Keidel: Giants, Jets Should Be Thankful For Jones, Darnold

Both Have High-Ceiling, Low Maintenance Quarterbacks

Jason Keidel
December 24, 2019 - 3:51 pm
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After watching the Green Bay Packers flatten the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night, we are reminded of how crucial the quarterback is to an NFL team. 

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Minnesota is loaded with Pro Bowl players, yet could not overcome the faulty Kirk Cousins, who is now 0-9 on Monday Night Football, playing in a cloud of uncertainty over his ability to win big games.Cousins is 31, unlikely to improve, and perhaps the worst QB in the NFC playoffs this season. Even after a game in which Aaron Rodgers was not his normal, pyrotechnic self, the Packers rolled to a 23-10 win while the Vikings were stymied to the tune of 139 total yards. The Vikings held the ball for barely 22 minutes, and their seven first downs were the fewest in a home game since 1971. So despite their robust roster, the Vikings go as their QB goes.

So on Christmas Eve, Jets and Giants fans must feel some comfort knowing their teams have high-ceiling, low-maintenance quarterbacks under their trees. The Jets have Sam Darnold, who may have experienced some turbulent times as the Jets QB, but his potential is undeniable, and even though this is his second NFL season, he is virtually the same age as the other young, promising QB down the hall. 

Giants QB Daniel Jones has had three games in which he tossed at least four touchdown passes and no interceptions. (Cousins, for instance, has one such game this year.)  Had he not missed two games to injury and two more to the team's lethargy in not starting him in Week 1, Jones would have smashed Baker Mayfield's rookie record for TD passes (28). Pro rata, Jones would have thrown 33 touchdowns this year. His 2.09 TD passes per game is better than Cousins's 1.73 per contest. 

Then consider that Jones did this under the twin-burdens of his draft status (No. 6 pick) and his draft location - America's media vortex. From the moment he was plucked from Duke, Jones heard the boo birds and cynics and reminders that no Duke QB had ever been chosen in the first round. He was bound to be Gotham's version of Mitch Trubisky.  Until he stepped on the field. Jones has massive improvements to make, especially with ball security, as he leads the world in fumbles (12). 

Though he missed several games because of mononucleosis, Darnold has shown improvement over his rookie season. He has a higher completion percentage, will throw for more yards, more touchdowns, and fewer interceptions than he did in 2018. He will also finish with a higher passer rating. He has done this despite playing for two head coaches in two years, and with entirely different rosters. 

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) drops back to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter on Dec 22, 2019 at MetLife Stadium.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets have gone 5-3 at home this year, and are 5-2 in Darnold's last seven starts. Should they beat Buffalo - a squad expected to rest its best players in preparation for the playoffs - they will have won three of their final four games, and gain a little momentum into the offseason. 

So you wonder if it's better to have a playoff team with a QB whom you quietly concede cannot get you to a Super Bowl, or to have an incomplete team and a fledgeling QB with the potential to be fantastic. 

Then consider the Jets have will approximately $53 million in cap space entering 2020, according to USA Today. Down the bowels of MetLife, the Giants will have between $50 and $70 million in cap cash. According to overthecap.com, the Vikings have no cap room and must tweak current contracts to elbow their way into some payroll. It means the Vikings are Kirk Cousins or bust, based almost entirely on the team they fielded Monday night. 

Clearly the Vikings are better than the Giants or Jets - their ten wins match the combined wins of both local clubs - and are at least in the tourney this year. But they went to the NFC title game two years ago, and swapped the QB (Keenum) who got them there for Cousins. Yet the Vikings did not improve. Maybe you can't blame Kirk Cousins for all their woes, but they have thudded against their ceiling.

Say what you want about Big Blue and Gang Green, but at least they can look forward to better days, and better QB play, for the next five or ten years. It's at least a consolation prize to slide under their trees.  

Twitter: @JasonKeidel

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