Over and over during the offseason I was asked how I would define success or failure for the New York Giants in 2020. Back in June the answer finally crystallized for me. It’s how these two questions are answered once the season is done:
Do they have the right head coach? Do they have the right quarterback?
Here is part of what I wrote at the time:
What I have realized as I thought about it, though, is that to feel good about their future — whatever the record is in 2020 — the Giants need to come out of the season knowing that they have a quarterback they can go forward with and a head coach who can lead them out of the morass they have been in for far too long.
If they come out of 2020 confident they have those things, the season is a success. If they come out of the season thinking they need to dive back into the quarterback pool in the 2021 draft or wondering if maybe they gave Joe Judge a head-coaching job before he was ready for the responsibility then the season is a failure.
Simple as that.
The Giants are 0-4. Daniel Jones is still a turnover machine. The honeymoon is rapidly ending for Joe Judge, if it isn’t over already.
Still, the season remains about those two things.
I keep going back to what John Mara said before the season began.
“I want to feel like when we walk off the field after the last game that we play, whenever that is, that we’re moving in the right direction. That we have the pieces in place to compete for a Super Bowl, and that the combination of people that we have here is going to work going forward. That’s what Steve (Tisch) and I need to feel like,” Mara said. “I think we give the same answer every year because that’s truly what it is. You can’t pin it to a certain win-loss total, but you just want to feel like this group that we have together right now is building something that’s going to compete for a championship.”
That hasn’t changed a bit. There are 12 games to play and three months to go before the 2020 season ends for the Giants.
I think we can table the Judge discussion. I’m pretty confident in saying that no matter what the final record this year Judge is going to get more than one season to try and fix the Giants. He’s probably going to get more than two. I remember Mara saying when Judge was hired that he and Tisch knew they were going to have to be more patient with Judge than they were with Ben McAdoo or Pat Shurmur. I expect them to stick to that.
That leaves Jones. In truth, the next 12 games for the Giants are all about determining whether or not they go forward with Jones or whether, if their draft spot puts them in position to do so, they dive back into the quarterback pool.
Jones has been far too much of a turnover machine in his first 17 NFL games, 16 of which were starts. He has fumbled 21 times and thrown 17 interceptions. That’s staggering. Even more distressing has been the timing of some of Jones’ mistakes. He made critical game-changing errors against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Rams that short-circuited chances for the Giants to come from behind and win games.
I need to add this video from Mark Schofield:
Compare and contrast. Two throws from Daniel Jones almost a year apart: pic.twitter.com/69YN83PiVt— Mark Schofield (@MarkSchofield) October 6, 2020
Still, no one should be out on Jones. Yet. The Giants certainly are not, nor should they be.
“Daniel is our quarterback,” Judge said simply on Monday when asked how long the organization could wait to see progress from the 2019 sixth overall pick.
“We support him, we have a lot of confidence in him, we have faith in him,” Judge said. “Again, he’s a young guy who’s developing. We’ve seen a lot of progress from him day to day. Are there things he needs to correct and clean up, and can we do a better job as coaches and staff to put him in the right situations? Absolutely.
“But in terms of that blanket statement, I don’t know if there’s ever a pinpoint in terms of what’s the threshold for saying some guy is your guy for whatever.”
I have received e-mails lately asking if it was time for the Giants to bench Jones. Absolutely not. There is zero point in watching Colt McCoy or Clayton Thorson play quarterback for the Giants while Jones twiddles his thumbs on the sidelines while wearing a baseball cap.
One thing Judge says all the time that I wholeheartedly agree with is that for the Giants it’s not about where they are, it’s about where they are going. Part of that is the week-to-week improvement Judge says he looks for from his current team. Truth is, though, wherever the Giants are going they aren’t getting there in 2020.
They aren’t contending for those titles Mara and Tisch — and restless Giants fans — want to contend for right now.
The Giants have to find out whether they believe Jones is the guy who can take them where they want to go, and I don’t believe that answer is in yet. Jones has now started 16 NFL games, exactly one season’s worth. He’s working in his second offense in as many seasons. He’s working without benefit of on-field offseason practice. Without Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard. With an offensive line that only in the second half of Week 4 vs. the Rams began to show hints that it might not be a sieve.
We haven’t seen enough progress yet from Jones in terms of decisiveness and pocket presence, and in all honesty I do worry about whether those things can be developed or are simply inate.
There are, though, 12 games to go — 12 tests yet to be taken. If the Giants are in a position to draft Trevor Lawrence, Jones has probably failed most of those tests.
I’ll be honest. I would like to see him pass. I would love to see the Giants in a position in the 2021 NFL Draft to grab a game-changing wide receiver or defensive player and not have to dip back into the quarterback pool. Or, if they are sitting in a spot where teams may want Justin Fields or Trey Lance, the draft’s other top quarterbacks, be able to capitalize by obtaining a cachet of draft picks.
Back to my original point, though. In my view nothing has changed in terms of what the 2020 season is about for the Giants, and nothing has yet been determined. There is simply too much evidence yet to be collected.
Thoughts on Andrew Thomas
For months, the argument raged. Who was the best offensive tackle in the 2020 draft class? Mekhi Becton? Jedrick Wills? Tristan Wirfs? The Giants decided it was Andrew Thomas, and made him the No. 4 overall pick and the focal point of the latest revamp of their offensive line.
To date, that hasn’t gone well. Thomas is tied for league-worst in sacks allowed by a tackle (3) and his 19 pressures allowed is most in the NFL. His Pro Football Focus pass-blocking efficiency score is last in the league among 57 qualifying tackles.
PFF will tell us that Becton, Wills and Wirfs have all been better. Actually, a lot better.
NFL analyst Brian Baldinger told the New York Post this about Thomas:
“His biggest flaw is he doesn’t play with his feet in the ground,” NFL Network film analyst Brian Baldinger told The Post. “He’s always hopping, and he’s always on one foot. It’s the same way he played [in college] at Georgia. So it doesn’t matter how big he is or how athletic. It’s actually a curse because he constantly is off-balance.”
If you watch the video below, which Dan Duggan posted to highlight something else, you see exactly that. When the Rams pass rusher makes contact with Thomas the rookie left tackle has only one foot in the ground. Of course he is going to get overpowered and not be able to handle any change of direction.
On the other side of the coin, this should have been a sack but Jones makes a play (Andrew Thomas continues to get beat inside and struggle with power). Also, look at the receivers when Jones hits the top of his drop. Where is he supposed to go with the ball? "4 curls" gotta go: pic.twitter.com/0TyHwZwRie— Dan Duggan (@DDuggan21) October 5, 2020
Thomas’s struggles, of course, have Giants fans with PTSD from the Ereck Flowers years having nightmares.
“I think obviously he’s a guy who has a tremendous amount of potential, and that’s why we brought him in here. He’s been baptized by fire really this first part of the season. He’s seen a lot of elite edge rushers. He’s seen a lot of multiples come at him. Obviously, they’re trying to attack him as a rookie and see what he can handle,” Judge said. “He’s done a lot of things very, very positively. There are some other things that, like with any rookie, he has to learn from and correct. We’re not going to write him a pass for being a young guy or being a rookie or not having a preseason. That’s not the way we operate here. But look, I’m very pleased with the way he’s working. There are a lot of things he’s learning on the fly right now.”
There is reason for concern with Thomas. Like with Jones, though, let’s see where things stand once the rest of the games are played.
Youth being served
The Giants have nine rookies on their roster. They have nine second-year players. Judge has made it clear those players are going to play.
“We just want to keep these young guys developing and involved in the game so when they have to get out there and play extended periods of time, they’ve already had experience,” Judge said.
“I think we have a lot of young guys right now on the roster who are at least starting to come around. You can kind of see a difference in their eyes, which is kind of natural for them to have after some experience on the field. They’re acclimating a little bit to not only the speed of the game on the field, but the speed of the game in the classroom, the speed of the game how you have to carry it from the classroom to practice, and it’s kind of slowing down for them a little bit.”
- Seventh-round pick Tae Crowder played 33 snaps vs. the Rams.
- Offensive tackle Matt Peart played 12 snaps in a pre-planned second-quarter appearance.
- Rookie cornerback Madre Harper got two snaps after only two practices.
- Shane Lemieux opened the game at fullback. Don’t be shocked to see him begin to make some Peart-like appearances, especially if Kevin Zeitler doesn’t play better.
- Rookie linebacker Cam Brown is becoming a key special teams player. Perhaps he works his way into the “edge” rotation eventually.
Maybe these young players will work out. Maybe they will crash and burn. Seeing them get on the field and begin to contribute, though, is reason for optimism.