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Mark Schofield joins the Big Blue Big Board and we ask how Daniel Jones got to be The Guy for the Giants

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We all know what the Giants did, but “Why?” so much more interesting

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NFL: NFL Draft Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Not another Daniel Jones piece.

That’s probably what you’re saying to yourself (or your phone, computer, or tablet). Well, yes, this is another post about Daniel Jones — but it also isn’t.

As the sixth overall pick, likely heir to two-time Super Bowl MVP, and hopefully the New York Giants next franchise quarterback, Jones is kind of a big deal and we have to talk about him. That’s why Dan Pizzuta and I invited Mark Schofield on the Big Blue Big Board podcast, and Mark is probably already blue in the face from answering questions about Jones.

But I did say that this also isn’t about Jones, and it isn’t. Instead, I want to ask the question that really hasn’t been asked yet: “How did we get to Daniel Jones being the sixth overall pick? What was the process?”

So far the overwhelming bulk of the conversation has been whether or not the Giants were right to take Jones at sixth overall, with the addendum that they probably could have gotten him at 17th overall or even 37th.

That isn’t the question I’m asking. In broad strokes, the Giants got that part unquestionably right. One of the Draft Commandments is that if you have a player you value as a Franchise Quarterback, you don’t screw around, you don’t get cute, you draft the Franchise Quarterback — particularly if your current quarterback is in decline and nearing the end of his career.

The question I’m asking is how did the Giants get to the point where Daniel Jones was their QB 1 and the player they envision being the face of their franchise for the next 15 years?

The issue isn’t their valuation of a franchise quarterback, but the process in evaluating the quarterbacks and Daniel Jones in particular. We will probably never get a straight answer to that question, but it’s an important one to ask. The future of the franchise is now tied to the pick and whether or not the Giants got the process right in deciding who would be their quarterback of the future.

Process Determines Outcome

To a large degree, those of us on the outside tend to put scouts and GMs on pedestals. They’re working at the top of their profession, of course they know more than we do. And to a certain extent they do — they have access to information such as medical reports and background checks, and connections we can only dream of. However, GMs, and by extension scouting departments, are not anointed. They are not a mystic brotherhood which received secret Football Knowledge from the Football Ancients.

Tape is tape and stats are stats.

There are former scouts, players, and coaches on the outside. There are plenty of smart people who can self-educate or take advantages of opportunities like The Scouting Academy (which is run by former scout, and friend of BBV Dan Hatman and features instruction from people like Louis Riddick, Mike Martz, and Howard Mudd).

And for the most part, those of us on the outside were baffled by the decision to make Daniel Jones QB 1 on the Giants’ board. We’ve been over (and over, and over again) why:

Looking at the tape, he is by and large a “one-read” quarterback who operates within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage and a tendency to lock on to a receiver and stare him down from the snap of the ball. He has a tendency toward under-throwing or misplacing the ball when reaching outside the numbers or down the field.

Mark Schofield notes that after all his film study, he didn’t even have Jones in the top 5 of his quarterback list.

In writing for Bleacher Report, Derrik Klassen (also of Football Outisders), builds off of the work done by SB Nation’s Bill Connelly in charting the incoming quarterback class and compares Jones to Jake Locker coming out of Washington.

Klassen wrote:

Jones posted a 39.6 percent success rate and 5.45 adjusted net yards per attempt at Duke. Considering no quarterback surpasses their college success rate within their first four NFL years, a dismal 39.6 percent success rate puts a low ceiling on Jones’ early returns.

By contrast, Kyler Murray came in at 53.4 percent and Dwayne Haskins at 53.2 percent. The cutoff for a passable success rate is about 47-49 percent. Jones’ collegiate success rate is most comparable to Jake Locker’s, as the former Titan posted a 40.0 percent success rate in college and 38.3 percent in the pros.

In their Rookie Handbook, Sports Info Solutions notes that Jones’ IQR (independent quarterback rating — a quarterback rating which factors out drops and dropped interceptions) when unpressured, on deep throws, and when pressured was each about 15 to 30 points lower than those of Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, and Will Grier. His unpressured IQR was only 3.4 points higher than Drew Lock’s, and he trailed in the other metrics.

So if the tape, and the numbers gleaned from watching the tape, don’t shed light on what made Jones the top quarterback on the Giants’ board, what does? What was the process?

Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know

As I mentioned before, the thing that truly separates the people on the inside of the NFL from those of us on the outside is the human element. They aren’t just relying on tape to form their opinions — they get to talk to the prospects and talk to the people around the prospects.

The dots connecting Jones to the Giants (and vice versa) were there for all of us to connect, and many did. But in our processes we didn’t weigh them nearly as heavily as the Giants must have. Knowing David Cutcliffe coached Mannings Peyton and Eli is different from sitting there and listening to him talk about it, as Jordan Raanan of ESPN writes Dave Gettleman, Kevin Abrams, and Pat Shurmur did.

Shurmur appeared to be sold during that trip to Duke, when the Giants’ contingent also sat down for two hours with Cutcliffe. It was during this meeting that Cutcliffe compared Jones, at this stage of his career, favorably to Eli and Peyton Manning.

”He kind of connected some of the things, because there were some comparisons to Eli,” Shurmur said after the draft.

The Giants, and Dave Gettleman in particular, must have a long-established relationship with Cutcliffe after making the trade to acquire Eli Manning back in 2004 — a trade executed by Ernie Accorsi, who Gettleman has referred to as his “consigliere”.

We also know that Gettleman was hugely impressed with Jones in person in the Senior Bowl game. Most scouts and evaluators go home by (or after) Thursday’s practice, but Gettleman made the decision to stay and watch the game. That’s where he and Jones seemed to have their meet-cute moment and Gettleman got all twitterpated.

“He walked out there and I saw a professional quarterback after the three series that I saw,”

We have to assume Jones, and the people around Jones, heavily informed their process and impressed the Giants enough to believe that the tape lied and Jones can be the biggest statistical outlier in recent memory.

Dave Gettleman is not an idiot.

I’ve questioned his decisions and his process plenty over the last 18 (or so) months, but I’ve never believed he was an idiot.

He knows, he has to know, he can’t not-know, that the decision to select Eli Manning’s successor is a momentous one.

If anything, we have undersold just how massive and far-reaching this decision is.

In drafting Daniel Jones, he will not only be (directly) compared to Dwayne Haskins for the foreseeable future, but also Drew Lock and Will Grier as players the Giants were also considered to be in the running for the top QB prospect after Kyler Murray. And while it might not be fair, Jones will also be compared to Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, whom the Giants passed up (twice, in Rosen’s case). He will also be compared to (linebacker) Josh Allen and Ed Oliver, either of whom it was assumed the Giants would “run to the podium” to draft.

There’s also the Saquon Barkley factor.

Drafting Jones takes the heat off of Barkley, who we all assumed would be compared to Darnold, Rosen, and (quarterback) Josh Allen after the Giants opted to defy convention and draft a running back second overall. But four year from now the Giants could be weighing Barkley’s second contract, which will likely average over $20million per year. At the same time they will have to make a decision about Jones’ fifth-year option which will pay him an average of the top 10 players at his position. That will likely be over $30 million by then (it’s $29 million now). Even if the Salary cap eclipses $200 million by 2023, if you are going to have a quarter of your cap tied up in two players, they both better be franchise talents.

The Giants’ brass knows all of that, or at least they should.

And while we don’t know exactly what their process was, what they saw on tape, what they heard in meetings, or how heavily they weighted the eye test. We’ll probably never know the answers to those questions.

We know the Giants obviously liked Jones better than the other quarterbacks. And we can’t argue that they weren’t right to take “Their Guy” when they had the chance at sixth overall. But we can, and should, ask how and why Daniel Jones got to be “Their Guy”.

The process is important, and we should hope that its a rigorous one, even if we never get an answer as to what it is.

Podcast

I did mention that Mark joined Dan and I for the Big Blue Big Board podcast. Not only do we discuss who Jones is as a player, but also much of what I ask above — with Mark adding his own inimitable eye for detail.

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