One of the many criticisms about the Giants’ selection of Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick in the 2019 draft was whom they didn’t choose.
Should Jones really have been taken by the Giants when Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins was available after a brilliant season in 2018?
Statistically speaking, it was a no-brainer. Haskins threw for 4,831 yards, 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions that year. Jones had 52 touchdown passes and 29 interceptions in three seasons at Duke.
But Giants general manager Dave Gettleman went far beyond the numbers in making one of the most consequential decisions in franchise history, and Jones was his guy all along — tepid numbers and all.
Haskins, meanwhile, was taken by the Redskins with the 15th overall pick.
Early advantage: Giants.
With Jones coming off a spectacular performance in last week’s 32-31 win over the Buccaneers and set to make his MetLife Stadium debut as the Giants’ starter Sunday against the Redskins, Haskins continues to sit behind starter Case Keenum. This despite the Redskins being 0-3 and going nowhere fast.
“Dwayne is still coming along,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “He’s young, and I think it’s important for him to sit back and see how to prepare as a pro. He’ll get his time, he’ll get his chance. Just not yet.”
That opportunity might come sooner rather than later, especially if the losing continues with Keenum. But Jones clearly is further along in the developmental process, and he has reinvigorated the Giants’ offense in a way 38-year-old Eli Manning could not.
“These two guys were totally different players coming [into the draft],” Gruden said. “Both of them are very talented. Dwayne played one [full] year at Ohio State. I think from a mental standpoint, it’s good for him to sit back and learn how to prepare, learn how to get ready for a game and a game plan, see all these route concepts and the different things we are doing here.”
Actually, that was what the Giants had planned to do with Jones: Sit him for a year behind Manning, let him watch and learn, and hand over the reins in 2020. But after only two games, that changed, although not simply because the Giants lost to the Cowboys and Bills and scored only 31 points.
The coaches saw how well and how swiftly Jones had grasped the offense from the first day of rookie minicamp.
He was a quick study, played nearly flawlessly in the preseason (aside from some ball-security issues) and earned Pat Shurmur’s trust much faster than the coach expected. Shurmur made the call last week and was rewarded for his calculated risk by seeing Jones put up more points in one game than the Giants had in the previous two. Jones rallied the Giants from a 28-10 halftime deficit and wound up throwing for two touchdowns and running for two more scores. He was chosen as the NFC’s offensive player of the week.
How much worse must it get for the Redskins to give Haskins a shot? Consider that they trailed the visiting Bears 28-0 at halftime, Keenum committed five turnovers (including three interceptions) and Gruden didn’t give his rookie a single snap.
Gruden said earlier in the week that he was sticking by Keenum, saying “the season is not lost.” Hmm. Not quite the endorsement Haskins might have wanted to hear. Especially after seeing Jones elevated to the starting job, ostensibly because Shurmur believed it could be a move to save the Giants’ season.
Jones isn’t the NFL’s only rookie starting quarterback. First overall pick Kyler Murray leads the Cardinals, and Gardner Minshew, a sixth-round pick for Jacksonville, now starts in place of the injured Nick Foles.
There also have been suggestions that the Redskins’ coaching staff wasn’t completely on board with drafting Haskins in the first place, that it was really team owner Daniel Snyder’s call. Haskins doesn’t buy it. In fact, on Friday, he retweeted a comment from Fox college football expert Joel Klatt that it was Snyder’s decision to draft the quarterback. Haskins’ comment on the retweet: “Fake news.”
But there may be something there. According to The Washington Post, Gruden might be fired if the Redskins lose to the Giants. His decision not to play Haskins could very well be a reason, although the quarterback isn’t complaining about his status.
“It’s easy to look at the rookie class and be like, ‘Rookies are playing, why am I not playing?’ ” Haskins told reporters on Friday. “I want to be like Tom Brady and Drew Brees, and that’s something that doesn’t happen overnight. Tom didn’t play at first. Aaron Rodgers didn’t play at first.”
True enough, although Brady, Brees and Rodgers were initial backups at a time when teams were much more patient with quarterbacks. In today’s game, quarterbacks — especially first-rounders — play much sooner.
Look no further than Jones, who undoubtedly will be welcomed with a huge ovation by Giants fans hoping he can be an adequate successor to Manning, who put together a Hall of Fame-caliber resume during his run as the Giants’ starter.
“I’m excited to run out there in front of Giants fans and play my first game here,” Jones said. “That’ll be fun.”
The feeling’s mutual.