If you think it’s tough watching Daniel Jones struggle through games on the field this season, Jerry Schuplinski said that’s nothing compared with witnessing how those performances affect him immediately afterward.
"This guy’s a fiery competitor," the Giants' quarterbacks coach said on Tuesday. "I promise you, no one takes a loss harder than he does … Having the opportunity to see this guy in the locker room after every game, it’s been a crushing couple of games for him."
Last Sunday’s was the latest that featured a double bill of failures from the second-year quarterback. Against the Cowboys he lost a fumble that resulted in a touchdown, giving him at least one turnover in each of the five games this season. And for the third time with a chance to win or tie the score late in the fourth quarter, Jones was unable to give the Giants any points. The Giants lost on a last-second field goal.
The turnovers have been an issue throughout Jones’ career, not to mention the early stages of some other careers that have turned out more than fine. Patiently waiting to outgrow this phase has become part of the season’s mantra. It’s to the point that Schuplinski now compliments Jones publicly for plays in which he throws the ball away rather than forcing a pass that can be intercepted. Sunday’s fumble? Schuplinski called that a "perfect storm" with left tackle Andrew Thomas allowing a thunderous hit on Jones, but also admitting that the quarterback needs to feel that pressure, concede the play, and hang onto the football.
Nothing new there.
But the inability to step up in big moments with the game in the balance? All of a sudden that’s a growing concern.
In a league where quarterbacks are measured by wins but separate themselves further with an ability to engineer comeback wins, Jones has so far this season been unable to point to either as a sign of his progress.
"I think it’s mostly technical, to be honest with you," Schuplinski said of the failures in crunch time, dismissing the idea that some quarterbacks are innately able to thrive in such situations. "And if it is something in the genes, I think Daniel has it… He’s got the make up to do it. We’ll keep giving him those opportunities. Hopefully they keep coming up."
Jones has three wins in his career, and two were on winning drives in the fourth quarter. He has the ability. The first was in his first start against Tampa Bay, the other at the end of last year against Washington. That’s the team he’ll face on Sunday afternoon.
Schuplinski said the key for those game-deciding drives is not thinking about them as such.
"The ‘we’ve got to deliver when the game is on the line’ [thing], that’s a big part of being a good quarterback in this league," he said. "But I’m pretty sure we don’t put that kind of pressure on him. We say ‘Look, just do your job and your responsibility on this play.’ I’ve found when people get out of their realm and they try to do some stuff or have the whole ‘I’ve got to make a play’ philosophy it doesn’t always work out too well. Just play within yourself, do what the read calls you to do or what we ask you to do on that play, and just keep doing it consistently. That’s probably the best remedy for everything."
It’s what Jones may do best, actually. His consistency as a person is really the defining trait that gives Schuplinski and the Giants their optimism that Jones will continue to make strides in all of the deficient areas of his game.
The losing? The anguish in the postgame locker room? Those may sting now, but Schuplinski is certain they won’t leave scars that will last throughout Jones’ career.
"I’m really not worried about it with him," Schuplinski said. "I’d say he’s a resilient guy. Each week is different and he comes to work each week trying to work his butt off and do his best as he can and we’re trying to do as best as we can for him. Unfortunately sometimes younger guys when they’re playing and they’re playing early, they take some lumps. But by no means do I think he’s shell-shocked. I haven’t seen anything that would give me concern for that."