Photo via James Snook/USA TODAY Sports
Around this time one year ago, Washington State had a legend on their hands in Gardner Minshew. Minshew led the Cougars to a school-record 11 wins as a graduate assistant and set the school record for most passing yards in a single season (4,779). Minshew accomplished all of this despite being the starting quarterback for only one year at Washington State.
The legend was born, and the legend thrived. It thrived so much that he was drafted in the sixth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars. When the opportunity arose, he even started for them when Nick Foles went down with an injury.
With Minshew gone, Washington State fans have not agonized over their new starting quarterback, as they have another legend on their hands in Anthony Gordon.
Gordon shares a similar story to Minshew, as neither started off with the Cougars. Minshew went to Northwest Mississippi Community College and East Carolina while Gordon started with the City College of San Francisco. After one season, though, Gordon transferred to Washington State and rode the bench for two years. In 2018 he then served as the backup to Minshew.
Starter and backup quarterbacks share a bond. They study film together, practice in the same drills and even replicate play-styles after each other. In the case of Gordon this season, he looks like a replica of Minshew.
Just like Minshew, Gordon is a pure pocket passer. However, the bigger similarity between Minshew and Gordon sits in the routes utilized. Gordon has predominantly implemented both sidelines in his throwing routes, whether as corners or outs. However, he has not shied away from using the middle of the field, especially when in the opponent’s defending zone, as he has mixed up his routes to include slants and gaps in the endzone.
Despite the similarities, there is a staunch difference between the two: Gordon has thrown the ball more frequently, attributed to his quicker release and slightly stronger arm when going downfield. In 2018 Minshew averaged 7.2 yards per attempt, whereas Gordon this season has averaged 8.4. Minshew was electric throwing the ball, as he threw for over 4,700 yards, which, as mentioned previously, was a school record. That record, though, did not even last a full year as Gordon has already surpassed that total with 4,920. The single-season touchdown total for Gordon has also surpassed Minshew, as he has thrown 45 this season as opposed to Minshew’s 38 last season. Through the 11 games played this season, Gordon has thrown for at least three touchdowns in nine of them, with one of those multi-touchdown games being a shootout against UCLA, where he threw for nine. Minshew in the entire 2018 had eight total games where he threw for three or more touchdowns, with his highest one being seven against Arizona.
The impressive part? Gordon’s 45 passing touchdowns are good enough for eighth in school history and are the most in a single season. What is even more impressive? With Washington State being bowl-eligible Gordon still has two games to play, giving him enough time to possibly jump up a couple more spots, as Jack Thompson sits in sixth with 53 while Drew Bledsoe sits in seventh with 46. However, those two records are accumulated over multiple seasons. Gordon has a chance to surpass both in only one season.
While in the annals of Washington State football history Gordon has made a legend of himself, he has also been a national force that has been on par with other prominent quarterbacks in the country. Gordon’s 4,920 passing yards lead the FBS, with the next closest quarterback sitting 906 yards behind him (LSU’s Joe Burrow sits at 4,014 yards). Gordon’s completion percentage of .713 is seventh-best in the FBS and sits above other prominent quarterbacks, including Ohio State’s Justin Fields (.694), Oregon’s Justin Herbert (.682), Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence (.681) and Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan (.679). What makes Gordon even more impressive is he is only .001 points behind being tied with Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa (.714). Gordon’s completions per game of 37.91 sits at number one in the FBS. Additionally, Gordon’s 447.30 passing yards per game and 45 passing touchdowns rank first.
As a senior this season, Gordon has the chance to be a higher NFL draft pick than what Minshew was. Gordon’s arm is stronger and more projectible given the raw strength and quick release it has. Through the final two games of the season, Gordon has a chance to prove that even more.
The legend of Gordon was born, and the legend of Gordon has prospered not only when compared to Minshew or Washington State as a whole, but also on a national level that could continue well after he graduates.