The NFL landscape is littered with young quarterbacks who were broken not necessarily by their shortcomings, but by the failings of the players and organizations they were surrounded by.
Former Houston Texans quarterback David Carr comes to mind. Mark Sanchez and maybe now Sam Darnold of the New York Jets come to mind. Josh Rosen might fit that category. Maybe Robert Griffin III. Dwayne Haskins might be an example since he always seemed doomed to fail due to the dysfunction in Washington.
Which brings us to Daniel Jones and the New York Giants.
The Giants one of three winless teams in the league. They are 3-14 over two seasons in the games Jones has started, 1-14 since the fairytale start to his career last season. Jones is running for his life, pressured at a higher rate than any other quarterback in the league, per Pro Football Focus. He has one receiver he seems to trust completely — Darius Slayton. Jones’ security blanket and the Giants’ best player, Saquon Barkley, won’t play again until 2021.
There is little doubt that central to the remainder of this season, due in part to how it has gone thus far, is determining whether or not Jones is the quarterback the organization wants to go forward with. Or, come draft time, whether whoever is ultimately making the decision believes Trevor Lawrence, Trey Lance, or Justin Fields is a superior option.
Should the Giants be worried about wrecking Jones before he has enough time to, on his own merits, show the Giants whether he can work through his flaws and be their long-term quarterback?
“I’m really not worried about it with him,” said quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski. “This guy’s resilient and each week’s different and he comes to work each week just trying to work his butt off and the best 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. He’s trying to do the best he can on every play. I haven’t seen anything that would give me concern for that.”
Jones’ fumbling issues have continued thus far, and his pocket awareness remains questionable at times.
Still, here is a fundamental question. Are the Giants asking Jones to do too much too soon with too little? Are they asking him to carry too much of the load for a team that is still, obviously, not nearly whole?
Here is something head coach Joe Judge said a few days after the Giants’ Week 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers:
“That’s [playing quarterback] the toughest job in professional sports. You look at the truly great ones that have come through our league, without naming names, just think real carefully about how many of those guys were able to have high degrees of success before they had to truly carry a team? Think about those real great ones that are going to be wearing gold jackets that have played in this league for call it 15 to 20 years. How many of those guys had the benefit of working with teams that were carried more by defense or the run game or a great arsenal of guys around him that supported him.”
Jones is not being afforded that luxury. He is being asked to lift the Giants, to lift a moribund franchise that has fielded the worst team in football since the beginning of the 2017 season. Is that a burden that he can bear, or will it ultimately crush him?
Three times this season, Jones has been in late-game situations that could have put the Giants in a position to win games. Twice, he threw devastating interceptions. Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, he simply couldn’t engineer a drive that gave his team a chance.
“We’ve gotta deliver when the game’s on the line, that’s a big part of being a good quarterback in this league,” Schuplinski said. “I’m pretty sure we don’t put that kind of pressure on him. We literally, it’s no different than any other drive and we say look, just do your job and your responsibility on this play just like we ask everybody else to do.
“I’ve found that when people get out of their realm and they try to do some stuff or the whole ‘I’ve gotta make a play philosophy’ it doesn’t always work out too well. It’s just play within yourself, do what the read calls for 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.”
Is the ability to deliver late in games technical or is there something in a quarterback’s DNA that allows him to tap into that?
“I think it’s mostly technical, to be honest with you,” Schuplinski said. “If it is something in the genes I think Daniel has it.’
“He’s got the makeup to do it and we’ll keep giving him those opportunities. Hopefully, they keep coming up.”