The reigning MVP had just one before he took the league by storm. The presumptive MVP this season had seven and is now redefining the game.
Daniel Jones already has more than either of them.
What are we talking about? Starts as a rookie, of course. It’s no surprise that both Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson needed their rookie experiences to help them blossom into superstar quarterbacks who are currently carrying their teams toward the postseason. It takes time for a young player to find his footing in the NFL. But now that Jones has eight starts behind him and heads into his ninth on Sunday against the Bears, it’s fair to wonder if that half-season of experience is enough to start to propel him to the next level of his development.
When, in other words, will it all click for Jones?
Sadly, there is no magic number that somehow transforms a frog of a rookie quarterback groping his way through the early stages of his career into the kind of prince that can win awards and championships. Because it’s not necessarily the snap counts or the starts or the practice reps that allow young players to take what is very often the largest stride of their careers. It’s the offseason that really serves as the cocoon for the metamorphosis.
“He’ll be a rookie throughout the season,” Pat Shurmur said of Jones on Monday. “I don’t think he’ll be able to fully internalize what’s happening to him until he has time away here in the offseason where he’ll look back and say, ‘Wow, what was that?’”
Jones is hardly overwhelmed by what he has so far faced. There have been just three times in NFL history that a rookie quarterback has thrown for at least 300 yards in a game with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Two of those three were accomplished by Jones in the past two months. (Marcus Mariota did it for the Titans in 2015 too.)
Even his interception numbers are acceptable. He’s thrown eight of them against his 15 touchdowns. Not great, but certainly within the tolerance of a lot of teams with or without rookie quarterbacks. About the only thing that has humbled Jones has been his turnovers. He’s fumbled 13 times and lost nine of them.
Oh, and the losses. He’s 2-6 as a starter and has lost six straight.
Besides Mahomes and Jackson, Jones also has more rookie starts than the last first-round rookie quarterback the Giants threw in there to learn on the job. It wasn’t until this point in the season – Nov. 21, 2004, 15 years ago on Thursday – that Eli Manning made his first start for the Giants. Imagine having waited so long to have seen Jones this year? Manning, of course, had historic struggles through those final seven games. It wasn’t until Week 17 that he notched his first win.
When he came back in 2005, though, he was a completely different player. The Giants went 11-5 and won the division.
Might that happen to Jones? It’s possible. Jones is in a different position than his aforementioned contemporary quarterbacks who joined playoff-caliber teams as a late-in-the-process piece. There was no rebuild, no roster overhaul, no growing pains that were shared with other key positions when they first stepped onto the field. And Manning’s second season featured the best running back (Tiki Barber), receiver (Amani Toomer) and defensive lineman (Michael Strahan) in team history, along with the infrastructure of one of the top offensive lines in the NFL over the past 20 years. And Tom Coughlin, a Hall of Fame coach. Jones doesn’t have that package to work with.
The Giants undoubtedly will try to build some of that around him. They have some of the pieces already, such as Saquon Barkley.
But it probably won’t be until at least 2020 that Jones truly flourishes. The next six games most likely will be about his development, not his dominance.
“I mean he’s a rookie,” Shurmur said. “He keeps fighting through it and he keeps improving. I think he’s doing a lot of really good things…. At this point, he’s in it and he’s competing to help us win games.
“Yeah,” Shurmur said, “I guess chronologically, he’s a rookie.”
And there is no early graduation from that status.