Gardner Minshew is prepared. That much you can be assured. He is a professional and he is ready to play every week, so the fact that he's starting Saturday against Dallas in a game that could clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC postseason and the NFC East title for the Eagles doesn't change anything.
It's a chance to help the team win. Over and over in the time Minshew met with a gaggle of reporters on Thursday in front of his locker at the NovaCare Complex and said the same thing: "I'm excited for a chance to help the team win. We have a bunch of great guys and great players here. It's going to be a lot of fun."
The moment, you know, won't be too big for Gardner Minshew as he makes the 31st start of his NFL career, his first this season. He has been the patient No. 2 behind Jalen Hurts this season and he has watched Hurts pile up 35 total touchdowns and make his case for the NFL's Most Valuable Player Award.
"I've learned a lot from watching Jalen," Minshew said.
That's what the season is for every player, a learning process. Minshew ran the scout team each day in practice until this week, Wednesday to be exact, when Hurts' sprained right shoulder forced him to miss practice. His preparation doesn't change, other than he's the guy taking the first-team reps in practice. He's the one throwing to A.J. Brown for the first time and he's the one reacquainting himself with DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert.
This is his show and he knows it going in.
"Every time you take reps in practice, it's a good thing," he said. "It's a different feel, a different group of guys you throw to out there. Getting the communication down with everybody, working on the timing with everybody, and knowing where they're going to be, that's the benefit. There are some really good guys out there. I'm here to do my part to help the team win."
Minshew has had himself a week, that's for sure. He spent the early portion of the week attending the memorial of Mike Leach, his former head coach at Washington State. Leach was a mentor for Minshew, who shared at the services that "to say that playing for Coach Leach was a dream, that really doesn't cover it. He was my favorite coach long before I met him. He changed what I thought was possible for myself."
All through Monday and Tuesday, Minshew had the game plan from the coaching staff and spent time studying the script for Dallas. He said it was "good to be back here getting ready for this game. I'm excited for the opportunity."
We know what to expect from Minshew because we saw him last season playing the role of point guard in the 33-18 win over the New York Jets. The Eagles scored on all seven of their possessions until the end-of-game-kneeldown possession. He was masterful, distributing the passes around the offense – 6 to Goedert for 105 yards and two touchdowns, 8 total completions to running backs Kenneth Gainwell and Miles Sanders, 3 for 60 yards to Quez Watkins, a pair of completions for 15 yards to Smith, whom the Jets took away. The Eagles ran the ball for 185 yards as Sanders (24 carries, 120 yards) and Gainwell (12 carries, 54 yards, 18-yard touchdown run) sliced and diced the Jets' defense.
Why can't the Eagles do the same thing on Saturday? Heck, this offense is even better than it was last December. Brown is a force at wide receiver. Smith is a stud, another year older and wiser and better. Goedert is ready and raring to go at tight end. Sanders is having the best season of his career. The offensive line is the best in the NFL. The scheme is another year better.
So is Minshew.
"I think you always find ways to make yourself a better player," he said. "I've worked hard preparing every week and even though I haven't played much, I've been able to put in the work and stay ready and stay sharp. This is my chance to play and I'm excited about it."
Everyone is excited for Minshew, rallying around him, prepared to play their best for him. Who doesn't want to wear a mustache on the way to the game on Saturday, an homage, if you will, for Minshew? Who won't get excited feeling his energy? They did this week in practice, that's for sure. Minshew was sharp, accurate, on time.
He is ready to play.
"We're all doing our jobs getting ready to play this game and we have full confidence in each other," Goedert said. "Gardner will do his job. He's the man. We all love him. The best way we can support him is to play our best and that's what we're preparing to do. Nothing changes."
Well, there will be some changes, right? The offense won't feature Minshew in the running game, so Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland will come up with some wrinkles to play to the strengths of the offensive line against the Dallas defense. Minshew's skill set isn't the same as Hurts', so there might be some tweaks in the structure of the passing game. The Eagles are fully aware of the Cowboys and the pass rush they bring to the table, so there will be accounting for that.
The locker room was light and energetic on Thursday. Left tackle Jordan Mailata waited patiently at Minshew's locker to get in his reporter's question, asking if we can "bring back the 'Stache." Funny stuff. Full love. Total confidence.
"I'm going to do something I've done my whole life, play football and I'm going to do my part," Minshew said. "Just be me and play my game. I'm looking forward to it."