The fate of the Giants on Sunday night — and perhaps in their quest to win the NFC East and make the playoffs — will rest with Colt McCoy.
The veteran quarterback will start against the Browns after Daniel Jones was unable to overcome the hamstring and ankle injuries that limited him in practice all week, a source told Newsday. McCoy, who started two weeks ago and led the Giants to a win over Seattle, split reps with Jones throughout the week.
Coach Joe Judge made the call to go with McCoy after Saturday morning’s team walk-through, the last on-field opportunity for Jones to prove his readiness. McCoy will be backed up by Clayton Thorson and versatile veteran Joe Webb, both of whom were activated from the practice squad. Thorson is a COVID-19 replacement for cornerback James Bradberry and Webb was signed to the active roster.
Judge said this week that McCoy brought savvy and leadership to the game against the Seahawks, characteristics he believes will serve him and the team on Sunday. In a game in which the Giants will be relying on their backup quarterback running an offense directed by the backup play-caller — tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens is replacing offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who tested positive for COVID-19, in that role — he also brings an air of something the Giants may be desperate to harness.
"The biggest thing he’s very good at is Colt’s a very positive guy," Judge said. "He’s a competitor and he’s a very positive guy . . . If things aren’t going well initially, you’re never going to hear him complain or tap out. He’s very committed to the process."
The second-place Giants (5-8) are not the only team in the NFC East relying on their backup. In fact, all four teams, who are separated by two games with three remaining, will have a second-stringer on the field Sunday: First-place Washington (6-7) will start Dwayne Haskins against Seattle after Alex Smith was ruled out with a leg injury; third-place Philadelphia (4-8-1) will give rookie Jalen Hurts a second start against Arizona after benching Carson Wentz last week; and last-place Dallas (4-9) will have Andy Dalton play against the 49ers with Dak Prescott out for the season.
The NFC East has looked like a second-tier division all season. Its eventual champion, it seems, will have to rely on a second-string quarterback.
Notes & quotes: Three days after offensive coordinator Jason Garrett tested positive for COVID-19, the Giants announced on Saturday that offensive assistant Stephen Brown did as well. He was isolated from the team while contact tracing was initiated. No players were deemed to have had high-risk close contact with him to necessitate being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list for that reason . . . Giants outside linebackers coach Bret Bielema left the team to take the vacant head coach job at the University of Illinois. The Giants were aware of Bielema’s desire to return to college football, where he had been head coach at Arkansas and Wisconsin during his career. Inside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer will now coach both positions . . . With Bradberry on reserve/COVID-19, the Giants activated three defensive backs: Adrian Colbert came off injured reserve, and Jarren Williams and Quincy Wilson were elevated from the practice squad.