Published on 19 Oct 2022 5:35 pm (UK Time)
Daniel Jones, also known as “Danny Dimes” is currently in the best form of his career so far. During the Giants’ come-from-behind win against the Green Bay Packers in London, Jones threw for 217 yards, completing 21 of his 27 passing attempts. Alongside this, he rushed for 37 yards. While this may not seem noteworthy, it is worth bearing in mind that Jones and much of his Giants’ offense were not 100% fit for the game.
Jones himself was coming off an ankle injury which many feared would either prevent him from playing against the Packers altogether or would seriously immobilize him. In reality, none of this happened. Jones was cleared to play against Green Bay days before the game, and while he was more reliant on his passing game than normally (his 217 yards thrown is the most he has thrown for this season) he still had some form of rushing ability, rushing for 37 yards. A week later, Jones had another good game against the tough Ravens side.
It is safe to say that in the past few weeks, Jones has led the Giants to 5 victories that the majority of people did not expect to happen at the beginning of the season. The improved performance given by Jones raises the question of his contract. Earlier this year, the Giants declined Jones’s fifth-year option on his contract, meaning that he could become a free agent at the end of the year. With what we have seen over the past couple of weeks, should the Giants go all in on Danny Dimes?
It is worth looking back to see how we got to this position. Jones was somewhat controversially drafted at number 6 for the Giants in 2019. On draft night, when the Giants’ pick of Jones was announced, the reaction was a mixture of anger, shock, and just plain confusion. No one had expected him to be picked this high up. Now he was going to be the future of the New York Giants, taking over from the 2 time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning.
Jones was one of three quarterbacks in the first round (Kyler Murray and the late Dwayne Haskins being the other two) Many fans believed that Jones should have not been drafted as high as he was. The Giants had two first-round picks that year, #6 and #17. Jones could have easily been drafted at #17 if the Giants were 100% committed to getting him. That was one reason for the fan’s anger on draft night. Many others were angry that they got him in the first place.
Dwayne Haskins was for many Giants fans, the one who should have been picked, owing to his better, more consistent performances on the field, leading Ohio State to a Big Ten Championship, and to that year’s Rose Bowl, where Haskins was the MVP for that game. Haskins was also a Giants fan growing up. But it was Daniel Jones who the Giants went with. Haskins would be drafted at #15 to divisional rivals Washington, where he would play backup quarterback for them for two seasons before being the backup for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Haskins and Jones would play against each other during the Giants’ win against Washington, but Haskins’s career would be tragically cut short in 2022 when he was killed after being struck by a vehicle after trying to cross the highway on foot.
Jones was thrown into a dysfunctional Giants team coached by Pat Shurmur. Coming off a 5-11 campaign the previous year, the offseason was dominated by the Giants’ trade of star Wide Reciever Odell Beckham Jr to the Cleveland Browns, and releasing Landon Collins during free agency. Who did they gain this season? Golden Tate. Hardly impressive. Jones started the season as a backup to Eli Manning, briefly making an appearance in the final quarter of their already-lost week 1 match against the Cowboys.
But after Eli and the Giants heavily struggled on offense during their defeat to the Bills, Manning was benched, and it was time for Daniel Jones to make his NFL debut against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And what a debut it was. Jones threw for 336 yards, scoring two touchdowns. He also rushed for 28 yards, scoring 2 rushing touchdowns, including the game-winning touchdown.
While the Giants did have to rely on a missed field goal at the end of the game to win the game, if Jones did not play the way he did, they would not have even gotten into this position. For his performance, Jones was awarded the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week and was from then on the starting Quarterback for the New York Giants. A week later, Jones led the Giants to a dominant victory over divisional rival Washington. This meant that the Giants had won two consecutive games, something that rarely happened during this time. Was Daniel Jones all the Giants needed to start winning again?
No. Jones would go on to lose the next 8 games as the Giants quarterback, before getting injured with an ankle injury against the Green Bay Packers, and would have to miss the next two games. Eli Manning returned to play those two games, a Monday night overtime loss against Philadelphia, and a win at home against the Dolphins, which would be Eli’s last game before his retirement. In his return from injury, Jones threw for an impressive 352 yards and 5 touchdowns in a win against Washington. A loss in the final week against the Eagles meant that Giants went 4-12 that year, with Jones scoring 24 touchdowns in the 12 games he started that season. Ball security was a massive problem for Jones. He threw 12 interceptions and fumbled the ball 19 times, which was a league-high. If Jones was the future, improvements would be needed.
The 2020 season was different for many reasons. This was a season played in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that fans were not allowed into the stadium. It was also the first year for the Giants without Eli Manning. The Giants were now all in on Daniel Jones at Quarterback. They also had a new coach in the form of Joe Judge. What would this impact be? An 0-5 start for the second time in 5 years. In many games that year, the Giant’s offense would not be able to get a string of plays going. The week 3 and week 4 losses against the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams involved no touchdowns for the Giants. A week later, against rivals Philadelphia, Jones would gain more attention than usual, for the wrong reasons. From the Giants’ own 12-yard line, Jones would rush the ball 80 yards, completely passing the Eagles’ defense, and was heading for what would be an impressive touchdown. Then, with about 17 yards left, he tripped up. For many people to this day, this is the first and only thing they think of when you mention Daniel Jones.
By week 8, the Giants were 1-7, with that win coming against Washington. But then, something bizarre started to happen. The Giants went on a 4 game winning streak, beating Washington for a second time, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and what some described as the upset of the year, beating Seattle. Unfortunately for Jones, he did not play in that win. He injured his hamstring during the game against the Bengals, meaning backup quarterback Colt McCoy played and won, taking the Giants to 1st place in the NFC East. Jones would return a week later, and the offensive struggles would continue against the Arizona Cardinals. Jones’ return would be short-lived though, as he would again be injured during the game. He would return 2 weeks later against the Ravens and only throw for 89 yards in the first half. His second half would be more successful, scoring one touchdown and throwing for 163 yards. The Giants would lose the game, but, due to their divisional opponents also losing, would still be in playoff contention going into the last week, with a meeting with the Dallas Cowboys. In that game, Jones and the offense turned up, scoring 3 touchdowns in the first half, and went on to win the game. While they would not make the playoffs that year, the 6 win season was the best the Giants had had for many years. As for Jones, in the 14 games he played, he threw for 2943 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. However, he also threw for 10 interceptions and recorded 10 fumbles. Ball security was still a massive problem for Jones. A team with little offensive power could not afford to be giving away the ball easily.
For Jones, 2021 was again marred by injury and general mediocrity, with the occasional good performance. This can mostly be seen during the Giants’ overtime win against the Saints. Jones threw for 402 yards, scoring two touchdowns, including a 54-yard TD to star running back Saquon Barkley. But, as we have seen so many times, a successful performance from Jones one week leads to a bad performance in the following week. In the next game against the Cowboys, Jones was again injured. This time, he received a concussion after attempting to run the ball in for a touchdown. In that same game, the Giants lost Saquon Barkley for the season. Jones was surprisingly back however for the next game against the Rams, where he threw 3 interceptions in a 38-11 loss. Jones’s offensive woes continued for the next few games. While the Giants did beat the Panthers and rival the Eagles, Jones only scored 6 touchdowns in 5 games, with the majority of points coming from field goals scored by kicker Graham Gano. But, one cannot completely blame Daniel Jones for the lack of offensive power shown by the Giants in this period. There was barely any talent on this Giant team. Add that to an Offensive line that was as good as protecting their quarterback as a hole is to a bucket, and it is no wonder Jones struggled. After the win against the Eagles, it was revealed that Jones had sprained his neck, causing him to miss the rest of the season. The Giants would end 4-13, after a 6-game double-digit losing streak with backup quarterbacks. The Giants were a team in crisis. The change was needed.
Coming into the season, the Giants declined to give Jones his fifth-year option, meaning that this could be his last year playing for the Giants. At the time, this was not surprising. Jones struggled to get drives together, had massive issues with ball security (in the 11 games he played in the 2021 season, he was intercepted 7 times and fumbled the ball 7 times), and was prone to injury. The performances that he was giving were nothing like the ones he gave during the first few matches of his career with the Giants. What Jones needed was for this Giants squad to gain more talent and protection. They gained outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux and tight end Daniel Bellinger from the draft, and while that has helped the Giants, it is not the magic solution to the problems.
The Giants’ front of house also changed during the off-season with long-hated General Manager Dave Gettleman being replaced by Joe Schoen, and Joe Judge being replaced by Brian Daboll, the former offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Little was expected of the Giants going into this season. They were one of the worst-performing teams last year, with a head coach in his first year and barely any offensive weapons on the team. It was a recipe for disaster. But, as it always seems to be with the New York Giants, the moment you write them off is the moment when they will shock and amaze you.
In the 6 games that have been played this season (as of writing), the Giants have won 5 of them, bettering their win tally from 4 of the last 5 seasons. In those 5 wins, they have beaten both number 1 seeds from last year’s playoffs in the form of Tennessee and Green Bay. Jones has been playing the best he’s ever been. In the 6 games so far, Jones has led the Giants’ offense in four separate game-winning drives. That is more than any quarterback in the league. He has only recorded two interceptions (thought was saved by a defensive penalty in the game against Baltimore) and two fumbles so far this season (and one of them occurred during a bizarre hail mary play at the end of the second quarter against the Ravens) That is a massive improvement in his ball security. At this point in previous seasons, he had already given up the ball at least 8 times. In all possible metrics, Jones is playing miles better than he previously has.
But what has caused this improvement? Is this a result of Jones maturing as a quarterback? Is it due to the team finally having a coach? Is it just the pressure of essentially playing for his career? Whatever it is, it seems to be working for Jones and the Giants.
A central part of a rebuild?
So, going back to the main question, should the New York Giants give Daniel Jones a contract? Under Brian Daboll and Joe Schoen, the team is rebuilding. This process, like every good rebuild, takes a couple of years to do. A rebuild needs some form of consistency. In his current form, Jones can provide this stability in the quarterback position for a couple of years at least. Then, they can draft the successor, like Jones was for Eli Manning. This seems like the most likely pathway the Giants will take, as they will, based on their current form, have a low first-round pick. This will prevent them from getting one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s class, as other teams are more in need of a new starter. Of course, they could trade up for a higher position. But, that poses more questions that will be answered another time.
This is all hypothetical talk at the moment, and it ignores the one big issue that has plagued Jones’ career with the Giants so far. He is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league, and one of the toughest. But this increased mobility and toughness increases the risk of injury. In his 3 and a bit seasons with the Giants, he has been injured in some form in every one of them. Jones has missed 10 of the 52 games the Giants have played since he became their starting quarterback. While injuries cannot be planned for and the nature of the sport means that they will happen, having a quarterback who is very prone to being injured will have an impact on the team’s rebuild. However, as we have seen with his performance in London while playing with an injured ankle, even when he is somewhat injured, Jones can still perform well, due to the improvement of the offensive talent around him.
By looking back at where the Giants under Jones have come from, to what they are now, we can truly see how much change has happened essentially overnight. Jones is getting the fans on his side with his massively improved performances. Many fans, who remember were angry with his pick in 2019, are now jumping on the Danny Dimes hype train. More performances like what we saw in London and he will not only get his contract, but he might even get the Giants into the playoffs. Time will tell.