Unless you cling to the belief that under Joe Judge, the fish — or the headsets — will stop stinking from the head down over the second half of the Giants’ season, a wild-card playoff berth is a pipe dream for the fifth straight season.
What that means is that from Sunday’s game against the Raiders until the merciful end on Jan. 9 at 4 p.m. against the Washington Football Team at what is certain to be MetLifeless Stadium, there is no more important matter than Daniel Jones leaving no doubt by definitively and emphatically answering this question:
Is he the quarterback of the future?
That’s mostly because the future of general manager Dave Gettleman is cloudy at best and there would be a chance his replacement was not part of the process that drafted Jones or hired Judge, so nothing right now can be etched in stone.
John Mara desperately wants to stop rifling through head coaches every two years, and he would spike a trash can in the end zone the way Rob Gronkowski spikes a football if he knew that Jones would be his next once-a-Giant-only-a-Giant franchise quarterback.
One of these years, the losing will stop.
Jones was drafted to help stop it.
That he has not been able to stop it does not mean he is the least of the Giants’ problems, because he is.
He has been asked to captain the Titanic.
“You have an idea that the future is bright for him, but you just don’t know how bright because I think some of the things around him have not been consistent enough either in terms of their availability,” ESPN “Monday Night Football” analyst Louis Riddick said.
“If you’re asking me would I pull the plug and be looking to move in a different direction? No I would not.”
Nor would I.
Giants fans look over at Justin Herbert and salivate. He is the young franchise quarterback exception, rather than the rule. Jones is having a better third season than Sam Darnold did before the Jets traded him to the Panthers to draft Zach Wilson. And the 2022 quarterback draft class is considered weak.
“Physically, there’s nothing he can’t do,” Riddick said of Jones. “He’s a great athlete. He’s a great basketball player, he can do it all. He can throw the football all over the place. He was one of the best deep ball throwers in the NFL last year. This year it’s gone down because of the consistency of the availability of the people. His decision-making looks better. His accuracy can always stand to improve. Some of that’s going to be him, some of that’s going to the chemistry with the weapons.”
Everything around him doesn’t have to be perfect for Jones to succeed. But even with playmakers falling like flies and a patchwork, makeshift offensive line that has been a patchwork, makeshift offensive line for far too long, and God knows what the deal was with those headsets, Jones has made progress and has provided glimpses into what he can be.
When Giants fans ask Phil Simms in public about Jones, he tells them: “Don’t worry about Daniel Jones. Worry about the rest of the team, OK?”
Jones is tough, he is smart, he is a dual threat, he is a good leader who has won the respect of his teammates, on both sides of the ball. He has taken better care of the ball.
Can he lift his team the way elite quarterbacks lift their teams? Not this team. Not while he is not an elite quarterback.
Giants fans forget that there were doubts about Eli Manning up until his championship playoff run at the end of his fourth season.
It is a projection right now that you can win with Jones — simply because the Giants haven’t won yet with Jones.
When Saquon Barkley and Kenny Golladay and Sterling Shepard return, Jones will have more of a fighting chance behind that patchwork, makeshift offensive line to prove that he is the answer to the question: Is he the quarterback of the future?
After the COVID-19 distraction the Giants endured this week, in the midst of another season that has gone off the rails, and so often into the training room, the very last thing they need over at 1925 Giants Drive is a false positive from Daniel Jones.