Giants fans understandably have been frustrated at the growing pains Daniel Jones continues to experience, but there’s one man – the only man who matters, actually – who continues to believe in the 23-year-old quarterback. That man is Joe Judge, and unless and until he changes his opinion about Jones, there is no turning back now.
"Daniel’s our quarterback," the Giants coach said Monday afternoon, less than 24 hours after Jones’ interception near the Rams’ goal line sealed the Giants’ fate in a 17-9 loss in Los Angeles. "That’s who we’re playing with. We support him. We have a lot of confidence in him. We have faith in him."
Jones fell to 3-13 since taking over from Eli Manning in Week 3 last season, and the one constant besides the losing is Jones’ propensity to commit game-changing turnovers. His interception at the Rams’ 5 with 52 seconds left ruined the Giants’ chances of sending the game into overtime, adding to the Giants’ continuing woes.
And adding to the continuing questions about whether Jones’ mistakes can be attributed simply to his relatively brief time as the Giants’ starter or is indicative of a more deep-seated problem. The kind of problem that eventually leads to the team trying someone else as the long-term answer at quarterback.
That day has not come, according to Judge. Not even close. The coach falls on the side of explaining away Jones’ issues to inexperience and not a more existential set of problems.
"He’s a young guy who’s developing, and we see a lot of progress from him day-to-day," Judge said. "The things he’s got to correct, clean up, we have to do a better job as coaches, staff."
If he is getting better day-to-day, it certainly is not translating over to game day. Jones hasn’t reached the end zone his last two games, with the Giants producing a combined six field goals by Graham Gano in back-to-back losses to the 49ers and Rams. While most teams are putting up points in record numbers during the first month of the season, the Giants have scored the fewest points with 47. League-leading Seattle, with 142 points, has scored more than three times as many. The closest to the Giants are the 0-4 Jets with 65 points.
With the 0-4 Giants about to face the most important stretch of the season, with five of their next six games against divisional opponents in an NFC East where no team has more than one win, it will be impossible for the Giants to do much of anything if the offense doesn't improve. Even in a division where the champion might be lucky to finish with seven or eight wins.
Jones was once again crushed by a poor decision and poor execution in crunch time on Sunday. Rolling to his right and finding wide receiver Damion Ratley briefly open near the goal line, Jones flung a pass slightly behind his receiver. Rams cornerback Darious Williams stepped in front to make the interception to effectively end what might have been a turning point for the Giants. Jones had a chance to run for the first down instead of risk a pass, but Judge won’t second-guess his quarterback’s decision-making process.
"Did he have the option to tuck that thing and run with the time we had left with timeouts?" Judge said. "Look, he made the decision he made. We can’t sit here and handcuff our quarterback by looking over his shoulder all the time and second-guess everything he does. We’ve got to do a better job all across the board at all positions and all coaches, making sure we finish all the drives."
Judge is to be commended for backing his quarterback during a difficult time. It’s the right thing to do for a young quarterback, and for a young coach. You don’t simply throw your quarterback under the bus a month into the season. That said, there isn’t a statute of limitations when it comes to patience. At some point, Judge must decide whether Jones is the quarterback who lead the Giants for the foreseeable future. Or whether a change may ultimately have to be made for the good of the franchise.
That day has not come.
"I don’t know if there’s ever a pinpoint in terms of what’s your threshold for saying some guy’s your guy," Judge said. "But Daniel’s our quarterback."
Giants fans can only hope that patience will one day be rewarded.