Only one way for Giants, Jets to be rescued from NFL’s early-game wasteland

This has become the sad routine in New York these past few lonely football seasons. Sunday, 1 o’clock, fans of the Giants and fans of the Jets reluctantly retreat to their respective games on Fox and on CBS. 

It should be said here: this is one of the awful byproducts of awful football. Football New York has been so atrocious that the networks have regularly done what would at one time have been unthinkable: Stash both teams early, make them go head-to-head, get their games out of the way, so they can free up the 4:25 p.m. time slot for a varsity game. 

And here’s the thing: 

Who’s complained about that? You? Your friends? Your neighbors? Anyone? It isn’t just that the Giants and Jets have been bad, they’ve been borderline unwatchable. They have stopped being even remotely fun to watch. And if New York football is all you do watch … well, God bless. Because to put it kindly, it is a slog to get through. 

To put it unkindly: it makes you want to ponder becoming a cricket fan. 

Here’s the thing, though: if you make it to 4:25 … well, something happens. You suddenly get this wonderful assortment of teams — Kansas City and Buffalo, Tampa and Green Bay and Dallas, Seattle (and now Denver) and San Diego and Baltimore and Cincinnati, arrayed in the late-Sunday afternoon slot, or in the NBC Sunday-night window, or on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” … 

And damned if it hits you like a two-by-four to the old coconut: 

Football really can be fun. 

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones #8, during practice
It’s a pivotal year for Daniel Jones –and the Giants.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Football really can capture you for hours at a time, every week from early September to early February, and the games can be filled with genuine wonder and excitement, legitimate entertainment. And there is one reason for this, of course. Football may be a complicated game, replete with thick playbooks and reams of complex formations and strategies. But at its most basic level, one thing makes football attractive. 

Good quarterbacks. Honestly, it’s that simple. You watch Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow or Lamar Jackson or Josh Allen, Dak Prescott or Tom Brady or Russell Wilson or Justin Herbert — especially after watching the parade of pretenders presently polluting those 1 o’clock games in New York — and you feel like Ben Hogan the first time he saw Jack Nicklaus play golf up close: 


“He plays a game with which I am unfamiliar.” 

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson (2) hands off the ball
Zach Wilson could establish himself during his second NFL season, something the Jets would relish.
Noah K. Murray

Out of town, they play football with which we in New York have been unfamiliar since Eli Manning was in his prime, and since Mark Sanchez was game-managing the Jets the first two years of his career. Yes, there are plenty of other parts of the game that make football football, that make the NFL must-see TV. But you start with the quarterback. 

In New York, we have seen spasms of this from Daniel Jones, especially early in his tenure as Manning’s successor. We have seen glimmers from Zach Wilson, when he isn’t stuck in the whirlpool. We have had hints here and there that maybe — maybe — our teams can join the cavalcade of fun. But what we’ve seen far more often is less than that. 

“At the end of the day,” Giants coach Brian Daboll said earlier this summer, “an offense goes through the quarterback and he has to be the one to deliver for you.” 

“You can always tell if a guy is confident,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said around the same time. “And our guy has that confidence.” 

It is one thing to say. It is another to do. Jones is more on the clock this year than Wilson because he is two years ahead of him on the development scale, and the Giants will surely make a decade-defining decision this year about whether he’s their man or not. But Wilson has some questions to answer, too. One is basic: can he stay on the field? But the other is just as compelling: once on the field, can he perform at a level remotely resembling what the Jets projected for him? 

These are essential elements if the pall that’s darkened New York football can ever be lifted. Look around the game. Look around the league. Look at that forever AFC playoff game last year, Mahomes and Allen trading haymakers at Arrowhead Stadium, literally right to the final gun. Look at what good quarterbacking can yield. In the last sentence he ever wrote, Red Smith mused: “Someday there would be another Joe DiMaggio.” 

New York football fans have another wish. Someday, there will be another Eli Manning. Someday, there will be another Joe Namath. Someday, pro football will not be a wasteland around here, hidden in the 1 o’clock hour, the better to get the trash out of the way quick.