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Daniel Jones has to be the Giants’ quarterback once he is healthy

Many of you will disagree, but there really is only one correct decision for the Giants’ future

Washington Commanders v New York Giants
Daniel Jones
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Of course Daniel Jones should be the New York Giants’ starting quarterback once he is healthy enough to play. In my view, despite any interpretation of head coach Brian Daboll’s comments on Sunday or the idea that the offense has looked better with Tyrod Taylor behind center, there is no other decision that makes sense.

I said as much in Monday’s ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’. It is, I think, clear and obvious that Jones returning to the starting lineup is the proper course of action. What I did not do on Monday was explain why.

I will do that now.

Let’s first acknowledge, and even if you are anti-Jones I think you have to do this, that he played well last season. It was the first time in his career he was surrounded by a mostly functional, though not dynamic, group. Jones was not prolific, but he played winning football. He did not turn the ball over, ending the season with a league-low 1.1% interception rate. He made big throws and big plays when they were needed, leading four fourth-quarter comebacks and five game-winning drives. His running, both designed and as a scrambler, was a massive part of the team’s success.

Let’s also acknowledge, and even if you are pro-Jones I think you have to do this, that Jones was not playing well before he suffered his unfortunate neck injury. That, while things around him were a mess, some of the offensive ineptitude was on the quarterback. Let’s acknowledge that in the two games Taylor has started the offense, at least in spurts, has been more functional.

Now, let’s get fully into the reasons why Jones has to be the Giants’ quarterback once he is cleared for contact and physically capable of playing once again.

I agree with Lawrence Tynes, even if I wouldn’t — and won’t — be quite so crass about it:

For me, this all revolves around the ‘building, not built’ column I posted a week ago.

The future matters more for the Giants than the present, although you will never get Daboll to admit it. Getting all of the information they can to make some of the important personnel decisions they have to make is, ultimately, more important than whatever their won-loss record turns out to be this season.

One of those decisions involves Jones and the future of the quarterback position. The Giants need more information about what Jones can and will be before deciding whether or not they need to invest first- or second-round capital at quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Yes, even in Jones’ fifth season I believe that to be the case. This is the fifth season of watching Jones for Giants’ fans. It is, though, only the second year of working with him and truly studying him for Schoen and Daboll. What happened in the pre-Daboll and Schoen era is of no consequence to this regime.

The Giants gave Jones a four-year, $160 million contract in the offseason. I have said this before, but it needs to be repeated here. They did not give him that contract because a nine-win, 15-touchdown, 3,205-yard passing season was good enough. They gave him that contract because he did everything they asked him to do, and after a season of working with him, they believed he could do more.

It also must be repeated that the deal Schoen gave Jones is not the same type of mega-deal Jalen Hurts got from the Eagles, Joe Burrow got from the Bengals, or Lamar Jackson got from the Ravens.

The contract is really a two-year “prove-it” deal for Jones with no guaranteed money beyond the 2024 season. The Giants can get out of the deal after the 2024 season with just $11.105 in 2025 dead money should they choose to designate him a post-June 1 cut.

The contract also leaves them in a position where, if at the end of this year they believe Jones can’t take them where they want to go, they could draft a quarterback and use Jones as a 2024 placeholder while the newbie develops.

In my view, the Giants don’t have enough information yet to make that decision. That is largely because of the circumstances under which Jones had to play earlier in the season.

Here is Jones talking to Kay Adams on Tuesday about his availability:

Here are some of my thoughts after listening to the spot:

Now comes the part the anti-Jones crowd will look at as the pandering of and excuse-making for Jones that has gone on for much of his four-plus seasons with the Giants. The pro-Jones crowd will nod their heads in agreement and say “yup, that’s right.”

My view of Jones’ 2023-24 season to date

It hasn’t been good. He has been indecisive at times. He has made some bad decisions. Yes, he has at times been responsible for some of the sacks he has taken and some of the pressure he has been under.

Pro Football Focus ranks Jones fifth in the league in allowed pressure, pinning 19.7% of the pressure he has faced on the quarterback. For what it’s worth, the top four in allowed pressure — Russell Wilson, Jalen Hurts, Sam Howell and Josh Allen — is largely a brand name list. So, allowed pressure doesn’t necessarily mean he is a bad quarterback.

There are plenty of things that have been beyond Jones’ control.

  • The 40-0 loss to the Dallas Cowboys was 16-0 in the blink of an eye and turned into a sack-fest. Andrew Thomas played through an injury that has sidelined him since while Jones was sacked seven times and had no chance.
  • Saquon Barkley was injured at the end of the Week 2 victory over the Arizona Cardinals and did not return to the lineup until Jones was out of it. Even when Barkley was in the lineup the first two weeks the Giants for some reason refused to use him. With Barkley injured, the Giants barely even bothered to try and run the ball. Barkley had 24 and 21 carries in the two games since his return. Quarterbacks don’t devise game plans or make play calls. The refusal to even try to use the running game properly the first five weeks to protect both the quarterback and the struggling offensive line is on the coaching staff.

Let’s also not forget that the best the offense has looked all season was in the second half to the Arizona game when the Giants scored 31 points. Jones and Barkley were part of that. For the only time in Jones’ four-plus games this season, the Giants also made sure Jalin Hyatt was part of it. Because I’m already ducking into my desk to take cover from the anti-Jones crowd, here is some support for my position:

  • The offensive line has been a disaster. With the arrival of Justin Pugh and the return to the lineup of Mark Glowinski, the line has begun to stabilize over the past two weeks. Why Glowinski, an adequate player, was benched after one poor game for a player in Marcus McKethan who wasn’t — and isn’t, in my view — ready to be an NFL starter is one of the curious decisions the Giants have made this season.
  • The receiver situation. Wan’Dale Robinson missed the first two games and was not fully integrated into the offense until Week 4. Hyatt, who caught two big passes — from Jones — in the comeback victory over the Cardinals, was also not a full-time player until Week 4.

The Giants approached the offseason trying to build a more dynamic group on offense that was largely to put in place to give Jones the chance to see if he could be more than he was in 2022. The offense has not been whole.

With Barkley back, with the young receivers becoming integrated, a seemingly stabilizing offensive line that could be getting starters Thomas, John Michael Schmitz and Evan Neal back and what has seemed like a better, more realistic plan of attack the last two weeks the offense appears to be closing in on being as whole and as capable as it can be.

For the good of the franchise, so that they can make the best possible decision in the upcoming draft, the Giants need to know if Jones can succeed with the group around him that they expected to have.

Now, about Tyrod Taylor

There is no denying that Taylor played well, at least in spurts, the past two weeks. There is no denying that the Giants created more explosive plays against Washington than they had in any other game. There is no denying that the Giants’ offense looked better, at least at times, with Taylor than it had in the five games Jones started.

Let’s be real, though. As I have said and will continue to say, the Giants are building for a future they hope will see them become a realistic challenger to the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and even the new kid in town Detroit Lions.

Taylor is not going to take them there.

Taylor is 34. He is in his 13th season. The only stretch in his career where he was a starter was from 2015-17 with the Buffalo Bills, who replaced him with Josh Allen in 2018 because they knew they needed a better quarterback to become one of the truly elite teams in the AFC.

Before becoming a Giant, Taylor was with the Baltimore Ravens, Bills, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers and Houston Texans. He had moments with each of those teams, but they all came to the same conclusion — they needed to improve at quarterback if they were going to make real progress.

That isn’t changing with the Giants.

Taylor has not turned the Giants into an offensive juggernaut. The Giants scored 9 points against the Bills and it was Taylor’s bone-headed decision to check to a run play at the end of the first half — an inexcusable decision for a 13-year veteran with :14 on the clock and no timeouts — that cost the Giants that game. They scored 14 points Sunday against a bad Washington team and had seven of 14 drives end in three-and-outs. They did not score a point in the second half.

Taylor is a good backup quarterback, the type of backup every NFL team should aspire to have. He is not, though, the answer at quarterback for the Giants.

Maybe Jones isn’t, either. There is, though, still a chance he might be. The Giants need to spend the rest of the season figuring out whether they believe the answer is yes or no.