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The Thread: Hell yes, the New York Giants can win with Daniel Jones at quarterback
There isn't a more fascinating QB this 2021 season. Into Year 3, the pressure's on Daniel Jones. Here is why he'll absolutely lead New York back to the playoffs.
The last time the New York Giants believed in a quarterback, it backfired. Badly. This flagship franchise clutched to Eli Manning at least two seasons too long.
Those who did not believe in Manning — like Jerry Reese, like Marc Ross — were promptly fired… and proven correct.
Far too many teams give into public pressure and ride out the string with their iconic, aging QB.
Eventually, the Giants had no choice but to pull the plug on Manning and their handpicked successor, in 2019, was instantly ridiculed. Daniel Jones? Over Dwayne Haskins? Really? The universal mockery that night brought back 2018 memories when the Buffalo Bills were ripped by many for choosing Josh Allen’s throw-it-over-them-mountains arm over the more proven, more polished Josh Rosen. Those Bills’ saw something special in Allen and trusted in his development Year 1 to Year 2 to Year 3.
The result? An appearance in the AFC Championship.
The Giants now enter the same, ultra-critical Year 3 with Jones. The Giants’ actions also suggest they expect the same gigantic leap out of their quarterback and their team.
As they should.
Maybe this sounds crazy but winning the NFC East and legitimately competing for a title should be the expectation in New York.
This is that chicken-or-egg debate every franchise wrestles with, right? Does the quarterback raise the level of play of everyone else or can everyone else take that QB to a new level? Every team works through this mystery at its own peril. The Bills’ colossal gamble into the 2020 season paid off. They made the big trade for Stefon Diggs to cap a slew of moves on the offensive side of the ball to help a quarterback who was statistically the most inaccurate passer in football. Now, the Miami Dolphins are placing the same amount of faith in Tua Tagovailoa which we examined here.
Spend like crazy around the quarterback and you can end 20 years of quarterback torment like Buffalo did.
The Giants spent, and spent, and spent this offseason. If Jones stinks, everyone in New York will be fighting over the life rafts to save their jobs.
The best guess here, however, is that Jones breaks out.
For starters, we’ve seen signs. Forget the face plant. On his epic 80-yard run last season, Jones clocked in at 21.23 MPH which was faster than any QB in the NFL, including Lamar Jackson. Every coordinator must account for Jones as a runner capable of going to the house in the read-option game. His arm is clearly strong enough and he’s not skittish. Jones can shrug off defenders in the pocket, keep his eyes downfield and maintain good touch downfield. Per Next Gen Stats, Jones was the most accurate deep-ball passer in the entire league last season. On passes of at least 20 yards, he went 19-of-39 for 636 yards with five scores, no picks and a 134.4 passer rating.
And even though his numbers regressed from 2019 to 2020, that had as much to do with the fact that, physically, he wasn’t himself. We knew the injuries were bad but nobody knew it was this bad. Jones only missed two games with a high ankle sprain and a hamstring injury. But on the Michael Kay Show, head coach Joe Judge said that “90 percent” of the players in this league would’ve gone on injured reserve with the pain Jones endured.
Apparently, Jones’ health was much worse than both the QB himself and the Giants let on.
Clearly, the team should’ve protected Jones against himself and shut him down. In a crucial Week 14 loss to the Cardinals, he could hardly move and was sacked eight times.
On top of this, Jones never had a full offseason to learn a new offense. No OTAs. No minicamp.
On top of that, the weapons around him were less than ideal. His starting running back was Wayne Gallman and his receiving corps? Average at best.
Everything changes into 2021.
When Jones steps up to the line of scrimmage, now, he’ll see weapons. Everywhere. No offense upgraded more than New York. Kenny Golladay is a true No. 1 who can bully any corner at 6-foot-4, 214 pounds. Just as Allen needed a legit “X,” who makes good corners look foolish, Jones needed one, too. Golladay is right in his prime, too, at 27 years old. Did the Giants overpay? Sure. But it doesn’t matter one bit because this is a premium position in today’s game. No offense can skate by with B-minus receivers.
Golladay is a weapon who’ll bring out the best in Jones, in that deep ball.
We’ll see the guy who averaged 18.3 yards per reception with 11 touchdowns in 2019, and then some.
Adding Golladay also creates a needed ripple effect. Now, Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard move into No. 2 and No. 3 roles where they’ll eat vs. most corners.
Then, there’s Kadarius Toney.
Most of America doesn’t even know who this rookie out of Florida is yet but they will soon. New York traded down from 11 to 20 — picking up Chicago’s 2022 first- and fourth-round picks — and still landed one of the most dynamic offensive threats in the entire draft.
He’s electric. He’ll be a migrating mismatch all over the field.
Toney’s change of direction and raw speed, as one commentator puts here, “is not even fair.”
Then, hello, Saquon Barkley. Good to see you again. Barkley’s presence alone will make life easier for all. When healthy, he’s the best running back in football. Quite a qualifier, sure. The former No. 2 overall pick hasn’t been 100 percent most of his career. But it’s the truth. We’ve seen enough to know Barkley is a transformative talent.
He can pound inside. He can get the edge and hit the home run outside. He can run routes like a receiver, too.
There are zero weaknesses to his game.
Who knows how long he’ll last but the getting’s good right now.
And let’s not forget what the strength of this team: The defense. The Giants were able to lock up the most dominant defensive linemen this side of Aaron Donald in Leonard Williams, who had 11.5 sacks and 30 QB hits last season. This is $63 million well spent. He wrecks games. Behind him may be the best secondary in football. James Bradberry erases elite wide receivers and, at safety, vet Logan Ryan may be the player most responsible for putting Judge’s vision into action. Aside from all of the plays he makes on the field, Ryan helped change the culture. (And he did it through an insanely tumultuous season, as he explained to Go Long.)
Jones won’t even need to play Superman. About 21 to 24 points per game ought to do the trick.
If you think this is some major over-rationalizing on his behalf, that’s fair.
After all, we all knew that Justin Herbert was special immediately. Jones already has 27 games under his belt so the fact that we even need to debate whether or not he is The Guy may give us our answer. Yet, as one AFC quarterbacks coach said to me this week, the idea of “developing” a quarterback is quietly making a comeback behind the scenes. More teams — likely with renewed patience from owners — are realizing it is OK to stick with a quarterback through a bit of turbulence before hitting reset and forcing yourself to start over.
As it turned out, Ryan Tannehill was a good quarterback.
Same for Alex Smith before him.
This coach sees hope in Jones and, unprompted, makes that same Allen/Bills comparison.
He believes the key for Jones is not waiting for that “home run” ball all the time. Many of Jones’ 83 sacks over those 27 games have been the result of waiting for a play to develop. With Barkley and Toney, he now has every reason to check it down and dissect a defense underneath. And down the field, no doubt, he can pull the trigger with much more confidence — Golladay is one of the best in the game at winning the 50/50 ball.
This coach isn’t so sure Jones possesses that magical “it” factor, if any defense is downright horrified of him.
Thing is, the Giants aren’t alone here. There are realistically only five or six quarterbacks who fit that description.
If you don’t have Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers or any of the undisputed greats, you essentially have two options as an NFL franchise.
A.) You tank. You gut the talent on your roster in an effort to land a top 5 pick and a shot at a can’t-miss prospect.
B.) You pay like crazy around a good quarterback and hope he becomes great. Going full Lloyd Christmas-in-Fur Boots gives a guy like Jones every chance to develop. That’s what GM Brandon Beane did even as Allen’s passes sailed high and low and… FORE! Remember, Beane even took a stab at Antonio Brown. Every potential weapon was explored. The Bills also banked on Allen improving something that most everyone else deemed innate: Accuracy.
The Bills were right to believe in Allen’s work ethic.
Add it all up and Allen’s completion percentage has jumped from 52.8 to 58.8 to 69.2.
Judge has always been quick to rave about Jones’ drive, too. Ryan was blown away by the hours Jones was pouring into the job last season. Now, the Giants have a team capable of making a playoff run around him.
There are dire consequences to choosing “A” above, too. You run the risk of permanently poisoning the building.
Foster a culture of losing and that stench can linger. I get the allure of The Tank. Biting the bullet for a season in an effort to land the No. 1 pick may be worth it. But, even then, absolutely nothing is guaranteed. Only one quarterback taken first overall the last two decades has even won a Super Bowl (Eli). There have been abject busts like JaMarcus Russell and Sam Bradford. And even the quarterbacks who are undeniably special often aren’t enough. The Colts ruined Andrew Luck. An abomination of errors got him killed every Sunday and forced a generational prospect into an early retirement. Maybe Matthew Stafford has possessed the strongest arm in the sport since ’09. He’s also 74-90-1 as a starter with zero playoff wins.
Judge wants everyone in the building competing. Constantly.
Only good things will happen with such an attack mentality.
There’s a reason the Giants clawed their way out of a 1-7 hole to make things interesting in the NFC East. Loss, after loss, after loss, the head coach still had the Giants buying in every day. He was correct to trash the Philadelphia Eagles’ approach to Week 17, when they pulled Jalen Hurts for Nate Sudfeld to, effectively, lose the game. Right there is the reason the Giants are building a winner that’ll last and why the Eagles will keep on spinning their tires in Howieland.
If they believe Daniel Jones’ intangibles will elevate his production, hey, count me in.
This is very pro-Judge space. Just point to the nearest wall we’ve got to run through.
Look around the division, too. The Eagles are a mess. The Cowboys continue to win the press conference with Jerry Jones handing blank checks to those at the glamor positions. Their defense, historically bad in 2020, didn’t get much better and Mike McCarthy isn’t exactly a head coach who’ll instill toughness, either. There were players in Green Bay who attributed the team’s annual January meltdowns to McCarthy’s culture. He didn’t pay much attention to the defense through training camp, the Packers rarely ever hit, a softness set in.
The Washington Football Team has a really good thing going, too. They could be a problem.
But you bet the Giants could win the division.
Buy that Jones stock now.
Aaron Rodgers update
From Day 1, sources have been telling us that Aaron Rodgers is sincerely dug in and will not be showing up to Packers camp. That has not changed. One source who’s plugged in simply texted Wednesday night, “He’s not showing up.” His prediction? Rodgers never plays for the Packers again and the team is forced to eventually trade him.
News that Rodgers renewed his membership at Green Bay Country Club injected fans with some hope but this source notes that this was an auto-renewal.
Remember, Rodgers isn’t like most of us. He has millions upon millions upon millions of dollars and, surely, won’t bat an eye at any fine that comes his way through training camp.
Is Green Bay content letting Rodgers sit? Is management worried about the distraction that this is sure to bring the entire 2021 season the longer it drags on? We’ll see. The thinking here remains that it is wise for Mark Murphy, Brian Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur to collectively embrace Jordan Love now because that’s what they’ll have no choice but to do eventually.
Players would like some direction, too. Allowing the charade to continue won’t do wonders for the locker room over time. As one player texted sarcastically, “Training camp will be fun.”
A step back means a step forward for the WFT
The NFL announced that it is fining the Washington Football Team $10 million following an investigation into the team’s workplace culture, adding that the money will be used “to support organizations committed to character education, anti-bullying, healthy relationships and related topics.” Further, the league added that Tanya Snyder — named the team’s co-CEO this week — will take over day-to-day duties. Owner Dan Snyder, her husband, will step back to focus on a new stadium.
“I have learned a lot in the past few months about how my club operated, and the kind of workplace that we had,” Dan Snyder said in a statement. “It is now clear that the culture was not what it should be, but I did not realize the extent of the problems, or my role in allowing that culture to develop and continue. I know that as the owner, I am ultimately responsible for the workplace. I have said that and I say it again.
“I feel great remorse for the people who had difficult, even traumatic, experiences while working here. I'm truly sorry for that. I can't turn back the clock, but I promise that nobody who works here will ever have that kind of experience again, at least not as long as Tanya and I are the owners of this team.”
Lisa Banks and Debra Katz — the attorneys representing the 40 former employees — did not mince words. In their statement, they called the $10 million “pocket change.” Their hope was that the findings from attorney Beth Wilkinson would be made public but they were not.
For more detail, this a good rundown on what Wilkinson found.
And if Snyder sincerely is taking a step back, this can absolutely serve as a turning point for the franchise. Something needed to change internally. And it’s no secret that his interference into football matters has not helped. When we reported in March that Snyder bought out the minority owners’ 40.5 percent stake in the franchise, fans were less than thrilled.
Even if there wasn’t ample evidence against Snyder that’d force him to sell the team or be suspended — like all businesses in America — accountability does start at the top.
At least now, the WFT can move forward. There actually is a lot to love about where this franchise is going on and off the field under the leadership of team president Jason Wright and head coach Ron Rivera. It sure seems like both individuals have truly been empowered — that hasn’t been the case for anyone before them. If Snyder is taking a genuine step back, the team can rebuild the culture.
On the field? Much like the rival Giants, the WFT has quietly constructed a roster that’s ready to win. Games between these two teams could bring us all back to the late 80s/early 90s. As Peter King said on the Happy Hour a few weeks ago, players were “calloused” in those division games.
Hang out with Erik Kramer
Tonight, we’ll have Erik Kramer on the Go Long Zoom Happy Hour to discuss his surreal life.
Severe depression. A suicide attempt. A sham marriage. About $700,000 stolen from him.
It’s been a harrowing decade. If you missed it, our three-part series is linked below. The quarterback who led the Detroit Lions to their first playoff win since 1957 and set the Chicago Bears’ single-season passing yards and touchdowns records has lived through hell.
Hope to see you tonight. Feel free to ask Kramer anything you’d like right here:
Link: CLICK HERE
Meeting ID: 820 3396 1075
Take a gander at the Detroit Lions’ roster and your stomach may turn. This is a team lacking star power just about everywhere. But in this new 17-game season, I’m taking the over on Vegas’ five-win projection. They’ll try to pound away with D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams on the ground to win a low-scoring game. And, hey, Jared Goff has won 42 games since 2017. That’s tied with Russell Wilson for the second-most in the NFL. He’s certainly good enough to get to six or seven wins. Seems like easy money to me.
Yes, it’s time for Reggie Bush to get his Heisman back with college athletes now able to profit off of their name, image and likeness. Highly recommend this story from 2011 — “The Shame of College Sports,” by Taylor Branch — for those wondering how the NCAA became a thing to begin with.
Who’ll blink first: Cleveland, Buffalo or Baltimore? All took quarterbacks in that 2018 draft that are forever intertwined. All QBs, now, are looking to cash in. And while all three teams would probably like to see their QBs perform one more year before backing up the Brinks truck, they may have no choice. The market price will only rise the longer they wait.
Are the Steelers really going to suddenly turn into a run-heavy operation? I wouldn’t hold your breath. Count on Ben Roethlisberger having plenty of autonomy at the line of scrimmage again. He threw 608 passes in 15 games last season — with another 68 passes in that Wild Card loss to Cleveland — and probably comes close to that number again. Why? That’s probably what Roethlisberger prefers, for starters. But the strength of this team remains the receiving corps, too. Not the offensive line. It’s hard to imagine the Steelers becoming a ground-and-pound operation with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and James Washington at receiver and Eric Ebron and Pat Freiermuth at tight end.
My pal Adam Schein over at Mad Dog Radio has a solid list of nine players he can’t wait to see return from injury. Love his point on Derwin James. The term “chess piece” gets repeated far too often but James is the ultimate weapon that lines up everywhere. Schein’s daily radio show is fantastic, too. Work him into your morning routine if you’re able.
Looking to kill some time before training camp starts? Many of your favorite teams’ “Team Yearbook” videos from NFL Films are probably on YouTube. It always cracks me up how they can spin 30 minutes of positivity out of a 3-13 season. And the 90s nostalgia alone is worth falling down that rabbit hole.