With a new head coach and general manager on the way, there is no telling what that means for the New York Giants roster in 2022. It is an uncertain time, and we are here to help.
Let’s begin our annual series of post-season position reviews. We will look at what happened in 2021, and, with an eye toward helping the new coach and GM, what could or should happen going into the 2022 season.
Let’s begin at quarterback, the position everything revolves around.
2021 in review
Starter: Daniel Jones
Backups: Mike Glennon, Jake Fromm, Brian Lewerke
Daniel Jones did not take the Year 3 leap to stardom that many were hoping for in 2021. The question that is open for debate is how much of that was Jones responsible for, and how much can and should be pinned on the circumstances around him?
The Giants were a mess offensively.
The offensive line was a disaster. Saquon Barkley missed four games with an ankle injury, and never resembled the game-changing player the Giants hoped was returning to their lineup. At tight end, Evan Engram missed two games, Kyle Rudolph one and Kaden Smith seven. Wide receiver was a weekly revolving door with players coming into and going out of the lineup at a dizzying pace.
Jason Garrett was brought back for a second season as offensive coordinator, with the thought being that continuity of scheme would help Jones and better skill position players would lead to a more explosive offense. That didn’t work out, and Garrett was fired by midseason.
None of this made for an environment conducive to the kind of improvement the Giants were hoping for from Jones.
Jones did show modest improvement. His completion percentage (64.3) was a career-best, as was his interception rate of 1.9 percent. His on-target throw percentage of 76.1 was a career best. His passer rating (84.8) was up just a bit from 2020. His bad throw percentage (18.4) was, however, up just a tick.
All-in-all, Jones was probably a mediocre to slightly below average NFL starting quarterback in 2021.
Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com placed Jones 25th in his end-of-season rankings of primary starting quarterback for each team. He wrote:
Jones had the poor man’s version of Lamar Jackson’s season. He played way better than his numbers showed in a difficult situation for five weeks. Then he succumbed to his surroundings, the apparent progress boomeranged and he ended the season hurt. Jones’ neck injury is a concern, but he’s under contract for cheap in 2022. The Giants’ moribund offense after his departure helped show his worth. The team has much bigger problems, although Jones would have trade value if a new regime wanted to get creative.
Here is a graphic look at Jones’ season, via Tucker Boynton (@Tucker_TnL on Twitter):
Remember when I said Jones was probably mediocre to slightly below average in 2021? Well, perhaps the comparable names on this illustration from Boynton droves home that point better than anything I could write:
After three seasons, do we really know what Jones is? Maybe. Maybe not.
The top-end production has not been there, especially after the rookie season he spent with Pat Shurmur calling plays. So, can we assess what an offense’s ceiling is with Jones at quarterback? Perhaps not.
As Mark Schofield and I discussed in November, it is possible that Jones already shown us what he is. As Rosenthal wrote, Jones got dragged down by his surroundings. Perhaps that is what he is — a decent quarterback who hints at being more than that occasionally, but a guy who needs his surroundings to be solid in order to have real success. Maybe he just isn’t a guy who will ever really make players around him better, or be able to rise above less than ideal circumstances.
All of that is interesting to think about in light of the disaster the Giants became offensive after Jones was lost for the final six games of the season with a neck injury. The Giants averaged a not good enough 18.4 points per game with Jones. With Mike Glennon and Jake Fromm proving they aren’t NFL-caliber quarterbacks, and the Giants at times looking as though the coaching staff had given up even trying to play real offense, they averaged just 9 points per game without him.
That probably says more about Glennon, Fromm, Joe Judge and Freddie Kitchens than about Jones.
Whatever the circumstances, though, the 2021 season was not what the Giants had hoped for from Jones.
We have no idea how the new head coach and general manager will feel about Jones. We know that the coaching staff and GM who drafted him are no longer part of the Giants organization, and that co-owner John Mara says he won’t intervene, that decisions on the futures of players like Jones and Saquon Barkley are “going to be between the general manager and the head coach.”
What we do know is what the options are.
The Giants could run it back with Jones, whose neck injury is not expected to be an issue going forward. That makes financial sense, especially since we know the Gettleman regime left the Giants cap-strapped. Jones’ 2022 cap hit is $7.174 million, a pittance for a starting NFL quarterback.
Since there remains some debate over what Jones is or is not, perhaps trying to fix the circumstances around him — scheme, play-calling, offensive line, skill positions — and seeing what the upside is if you can make inroads in those areas would be worthwhile.
The Giants face a May 2 decision on whether or not to pick up Jones’ fifth-year option at a projected $21.369 million. That would seem unlikely.
If the Giants choose to bring back Jones as the starter, a better backup who could push him is a necessity. A Nick Foles or Tyrod Taylor type who has proven to be capable of playing at a reasonable level.
The new bosses could choose to make a splash with a headline-grabbing trade for someone like Seattle Russell Wilson or San Francisco’s Jimmy Garappolo.
Using one of the team’s two first-round picks on a quarterback like Kenny Pickett of Pitt or Matt Corral of Ole Miss is also a possibility.
Whatever direction the new regime chooses, this will be one of the most important initial decisions that will have to be made — maybe the most important.