I get asked often how we should judge success or failure in the 2020 New York Giants’ season.
It’s a hard question. We’re dealing with a pandemic that at the very least has messed up the rhythm of a normal offseason and handicapped everyone’s ability to prepare and — let’s be completely honest — might put the kibosh on the idea of having a season at all.
I have probably answered the question a few times, and I know I have spent plenty of time trying to clarify the answer in my own mind.
I have asked it when I have had the opportunity, as well. In a recent interview with former Giants center and current NFL analyst Shaun O’Hara, he told me “You can’t only go by record.”
I agree completely with that. Especially in a season like the one we have coming up, where, on top of the usual injuries that happen in football, COVID-19 means it’s impossible to know what any team will look like from week to week.
I’m not sure, though, that I agree with O’Hara when he gave a long-winded answer that basically came down to “What is their offensive identity, and what is their defensive identity?”
As I have come to figure out in my own mind how I think you judge the success or failure of the 2020 season I have come to believe it’s a lot simpler than that. It’s not about how many games the Giants win. It’s not about offensive or defensive identity. It’s not about Patrick Graham or Jason Garrett. It’s not about whether the offensive line is fixed or whether they can find a No. 1 pass rusher.
Pleasing answers to all of those questions would be nice. They would make everybody feel good. At it’s core, though, those things are not what the 2020 season is about for the Giants.
It’s about the answers to two questions that are much simpler, and much more direct, than any of those.
Do they have the right head coach? Do they have the right quarterback?
Answering those questions is — bottom line — what the 2020 season is about for the Giants.
Let’s be real — the 2020 season is going to be a mess. Who knows what kind of lineups teams will field and how legitimate weekly results are going to be.
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.
I think they will get ‘yes’ answers on both counts.
To be honest, nothing I have seen from Jones since the Giants made him the sixth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft or from Judge since the Giants hired him in January to replace Pat Shurmur has given me reason to think otherwise.
I will leave it to others like Mark Schofield, Nick Falato, and Chris Pflum to break down each and every technical nuance of Jones’ play as a rookie.
I know this much. From his first practice of 2019 rookie mini-camp, Jones looked, acted and performed like he belonged in the NFL. He also sounded like a leader right away, falling on his sword for Darius Slayton after his fellow rookie had a rough first practice as a pro.
You say Jones fumbles too much. I say, yeah, he fumbled too much as a rookie. Big whoop! Show me a perfect rookie quarterback. Show me one who never made a mistake or never came out of a rookie season with an area of his game that needed to be improved upon.
You know when his tendency to fumble too much becomes a problem? If we see it again in 2020 — should there be a 2020 season. If we see some of the loose ball-handling when he is scrambling, or the same tendency to hold the ball too long that’s a concern.
I’m certain we will see those things sometimes. Jones won’t go all season without a fumble. He won’t go all season without pulling a ball down he should have gotten rid of and taking a hit that was his own fault. The idea is simply that we need to see those mistakes less often than we did during his rookie season.
I believe we will.
Jones is smart. He’s tough. He works at his craft. The rookie season he put together in 2019 is nothing but encouraging. The work he has done and the things Judge has said about his demeanor during virtual meetings this spring are also nothing but encouraging.
In my view, there is no reason right now to feel like Jones can’t be a winning quarterback. He’s not Patrick Mahomes, but I have no reason to believe he will turn into Mitchell Trubisky, either.
Similarly, I feel good about Judge to this point.
Judge has been impressive, if a bit mysterious at times, since the day he stepped on stage at MetLife Stadium for his introductory press conference as Giants head coach.
Despite his youth and inexperience for an NFL head coach, he has acted and sounded like a man who knows what he wants and how he wants to go about getting the Giants where he wants them to be. He has acted and sounded like a leader of men, which is the most important quality for an NFL head coach.
Judge attracted what appears to be a quality coaching staff. He appears to have been flexible enough to handle this most unique of offseasons about as well as possible. He’s been open to listening to ideas rather than dictatorial in his approach.
We have to see, of course, if Judge can back all of that up by turning the Giants into a disciplined, well-coached team, and by running games in a manner that tells you he is both prepared and ready for whatever odd situation arises.
As with Jones, I haven’t seen anything to this point that tells me I should be alarmed.
Will I, and more importantly Giants ownership, still feel like Jones and Judge are the right guys once the 2020 season is over?
Finding the answer is, truthfully, what the Giants’ 2020 season boils down to.