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The irony of the Chargers and Justin Herbert vs. the Giants and Daniel Jones

DENVER, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 28: Justin Herbert #10
Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants

Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers, left, and Daniel Jones of the Giants. (Getty Images; Jim McIsaac)

The Giants have been left scrambling to figure out their quarterback situation heading into Sunday’s game against the Chargers.

Daniel Jones (neck) and Mike Glennon (concussion) figure to be sidelined, and Jake Fromm and Brian Lewerke may be called upon to guide the offense. Throw in some wrinkles regarding COVID-19 positives on the roster and coaching staff that could also affect the group, and the instability at the position is as high as it has been for this franchise in decades.

That uncertainty won’t end if and when all of the quarterbacks return to full availability, however. Even if he hadn’t damaged his neck, Jones likely would be playing these final games of the season in an effort to prove he is the team’s passer of the future. Because of many elements outside of his control — from a shabby, undermanned offensive line to some discord in offensive philosophies that led to the firing of coordinator Jason Garrett — and some within it, Jones has not been able to convince everyone in the organization that he can be the franchise quarterback they envisioned when they drafted him at No. 6 overall in 2019. Late in his third season, the Giants are still very much in an evaluation mode regarding him.

He’s shown glimpses of having "it," but has yet to consistently rise to that level of play. More to the point, he hasn’t been able to overcome the many hardships that have stood between him and success, between the Giants and victories, which top-tier quarterbacks find ways to hurdle.

With all of that ambiguity as a backdrop, it is ironic that this week the Giants will face the quarterback who may have been able to settle all of that doubt and ambiguity.

It’s hard to find anyone in NFL circles who does not believe Justin Herbert would have been selected by the Giants had he declared himself draft eligible in 2019. General manager Dave Gettleman spent most of the 2018 college season drooling over Herbert’s play with Oregon and anticipated calling his name the following April. Instead, Herbert decided to remain in Eugene for his senior season, the Giants took Jones from Duke, and a year later the Chargers picked Herbert.

So far he has been everything for them that Gettleman likely imagined he could be for the Giants.

None of which is to say the Giants’ enthusiasm regarding Jones when they drafted him was half-hearted. But Jones has won just 12 of his 37 starts since he arrived in New York; Herbert has won 13 of his 27 for the Chargers. Jones has thrown 45 touchdowns and 29 interceptions while Herbert has 58 and 21.

There’s no way to know what Herbert would have done with the Giants’ underwhelming offensive personnel around him as opposed to a veteran, competent roster that awaited him in Los Angeles, but it sure seems like the Giants got the short end of this situation.

Maybe it’s fate’s bitter revenge on the Giants for wrangling Eli Manning away from the Chargers on draft day almost two decades ago that the player they coveted to replace their eventual two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback wound up with, of all teams, those same Chargers. Maybe it’s their turn to gloat over the way the quarterback situations of the two clubs play out in the years to come. Just as the Jets spent years watching Peyton Manning win MVPs and Super Bowls for other teams because he stayed in college one year longer than they needed him to in order to select him, the Giants may find themselves watching Herbert put together a terrific career wishing he’d left Oregon on their schedule.

Whatever the reason, whatever is happening in the alternate universes where Herbert and Jones are playing on opposite sides of the continent, the Giants will be getting ready to face the Chargers on Sunday not just unsure who their quarterback will be for this game, but still unsure who their quarterback will be for the games and seasons that follow.

The Chargers? They seem to have no such doubts.

Must be nice.

Notes & quotes: S Logan Ryan was named the Giants’ nominee for the 2021 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. The award recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field . . . Eli Manning said he was on The SiriusXM Blitz with Brett Favre and Bruce Murray Tuesday and was asked about the Giants losing on the day when the team retired his jersey. "They did it for Strahan," Manning said of a victory on the same day a number was retired. "I guess he’s better liked by the players than I am. I would have liked the win."

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