There is no question the Giants are in desperate need of a victory. They need one to help their practical hopes of remaining relevant as this early portion of the schedule begins to blur into the middle part. They need one to heal their fracturing psyche, too. Fractures are beginning to show in the team’s outer veneer — griping about roles, picking fights with the fans — which serve as all-too-familiar reminders that while they were a playoff team last season, their long-term track record before 2022 was a disgrace.
Those dark seasons are not so far in the past that they can’t be fallen back into with any quick slip or loss of balance in the present, and those too familiar echoes of despair can be heard if you listen closely enough.
No one on the team needs a victory more than Daniel Jones.
It doesn’t even have to be in an actual game. When the Giants play the Dolphins on Sunday, they don’t necessarily need to come out on top on the scoreboard. It would be nice, but they are not in must-win territory just yet.
Jones, though, must begin coming out on top in something that may be more important than this result in Miami.
He needs to start winning the debate.
The debate about him.
Like it or not, aware of it or not, there is a very public discussion going on regarding the Giants’ decision to sign him to that four-year, $160 million contract this offseason and whether that will turn out to be the first major misstep by the team’s still-new front office.
General manager Joe Schoen was convinced early on regarding his devotion to Jones. Remember, after hedging all season long last year, the day after the Giants were eliminated from the playoffs in a lopsided loss to the Eagles, he made it clear that he wanted Jones back. From that point on, it was just a matter of ironing out the details of the contract.
Maybe it was the euphoria of the postseason appearance and Jones’ impressive play in several games down the stretch that pushed Schoen in that direction. Maybe it was the belief that Jones, after one year in Brian Daboll’s offensive system, would continue to improve. Perhaps he was afraid of the alternatives, cognizant that there probably were quarterbacks out there better than the one he had in hand but keenly aware that there were many who were worse.
Whatever his thinking, Schoen moved forward on the deal. When it was completed, there were plenty of raised eyebrows and pursed lips wondering if Jones was worth it.
Four games into the season, the answer is so far a resounding no. The folks who questioned the move (mostly in silence or with a wait-and-see approach) during the offseason are now feasting loudly with their mouths open on Jones’ ineptitude and piling on with attacks about his quarterbacking skill set.
Just this past week, The 33rd Team, a website that draws from the insight and experiences of dozens of former executives, coaches and players including Bill Parcells, Bill Cowher and Mike Tannenbaum, published a story that said, among other ideas, that “the Giants have a Daniel Jones problem” in regard to his play and the burdensome contract they have to carry through at least next season.
The Athletic, meanwhile, ran its own story quoting a current NFL defensive coach who said: “It’s very noticeable how little they make him play like an NFL quarterback . . . He has the easiest reads and the easiest concepts, and still he does not throw the ball accurately. He doesn’t throw to the correct leverage, doesn’t throw the receivers open, just doesn’t do it. I’m giving you zero opinions. This is all the tape shows.”
Add in the steady stream of mocking remarks on social media from current players whenever Jones errs — including jabs that go to places seldom visited by them, another player’s salary — and it’s fairly clear that there aren’t many who are still defending the quarterback or the Giants’ decision to retain him.
Jones and his contract have become the league’s punching bag.
The only way to make it stop? Punch back. Not with words, but deeds.
Jones has to give the Giants and his other supporters, dwindling though they may be, a little ammunition in this battle. He has to start playing good football, making better decisions, taking care of the football and demonstrating all of the abilities Schoen saw — or thought he saw — that made him believe Jones is his guy.
It won’t be easy. The Giants may be without four of their offensive starters on Sunday, including a possible third straight game without Saquon Barkley. Jones will be behind the leaky offensive line that exposed him to 10 sacks on Monday night against the Seahawks. They’ll be facing a blazing-fast Dolphins team that two weeks ago scored 70 points and is averaging 37.5 points per game; the Giants have scored 46 all season.
It may be too late for Jones to actually sway his entrenched haters. As with most topics these days beyond football and beyond sports, many minds already have been made up. He could win a Super Bowl in the next few years and there still would be plenty of folks who believe he isn’t worth what the Giants are paying him.
The line Daboll and Schoen often use when they talk highly of Jones is that he “does everything we ask of him.”
They should add something else to that list now.
He owes the Giants more than one strong half of play against the Cardinals as evidence otherwise. He needs to have the kind of game — even in a loss — in which the organization can point to him and say: “There, that’s what we invested in.”
He has to let them know they did not make a dreadful mistake that could set the franchise and their rebuild back multiple years.
If he can’t do that and do it soon, the debate may be over before the season is.