If you’re a Giants fan who enjoys the team’s standard operating procedure—similar to a small-town hardware business or nebulous sector of town government where employees are often culled from their connection with, relation to or familiarity of certain individuals—then you likely think the pick of Daniel Jones at No. 6 in the 2019 NFL draft is probably fine.
He will be as promised. Advantageously swag-less. A sturdy flag pole in cement. He is the exact same height and weight as Eli Manning was coming out of Ole Miss in 2004. He was coached by the same person who coached both Manning brothers in college. He went to the Manning passing academy when he was younger. Some people mistake them for distant cousins. If you listen to the Giants talk about what they like about Jones, it feels similar to the same things they liked about Eli 15 years ago. He is a legacy applicant, and maybe you think that’s a good thing. It’s more than having the grades. It just feels right.
This is not to suggest the Giants operated solely on comfort by making one of the most surprising picks on night one of the NFL draft. When their top decision makers, general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur, came out to explain the pick, there was plenty of uncomfortable discussion. Will Jones compete for a starting job right away (it doesn’t sound like it). Will Eli Manning remain a lame-duck quarterback while other, similarly accomplished QBs of his age and draft class are signing long-term extensions? (probably). Will the Giants, who talked about adopting the “Kansas City model” of having a rookie sit behind an established veteran, actually consider the “Green Bay model” and let their first-round pick marinate for three seasons on the sidelines?
Three seasons on the bench, for the No. 6 overall pick.
“Who knows?” Gettleman said. “I may go out in my car now and get hit.”
Despite their obvious attempts to conjure the past, the remade Giants, so far, lack the same sheen. Maybe Jones turns out to be the bridge quarterback to the era beyond Manning. If that’s the case, these last two seasons spent pinballing around, trading good players, signing almost-as-expensive replacements, stuffing square pegs into round holes, will be forgiven. But after a wild night one, where the team traded back into the first round for a third time, logging the only opening round in team history with three picks, the vision isn’t exactly crystal clear. Is this starting over, or is it just a nostalgic, inward glance at what made them successful almost a decade ago, back when the NFL was a completely different place?
A few times on Thursday night, an at-ease Gettleman said that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” He forgets, though, that the Patriots kind of were. It took Bill Belichick one year to turn the Patriots into The Patriots. It took Sean McVay one season to turn the hapless, perpetually middling Rams into The Rams. Chris Ballard turned a team around practically overnight. There are hard plans, timelines for ascension, open-mindedness, visible progress. This is the speed at which things happen now.
Forgive me if I missed that on Thursday, when the Giants, who finished 5–11 last year, spent the No. 6 pick on a quarterback who they cannot say with any degree of certainty will see the field during the Trump presidency (this term or a possible second term). They followed that with Dexter Lawrence, who may or may not play a majority of third downs on defense this year; he’s a pocket pusher with no defensive ends to speak of on the outside.
This isn’t about whether they could have gotten Jones later. It was about the inclination to go down that path at all. Some coaches and general managers who have won Super Bowls in the past go to great lengths to recreate what has made them successful, while others take pleasure in smashing the whole thing to pieces and building something different to fit the game as it is at the moment.
This isn’t to say that Jones won’t be successful, it’s just to say that we’ve seen how this simulation plays out already, and that there’s a reason the Giants are here now, picking in the top 10 for the second straight year, and the fourth time in five years.
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