By Jack McKessy
The moment the New York Giants selected Daniel Jones sixth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, his name and career were thrust into a position of heightened scrutiny. The Giants believed Jones was not only worth a top-10 pick, but that he also was a worthy successor to Eli Manning.
When Jones won just three of 12 starts in 2019 and lost five straight to open 2020, moving on seemed like an obvious move with presumed first overall pick Trevor Lawrence waiting in the wings. But Jones’ promising end-of-year performance and New York’s late playoff push makes the decision going forward harder. Should the Giants stick with Daniel Jones?
Why Giants Should Not Stick With Jones
Jones took the helm of starting quarterback in the third week of the 2019 season. He started all but two games the rest of the year with 24 passing touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Along the way, he broke or tied 10 franchise rookie records and became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw four touchdown passes with no interceptions in three separate games.
At first glance, that’s impressive. It also leaves out an important statistic: fumbles lost. In his first year, Jones lost an NFL-high of 11 fumbles in only 12 starts. In the only three-game stretch without a fumble in his career––also the only three games without one during his rookie campaign––he threw six interceptions.
Even with only one interception and two lost fumbles in his last six starts of 2020, Jones had 12 turnovers to start the season, meaning he still averaged more than one turnover per start.
If Jones doesn’t improve his ball security, the Giants will have a hard time securing a winning season for the first time since 2016.
Giants fans are spoiled. In 14 full seasons as the starting quarterback for New York, Eli Manning only ever missed one start: when then-head coach Ben McAdoo started Geno Smith for a single game in 2017. Manning never missed a single start due to injury in his 16-year career.
So far, Jones has missed four and a half games due to injury. His first start back from the hamstring injury he suffered in Cincinnati was the worst of his career. He finished with the lowest number of completions (11) and lowest completion percentage (52%) of any of his 26 career starts. To make matters worse, he was sidelined again one week later with a sprained ankle.
It’s hard to meet the standard of one of the least injury-prone quarterbacks in NFL history.
Jones is, by default, more prone to injury than Manning as a significantly more mobile quarterback—he has not been able to stay on the field for a stint longer than 11 straight starts.
Why Giants Should Stick With Jones
New York began the 2020 season with five straight losses. In those five games, Jones threw five interceptions and lost three fumbles. After that, the Giants went 6-5 and Jones… threw five interceptions and lost three fumbles. Though the number of turnovers was the same, the rate at which they happened was significantly lower. In his last six starts, he only turned the ball over three times.
The improvement in offensive production doesn’t end there. In the first five weeks of the season, he completed just under 61% of passes with two passing touchdowns and none on the ground. His completion percentage since then is up over 63.5% with 10 touchdowns, including one rushing.
With Jones trending down in turnovers and up in completions, yards per attempt, and touchdowns, the Giants are likely feeling better about him after his second half. Should Jones’ momentum continue next year, likely with more offensive weapons around him (Kyle Pitts or DeVonta Smith, perhaps?), it’s doubtful that New York would push to move on from him this year.
Roster and Organization Stability
After the Giants unceremoniously ushered out head coach Tom Coughlin in 2015, they have had four different head coaches, a change in general manager, and a trade that sent away star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. But one position that hasn’t changed much is the starting quarterback.
Since Manning’s first start in 2004, there have only been four quarterbacks to start a regular season game for the Giants: Manning (234), Geno Smith (1), Daniel Jones (26), and Colt McCoy (2 starts). Only one other team in the league––the Los Angeles Chargers––can even match the Giants’ low QB turnover rate in that span. No team has had fewer.
Despite a rough start to the 2020 season, the Giants had a plausible path to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. As a result, general manager Dave Gettleman and new head coach Joe Judge are sticking around as a duo for at least another year. It’s hard to build a strong, consistent contender, and it’s impossible to do so with organizational or roster instability. Why risk more shake-up with a new franchise quarterback?
2021 Draft’s Best QB Prospects Are Off The Table
After the Giants’ mid-season surge back into playoff contention, they finished the year 6-10 and with the 11th overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence will end up in Jacksonville, and barring a very costly and very unlikely trade, the Giants are out of contention for Ohio State’s Justin Fields as well.
After Lawrence and Fields, there’s a dip in the potential of remaining quarterback prospects. The next obvious choice would be BYU’s Zach Wilson. Wilson’s numbers are impressive, but none of his opponents this year played to the same caliber that Fields’ and Lawrence’s did. Wilson also poses some risk of injury. By the end of his sophomore season, he’d already had two surgeries on this throwing arm.
Rounding out the top four quarterbacks in this year’s draft class is Trey Lance from North Dakota State. Lance will still be 20 years old by the beginning of the draft, and he’s only played one full season as a starter. That lack of experience likely means a longer timeline before he’ll be ready to start in the NFL.
Outside of the top four, the waters get a lot murkier. Because Gettleman recently doubled down on his support for Jones, it’s unlikely we’ll see New York make a big trade up for a new quarterback. It’s more likely they look to build around Jones in the draft.
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