No one could blame New York Giants co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch (former GM Dave Gettleman, too, wherever he is) if looking at Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday gives them a wistful feeling.
The Eagles have a young quarterback who has developed into a star in his third season. They have a star-studded, championship-caliber roster. They are 11-1, and through the first three quarters of the season have looked like the best team in football.
That is where the Giants hoped to be when they made quarterback Daniel Jones the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Obviously, though, things have not worked out that way.
The Eagles went 4-11-1 in 2020. Hurts was a rookie second-round pick with low expectations, a player many thought was a good runner and potentially a good leader, but questioned whether he would ever throw the ball well enough to be a quality NFL starter.
Now, Hurts is an MVP candidate and leads the team most expect to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The 33rd Team recently looked at the 2023 quarterback decisions that need to be made around the NFL. Paul Domowitch was correct when he wrote this about Hurts and the Eagles:
“When the season is over, [Eagles GM Howie] Roseman won’t be spending his time evaluating the 2023 quarterback draft class. He’ll be spending it trying to sign Hurts to a contract extension.”
The Giants were 4-12 in 2019. Jones was a hotly-debated and much criticized No. 6 overall pick chosen by Gettleman to be the heir to Eli Manning and hopefully lead the Giants back to being a perennial contender.
Now, Jones is in his fourth season and is — for the first time — quarterbacking a team with a chance to finish with a winning record and perhaps make the playoffs.
Jones is playing for his third head coach. He is doing many things better this season than he ever has. He has thrown just four interceptions, an outstanding, career-low 1.2 percent interception rate. He has fumbled just five times in 11 games. He had seven fumbles last season in 11 games, and 36 in 38 games entering this season. He has already rushed for a career-high 522 yards. He had led five game-winning drives and four fourth-quarter comeback victories.
What he has not done is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is a franchise quarterback, that he is the guy GM Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll should go forward with.
Jones, of course, can be a free agent at season’s end.
Here is some of what analysts said about Jones in that 33rd Team article:
“Has he shown enough that they’ve seen what they want in terms of their future?” (Charles) Davis said. “I think (general manager) Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll will make that assessment when all is said and done. And I don’t think they’ll tip their hand until they’ve made that full assessment. But as well as he’s played, I still would be very surprised if they weren’t assessing this quarterback class as well.”
Here’s former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon:
“I think the best thing that happened to him was Brian coming in and putting his arm around him,” Gannon said. “It’s similar to what happened in Miami with Tua (Tagovailoa). I don’t even know if (former Dolphins head coach) Brian Flores talked to Tua. He didn’t know whether he was coming or going.
“Then Mike McDaniel gets hired. Before he even gets off the plane, he calls Tua from his jet and says, ‘Hey, you’re my guy.’ He rehabilitated his confidence. I’m seeing a lot of that with Daboll and Jones. He said, ‘I’m going to do everything I can to help him this year and make him a player. And then, at the end of the season, we’ll make a decision.’
“Daniel Jones has played really solid football this year. They’ve been in just about every game with a chance to win. He’s taken care of the football. He’s made good decisions despite the fact that they’re terrible around him. I mean, if he and Saquon Barkley don’t have a great game, they ain’t winning.”
Remember what John Mara said this winter about Jones?
“We do feel that Daniel can play. We’ve done everything possible to give it to screw this kid up since he’s been here. We keep changing coaches. Keep changing offensive coordinators. Keep changing offensive line coaches,” Mara said. “I take a lot of responsibility for that. Let’s bring in the right group of coaches now and give him some continuity and try to rebuild the offensive line and then be able to make it an intelligent evaluation of whether he can be the franchise quarterback or not.”
A comparison to the Eagles is instructive, though not pleasant for the Giants and their fans.
In two years, Roseman has built a four-win roster into a team where it is virtually impossible to find a weakness. The Eagles also got it right when they hired Nick Sirianni as head coach in 2021.
The Giants? They got it wrong when they hired Pat Shurmur as head coach. They got it wrong again when they hired Joe Judge in 2020.
They have spent years, multiple high draft picks and a fair amount of free agent money trying to build a good offensive line. They are still trying.
For years, it has been acknowledged that the Giants did not have enough play making weapons at the receiving positions. They still don’t. Not close. I don’t claim to know every roster in the league, but the Giants clearly have one of the league’s poorest group of receivers.
Jones has never been placed in a situation as advantageous as the one Hurts in operating in.
Here’s more from Gannon:
“I give the kid a lot of credit. He’s got some real toughness to him. When his feet are good and he’s able to set his feet, he can be a very accurate thrower. And he’s got a lot of intangibles that you like at the position.
“He’s picked up some bad habits. He’s been through some coaching changes and coordinator changes and system changes that haven’t helped his growth and development. But I haven’t given up on him. I think these next four or five weeks are critically important to him as the Giants prepare to make a decision. I don’t think the book’s been written on him yet in terms of how good he can be. He may turn into another Alex Smith, I don’t know. ...
“As I mentioned earlier, they may not absolutely, positively love the guy and be convinced that he’s the long-term answer,” Gannon said. “But given where they’re probably going to be drafting, there’s not going to be a slam-dunk guy there. And it’s not like there’s going to be a lot of great quarterbacks bouncing around in free agency.”
At various times this season it has seemed obvious that the Giants should bring Jones back. As the Giants have gone 1-3-1 over the past five weeks while seeming at times to be overly cautious throwing the ball the only thing that is obvious is that the decision isn’t obvious.
Considering where the Giants appear likely to end up drafting they probably won’t have a chance at the top three quarterbacks (C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, Will Levis) without trading a king’s ransom worth of draft picks.
Going forward with Jones might prove to be the best option. We still don’t know, and may never know, what a Jones-led offense with a top-tier supporting cast will look like.
The Eagles won’t face this type of agita this offseason.
As much as I know Giants fans dislike the Eagles, it’s also OK if you look at how the quarterback situations have unfolded over the past couple of seasons with a touch of envy.