Daniel Jones still hasn't shown he can be great QB
Almost three years into Daniel Jones’ career as a starting quarterback, we still don’t have any definitive answers about what he truly is.
Franchise quarterback capable of leading a team to a Super Bowl championship?
Mistake-prone passer who has gotten better in limiting turnovers but still isn’t as careful as he needs to be?
A player who can be trusted to deliver on a long-term contract that the Giants might consider investing in?
We just don’t know.
And maybe, just maybe, that is part — or even all — of the answer. Maybe the fact that Jones hasn’t ascended to the level that you know he is good enough to join Eli Manning, Phil Simms and Jeff Hostetler as championship quarterbacks is itself the answer.
The Giants can wish all they want that Jones is a quarterback they can build around. But no amount of wishing can change what we’ve already seen — that he is sometimes excellent, sometimes good and sometimes bad.
What he hasn’t been is great, and it seems reasonable to deduce that he will never achieve that level of proficiency during his career.
It hasn’t helped that Jones continues to play behind an offensive line that isn’t as good as it should be, and certainly not what general manager Dave Gettleman promised when he took over in 2018 and vowed to bring in the "hog mollies" to build his offense around.
Left tackle Andrew Thomas is the only true star in this group, and the fact that the Giants still haven’t supplanted right tackle Nate Solder with former third-round pick Matt Peart is indicative of how poorly Gettleman has drafted on the line.
But this year’s group has been scrappy enough to give Jones enough time in certain situations to allow him to flourish, and it simply hasn’t happened.
Blame it on offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who paid for Jones’ mediocrity with his job last week, but Jones did no better with Freddie Kitchens calling the plays against the Eagles. The Giants scratched out 13 points, enough to eke out a win that really belonged to Patrick Graham’s defense, but certainly not the kind of performance that leads you to believe a coordinator change will make Jones any better than he is.
That doesn’t make things any easier on the Giants, especially in a down year for quarterbacks in the draft. They might end up with two top-10 picks, but with a nondescript group of college passers on the horizon, there doesn’t appear to be any quick fixes or major upgrades in the draft.
Which means the Giants are likely to keep Jones under contract for at least two more years, exercising a fifth-year option to control his rights through the 2023 season.
Just because the Giants have the financial means to keep him around doesn’t mean Jones will get substantially better, though. The skeptics insisted that Gettleman overdrafted Jones at No. 6 overall in 2019, and the quarterback’s body of work indicates that is the case. In fact, had Graham’s defense not been so impactful against Jalen Hurts, the discussion today might be quite different.
The Giants (4-7) scratched out the win to move to within a game of the last wild-card playoff spot — amazing, considering this team was 1-5 not all that long ago. But Jones and Kitchens were not exactly Montana and Walsh in leading the offense.
"I think the biggest thing was focusing on what we were doing in that moment and controlling our response and preparing each day," Jones said. "That was going to give us the best chance to be successful. I thought we did that as a group well."
At least they didn’t screw it up. Jones was 19-for-30 for 202 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions or fumbles, and he had a respectable 94.0 rating. But he has 10 touchdown passes and seven interceptions this season. In fact, he has only 21 touchdown passes combined in his last two seasons — fewer than the 24 he had in 12 starts as a rookie.
These last six games are crucial for Jones. There is enough time, especially having a more aggressive play-caller in Kitchens, to elevate his game and help convince the Giants he is their future.
But the more likely outcome is that we’ve already seen Jones for what he is. He’s good . . . not great.