Daniel Jones has the physical skill to be a successful NFL quarterback, of that there is little doubt. He has the size, the arm and the athleticism to win games, and yet, strangely enough, he does not win them.
The good news this week for Giants fans? Jones is 4-0 against Washington.
The bad news this season for Giants fans? Jones is 4-19 against the rest of the league.
No, the franchise has not done a good job over these two-plus seasons surrounding its young quarterback with elite talent. But there is a reason why wins and losses are not assigned to left tackles, running backs, pass rushers and strong safeties. Just like baseball’s win-loss stat is reserved for pitchers, football’s is reserved for quarterbacks because they have the biggest impact (by far) on the final score.
So no matter how much Giants fans want to complain about, read about, and fuel talk-radio conversation about the offensive line, Jones remains the one player most responsible for losing 19 of the 27 games he has started. It’s right there in his career bio, the extension of an alarming trend.
Before Jones’s rookie season in 2019, Baker Mayfield, that year’s top overall pick, famously told GQ that he couldn’t believe the Giants drafted the Duke quarterback sixth. Jones had a college record of 17-19, and when Mayfield brought up NFL evaluators who overthink the process, he said, “They forget you’ve gotta win.”
Jones displayed some of his physical gifts against Denver on Sunday, but, on cue, found a way to lose. He fumbled for the 30th time before he even made his 30th start and didn’t have any new answers for why he can’t solve an old problem. The Giants drafted him to be better than this, as in much. In Year 3, you have to beat Teddy Bridgewater at home.
Eli Manning went 11-5 in Year 2, his first as a full-time starter, again made the playoffs (albeit barely) in Year 3 then won the whole thing in Year 4. When the Giants drafted Jones, they clearly tried to clone the incumbent. The kid arrived with Eli’s disposition, Eli’s haircut and, as a child of the South coached by David Cutcliffe, Eli’s background, too.
And yet there was one striking difference: Jones has wheels. He was billed as an athletic Eli, which sounded too good to be true. So far, it has been too good to be true. If given the choice now between the two as 24 year olds on the doorstep of their primes, Giants fans would vote for the unathletic Eli in a landslide.
Jones’s 8-19 career record is even worse than Sam Darnold’s at the same point with the Jets (11-16), and we all know what the Jets did with Darnold. The Giants have no interest in starting over at the game’s most critical position, and they love Jones’s work ethic. But understand this: They love their head coach’s potential even more.
They don’t look at Joe Judge, Bill Belichick’s former aide, the way they looked at Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur. If necessary, Judge will be allowed to draft or sign his own quarterback. The Giants will not fire him unless this season devolves into a complete catastrophe, an unlikely scenario.
Jones has been here longer, and his margin for error is not nearly as wide. His offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, will never be mistaken for a creative genius, and his otherworldly running back, Saquon Barkley, will need time to get back to being Saquon Barkley. But Jones had enough available playmakers against Denver to deliver more than one passing touchdown before his garbage-time run and score on the final play.
So much time has been spent on the subject of acquiring players to elevate Jones, the question begs to be asked: When does Jones start elevating them? The longer he goes without making a profoundly positive impact, the more Dave Gettleman’s decision to pick Barkley in 2018, rather than a quarterback, looks like a bad one.
How would everyone feel right now if the Giants were suiting up Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson?
Tuesday morning, Judge had nothing but praise for the way his quarterback prepares for a game. But in the NFL, the process isn’t half as important as the result. A maddening room-temperature talker, Jones did concede this about his long-standing fumbling issues: “It’s certainly frustrating. Those are big plays and they certainly change the game, so I’ve got to do better.”
Yes he does. You can’t lose 70 percent of your games and stay employed for long. Thursday night, just as he needed to beat Teddy Bridgewater at home, Jones needs to beat Taylor Heinicke on the road. Beyond that, he needs to be the quarterback he’s been against Washington against the rest of the league.