Daniel Jones may be changing outside perceptions, but he is not altering internal plans.
“Eli is our starter and we’re getting Daniel ready to play,” Pat Shurmur said on a Friday conference call, squashing a growing sense that there might be some wiggle room in the deployment of quarterbacks on opening day.
Some of that ambiguity came from Shurmur himself, who, after Thursday’s preseason game against the Bengals, was asked if he would consider having Jones compete with Eli Manning for the job.
“Daniel, when it’s his time to play, is going to be ready,” he said then, repeating a mantra he has used all preseason. “And we’re going to continue to get him ready. We’ve got a couple weeks left before we play Dallas.”
The juxtaposition of the words “Daniel,” “ready” and “Dallas,” it seems, were enough to fire up the speculation and supposition that Shurmur might pull a switch for the opener. On Friday, though, he was back to being direct about the quarterback situation . . . especially after being asked to clarify some fairly clarified statements.
“I just said Eli’s the starter,” Shurmur said, raising his voice. “Didn’t I just say that? Excuse the fact that I had to repeat it, but I felt like I just said that.”
He then composed himself.
“It’s all good.”
Apparently so, especially from his perspective. Heading into the 2019 season, the Giants seem to have two viable options at the most important position in football. With each performance by Jones, their decision to select him with the sixth overall pick in the draft seems to be vindicated more and more.
Jones still has not faced a full defense of NFL starters who have been game-planning for a week to stop him, but what he has shown in his three preseason games has been impressive. Among players with at least 15 pass attempts, he is first in passer rating (140.1), third in completion percentage (83.3) and second in completions of at least 20 yards (eight).
None of that is enough to change the Giants’ plan for him to coexist with Manning, however. Even before they drafted Jones, they daydreamed about a “Kansas City model” of selecting a young player and having him sit behind a veteran for a full year the way Patrick Mahomes did with the Chiefs before being named MVP of the league in his second season.
When they did select Jones in April, they told Manning that his job was not to mentor the rookie but to win games and keep the kid off the field. And just last week, co-owner John Mara said that in a perfect vision of the upcoming season, Manning would carry the team into January with Jones never seeing the field.
As the Giants head into their final preseason game next week, that blueprint remains intact.
“I think he’s done a good job in the preseason,” Shurmur said of Jones. “As I’ve mentioned all along, he’s getting better, and he’s going to continue to do that so that at whatever time we need him to play, he’ll be ready.”
It just won’t be 4:25 p.m. on Sept. 8 in Dallas.
Notes & quotes: Linebacker Jonathan Anderson (knee) and running back Rod Smith (adductor) were being evaluated for injuries sustained in the Giants’ 25-23 victory over the Bengals . . . Shurmur said he was impressed by rookie cornerback Corey Ballentine in his first start: “He’s making really good progress and we’re pleased with the path that he’s on.”