Daniel Jones isn’t going anywhere this season. Joe Judge made that clear with a single syllable on Tuesday.
That’s when, a day after the quarterback’s two interceptions played a defining role in the 25-23 loss to the Buccaneers and reflected a growing concern that his propensity for turnovers may be more than just a passing phase in his early development in the NFL, Judge was asked if he or offensive coordinator Jason Garrett might consider benching Jones for a game. Perhaps to allow him to regroup, possibly see things from a fresh perspective, and just give him a chance to settle down a bit.
Judge stared into the Zoom camera lens with a look that sizzled its circuitry and gave his one-word answer.
He has been unflinching in that devotion, even as Jones’ issues with ball protection have cost his team opportunities for victories and possibly even a more stout position in the NFC East standings. Even on Monday night, after the game, Judge remained committed to Jones.
"Daniel is our quarterback," he said then. "Clearly put."
So the Giants will move into the second half of their schedule with Jones at the helm.
But what about after that? The Giants aren’t built to win now, as Judge has admitted numerous times (and they have demonstrated themselves on a near-weekly basis since early September). He has a long-term vision for the franchise, and this season, while victories would be a pleasant byproduct, is not being measured in wins and losses. It’s about growth and establishing a foundation. To their credit, after years of living in denial about their chances and sacrificing for a chance to compete, the Giants are embracing the rebuild process.
Soon, though, they will need to show results. And they need to decide whether Jones is the quarterback who can deliver them.
That gives Jones, whose career is just beginning with the Giants, possibly eight games to prove he is not only the undisputed quarterback of the present in Judge’s eyes, but that he can be the quarterback of the future that Judge envisions.
Judge made little distinction between Jones and anyone else when asked what he needs to see in the second half of the season to prevent him from going quarterback shopping in the draft or free agency in this rapidly approaching offseason.
"I need to see the same thing from every coach and every player, and that’s continued improvement in everything we are doing, period." Judge said. "It doesn’t matter who you are in this organization, over this second half of the season I expect to see a raised level of coaching and a raised level of playing."
If Jones can do that, he can dismiss chatter that will undoubtedly surround the Giants’ upcoming draft plans as they pertain to quarterbacks.
So far this season he has thrown seven touchdowns and nine interceptions. In the final minutes of Monday’s game he displayed all of the reasons why the Giants should stick with him, leading the offense down the field by converting a pair of fourth downs and throwing a dart for a touchdown, but then flashed the maddening side of his play that keeps his critics well fed when he was late in delivering a game-tying two-point pass to a wide open Dion Lewis (with the lack of a clear pass interference call notwithstanding).
The interceptions, though, are the plays that Jones can’t seem to avoid. Monday’s were both on plays when he would have been better served throwing the ball away or taking a sack. Even Bucs coach Bruce Arians shook his head at some of the decisions Jones made in the game.
"The young quarterback, he's still trying to do too much," Arians said. "It cost them basically the ballgame throwing those two picks. God bless him. He is hard to handle and he's a kid that thinks he can make a play."
Judge knows the Giants will never be winners with a quarterback who thinks that way, who gambles too much, who is reckless with the football.
"Turnovers are obviously a major factor in any game," he said.
For now, he’s made it clear he is willing to live with it. After the next eight games, he’ll have an opportunity to reassess.