So far in his early NFL career, Daniel Jones looks fine. In the context of his first two opponents, Tampa Bay (1–2) and Washington (0–4), it’s hard to determine whether Jones could actually end up being excellent or may just end up being replacement level.
What is true and undeniable, though, is how the offense was brought up to modernity in the matter of a few short weeks. Functional quarterback mobility is a beautiful thing. The possibility of second-chance plays are worrisome to a defense again. Third-and-five-plus situations no longer carry a 99% chance of one thing happening. Even with two puzzling interceptions, Jones was able to help the Giants build enough of a cushion to not initiate a chaotic spiral—a trademark of this offense in the past.
Things are good in East Rutherford right now—Saquon Barkley’s injury aside—but it makes us wonder if they could be even better. With all due respect to Jones, do we believe the Giants’ recent surge is specifically because Jones is a generational talent piloting this offense, or that he is simply not Eli Manning? Asked another way: Is it possible that the Giants have had a good scheme and decent accompanying skill position talent for the last two years, but were simply unable to reconcile the fact that the best quarterback in franchise history was getting old?
Follow us down that path for a minute, and we see that the 2016 season becomes a fascinating pivot point for the franchise. Their phantom playoff berth in Ben McAdoo’s first season as head coach—aided by a 101-catch, 1,367-yard, 10-touchdown season from Odell Beckham Jr. and an underrated performance from Steve Spagnuolo’s defense—hastily legitimized the idea that there was still a window to compete with Manning, and that they must shove all of their chips to the center of the table.
With that idea already pervasive inside the building (Manning did, after all, have a Pro Bowl season in 2015 and seemed completely reinvigorated by the then-en vogue Packers offense), theGiants refrained from drafting a quarterback in 2016 (Jared Goff/Carson Wentz) despite having a top-10 pick and in ’17, with a pick in the top end of that draft. Assuming they did not have the capital to outspend a very determined Bears team for Mitch Trubisky, they still would have had a better chance of coming up for Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson than the Texans or Chiefs, both of whom were picking after the Giants in the 2017 draft. In the 2018 draft, their faith led them to pass on Sam Darnold/Josh Rosen/Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson. Jackson was effectively passed on twice, given that the Giants had plenty of ammunition to get back up in the first round with a high No. 2.
If Jones ends up sustaining the franchise for a long period of time, what amounts to three wasted seasons don’t matter in the long run. Sunday’s stat line looked underwhelming (23-of-31 for 225, one touchdown and two interceptions) but there is a sturdiness to Jones’ play that is not evident in every rookie quarterback. He’s making professional-grade throws early in his career.
But if his recent progress is a sign that the Giants were a small fire just desperately in need of some oxygen, then it’s hard to let the franchise off the hook completely for the way they planned over the last four years. All of a sudden, they are a team that, in 2018 and ’19 are more serious playoff contenders with a talented quarterback who has already weathered the rigors of his rookie season.
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