the voice of each person.
First up was Trent Dilfer, former NFL quarterback and current Elite 11 QB camp head coach:
I don’t think it’s unusual to see a fifth-year guy have success and be better than the option they have on their present team, but to be dominant – that’s what he’s done, he’s been dominant this year. The quarterback of that system carries a very large weight. You’re doing a lot and he’s done it exceptionally well. And what I like, listening to people who’ve been around the program, it’s more than just how he’s playing, it’s his leadership, it’s his charisma, it’s his energy. Things that are really [hard to] quantify, but equal wins. And he has all that stuff. And I’d probably put a higher weight on any of that stuff than any evaluator out there. ...
I have him as a late second, third-round pick. ... I think he’s a potential NFL starter. That’s where I put those guys that don’t have extreme traits. But I’ve seen a lot of guys lesser than him go in those rounds the last few years.
Then, Yogi Roth, Pac-12 Networks analyst:
I’ve always said this this year about this team, man, is that if there’s one team I could follow all year long it would be this one. Based on what happened with Tyler (Hilinski), based on the small community, based on Mike Leach and his personality, and based on this transfer quarterback. Now you see what he’s doing on the field and with his persona. It’s like the football gods said, you need to go to the place that needs you the most. And that’s Pullman, Washington. And that’s what he’s done. And I really think it’s beautiful, the whole story.
Finally, Rob Rang, NFL Draft analyst:
You know who he reminded me of – and now it’s going to sound even cliché because of the way they’re dressing – but it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick. He a little bit shorter and he’s got kind of a thick build, he’s got an underrated arm and he’s just got some moxie to him that has always stood out. So the reason I hesitate with that comparison is because there’s a lot of people out there that are going to suggest Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t very good. But when you’re going from Harvard to the NFL and you’ve played as long as he has, then that’s a heckuva football player. And so the same thing with Minshew, he’s had success wherever he’s gone and he does have some moxie, does have some personality to quickly win over his teammates, so I like all those things. And then just physically speaking, they’re similar type players in terms of their build, in terms of their arm, in terms of their accuracy and their touch.
There’s so much more in there — nearly 5,000 words! Go read it.
And, for what it’s worth: this all still blows me away. It’s not just the surprising success of this season; sometimes, I sit back and think about the confluence of events, both horrible and fortuitous, that led to Minshew landing at WSU. It’s sad and exciting at the same time ... which, I guess, is life in a nutshell.
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