Surrounding Players Make the QB

The psychology of how fans and the media view different QBs is very... interesting. Daniel Jones was a polarizing choice when he was drafted #6 in 2019 - a QB viewed by many experts as maybe the 4th or 5th best of that year's class. The disagreement over that choice among fans and most NFL people continues to this day (not that any of the other 2019 QBs taken after Kyler Murray have been any good), and with good reason, because Jones has only shown glimpses of what a highly drafted QB should be able to do.

But watching the fate of some other QBs this year, on the field and in the media, has been fascinating. The most recent example was Dak Prescott yesterday. To be clear, I think Prescott is a top 10 QB and better than Jones probably ever will be. But yesterday, without his two top receivers for most of the game, and with several of his best starting OLs out also, he looked awful: 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 5 sacks, and a 57.9 QB rating. But, announcers Joe Buck and especially Troy Aikman placed none of the blame on him. After all, what could he be expected to do without his top pass catchers and poor protection? Never mind that just 2 weeks earlier, Prescott had also been embarrassed by Denver's D, getting shut out until garbage time when the score was 30-0.

And consider golden boy Josh Allen, who "made the leap" in year 3 and tore the league apart, making the Bills a pre-season Super Bowl favorite. This year he is struggling, with the OL routinely giving up pressure with only 4 men rushing the passer, culminating in yesterday's blowout loss to the Colts. Mark Schofield has a great breakdown of Allen's problems this year: The Bills now find themselves out of first place, and Allen is getting criticism on Twitter as a 1-year wonder:

Derek Carr was having a great season and was starting to enter discussions of whether he is a top 10 QB. He had the Raiders at 5-2 and in first place in the AFC West. But once his only deep threat was gone, he became a pretty mediocre QB. And in the clutch, at the 12 yard line with 50 seconds left on 2nd down and needing a TD to tie the game, he let himself be strip-sacked by Quincy Roche, who beat a good OT, exactly the type of failing that Daniel Jones is always roasted for (and that he himself suffered earlier in the game).

And of course even the great Patrick Mahomes has shown himself to be vulnerable to the pressure given up by a subpar performing OL multiple times this year (despite two excellent 2021 draft picks and two high-priced veteran imports brought in this year). And as the Giants showed, a well-designed defensive scheme that shuts down his 2 dangerous receivers leaves him few options since the Chiefs have little quality depth in the receiving corps.

Daniel Jones is of course very familiar with the problems that can be caused by a poor OL and an inadequate or depleted receiving corps. Yet when he has a bad game, the blame is usually placed on him. The difference is that Prescott, Allen, and Mahomes have all had the benefit of at least a full season, if not many seasons, with a sturdy OL and good receivers. So when things go south on them they do not get the blame, because they have a reservoir of past production achieved when the line was stout and the receivers healthy for fans and the media to draw on to avoid blaming them. And rightly so. Jones unfortunately has no such reservoir of extended past production to draw on. His OL has been bad ever since he joined the Giants, and he has had only a few games in his career with a complete receiving corps. The one time he had all his receivers plus Andrew Thomas in the lineup this season, he took some deep shots, put 400 yards on the board, and scored a big upset (against a defense that made Tom Brady look bad a few weeks later).

And of course the sainted Brady himself is no stranger to how even the GOAT can be made to look bad when his OL gives up a lot of pressure (see 2008 Super Bowl).

None of this means that Daniel Jones can be a great QB. I have no idea. But he's had the deck stacked against him from the start, and he gets little leeway from the media, most of whom have decided that he is terminally mediocre.

The flip side of Daniel Jones is Mac Jones. Unlike Daniel, Mac was blessed to be drafted by a decent team with innovative offensive coaching that got better with some very aggressive free agency signings and is now leading the AFC East. He has wowed the media, most of whom declare him the best QB of the 2021 draft. But Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Justin Fields were drafted onto bad teams, all of them with poor OLs and few top-flight receiving options, and Trey Lance hasn't even seen the field much to show his stuff. If you watch Mac Jones' games, the TNF game at Atlanta last week being a good example, the Patriots script almost exclusively short passes for him with creative routes to get receivers open and good protection by a top-tier OL. To his credit, Mac Jones is a very accurate short passer, and I think he'll be a good QB in this league for a long time. But as soon as he took his first deep shot of the game last Thursday, he was intercepted. We'll see if teams with good Ds start squeezing him on the short game and daring him to throw deep. The other round 1 QBs are all better deep passers, I'm sure, but they are getting massacred by the failings of their OLs.

Let's hope that in the second half of the season, Andrew Thomas is healthy, Matt Peart becomes more consistent, and Golladay/Toney/Shepard/Barkley and Co. stay mostly healthy. And that Jason Garrett responds with a more creative offense. It would be nice to get a half-season of Daniel Jones with at least a passable OL plus a complete set of receiving options to see what he is really capable of. Maybe the New Orleans game was fools gold. Or maybe there is something real there to be mined by having a more capable offense surrounding him.

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