The whole “Should he have played, shouldn’t he have played, how long should he have played?” debate surrounding Daniel Jones from Sunday’s New York Giants vs. Arizona Cardinals game marks the first time in his tenure as head coach that I’m truly disappointed in Joe Judge.
That disappointment stems from a couple of things that I will explain as we go along here. First, let me say this. I don’t blame Judge and the Giants for wanting Jones to play on Sunday. He is their starting quarterback. He is the best guy they have for the job. They were, and still are, in a playoff race playing games they need to win. You want your best guys on the field in games like that.
“We made a calculation. We have a lot of confidence in Colt (McCoy). This has nothing to do with Colt. But there’s also a commitment we’ve made to Daniel as our quarterback and how we’re running this offense,” Judge said on Monday. “We have confidence in all of our players. But if he’s healthy enough to go out there and protect himself, and we don’t feel he’s putting himself in greater danger to be injured worse, and he’s going to give the team a competitive advantage of going out there, then we’re going to play him. We have no hesitation.”
That’s fine. No problem with what Judge said, or the logic behind Judge playing. he’s the starter, you want him in there in a game you need to win if he can be in there.
The problem I have starts with the words “protect himself.”
Judge said for two weeks that he wouldn’t play Jones if he couldn’t protect himself in the pocket, if was a “sitting duck” for opposing pass rushers.
Judge said Sunday evening and again on Monday that the Giants felt Jones could, and did, protect himself in the pocket against the Cardinals.
“I’d say the way he moved in the game was what we expected. We put him through enough in practice last week to make sure he was put in a position where he could protect himself,’ Judge said on Monday. “We knew that there were things that were going to come up in the game and some limitations that he was going to have throughout the game. We were willing to live with those. But in terms of the question did we feel like he moved the same in practice as he did in the game, I would say the answer to that is yes. What we expected to see, we pretty much saw.”
I’m not sure how Judge defines “protect himself,” but I’m not sure how anyone who watched the Arizona pass rush tee off on him Sunday could get the idea that the quarterback was able to protect himself.
Jones was a human pinata. He was a sitting duck. He was a stationary target at the shooting range. The Cardinals knew exactly where he was going to be. They were hunters seeking wounded prey. All they had to do was get to their target. And they did, over and over.
I have no idea how you can look at that game and tell me Jones could “protect himself.”
Jones didn’t run once, the first time in 25 NFL games that has happened. He only moved out of the pocket a couple of times, and often didn’t move within it.
He wasn’t protecting himself. He was taking hits and surviving them. Being the “tough dude” Judge often calls him, and other players he respects. Honestly, I respect Jones for that toughness, too.
By the time Judge mercifully pulled him out of the game for the Giants’ final possession, Jones was a hobbled mess who looked like the battering he took may have both aggravated his hamstring and perhaps caused another injury.
Judge said Jones had “wear and tear” by the end of the game and came out of it with “bumps and bruises.” The coach added that Jones had “no broken bones” and “didn’t do anything that aggravated that leg injury right there.”
He also didn’t do much that helped the Giants’ anemic offense on Sunday. It was apparent from Jones’ first throw, a completed slant where he hesitated and threw behind Darius Slayton, that the quarterback wasn’t completely comfortable.
This is where my other issue comes into play. Even in the run-up to the Seattle game in which Jones did not play, Judge had been warning that while you want to trust how Jones says he feels that “the dangerous thing with Daniel is he’s going to always tell you he feels great. He doesn’t want to not be out there with the team. We have to really trust our eyes more so than our ears when we’re dealing with Daniel because he’s definitely a competitor.”
Yet, when push came to shove Judge relied on what Jones was telling him rather than on what his eyes should have been telling him — that his quarterback’s seriously limited mobility was hurting the offense and putting him at risk.
This is what Judge said Sunday night:
“In terms of taking Daniel out, we checked with him health-wise. We kept getting status updates from him to make sure he can keep playing. The feedback was all positive from him and the medical team ... as far as the conversation with Daniel, as long as his health stayed up, we were committed to putting him in the game today.”
In my view, that was a coach using his heart and his ears, hearing what he wanted to hear, rather than really seeing and reacting to what was happening in front of him.
Judge added on Monday that despite the ways in which Jones’ lack of mobility limited the Giants on offense, he would have “no hesitation” playing him this week.
I really like Judge. For the first time since Tom Coughlin, I feel like the Giants have a head coach who will be around for a while and will ultimately succeed in getting the Giants back to being a perennial playoff contender.
In this case, though, I simply don’t think Judge did the right thing.