Keidel: When Will Daniel Jones Be Called Upon To Start?

How Giants Start Season Will Be Determining Factor

Jason Keidel
August 06, 2019 - 12:57 pm
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Boomer and Gio planted the WFAN flag in the Meadowlands on Tuesday morning, taking the first temperature of this edition of the New York Giants. The shot callers and a few players took their turns on the hot seat, politely answering questions about the ruined 2018 season while painting sunny strokes over the 2019 season.  

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For all the coaches and players peppered with questions, there's only one that universally matters. 

When will Daniel Jones play quarterback? Not in OTAs. Not in practice. Not in a preseason game. A real game with real consequences. 

We've shoved Jones through the car wash of doubt and laughter and condemnation. Surely, he and the Giants know that the NFL world in general -- and Big Apple fans in particular -- have serious cynicism over his place in the draft and the future of Big Blue football. Draft geek Todd McShay pegged Jones as the 59th best player coming out of college. No Duke QB had ever been bagged in the first round of any NFL draft, and Jones hardly came across as the no-doubt, blue-chip passer in the mold of Marino or Rodgers or Brady -- all of whom were taken later in the draft than was Jones. 

Daniel Jones
Vincent Carchiett/USA TODAY Images

And surely head coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman know they not only have to answer the recycled questions about their quarterback, but also that they must play Jones at some point to measure his skills and mollify the fans. No doubt that decision will be influenced by the club's record. And it will be influenced by the ham-handed handling of Eli Manning two seasons ago.     

The last (and only) time the team benched Eli, it got the HC and GM canned, leaving a corridor of wreckage in the wake of the decision. It's the reason Gettleman replaced Jerry Reece and the reason Shurmur assumed Ben McAdoo's job. 

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Unless the G-Men muscle their way to a 6-2 mark or prove in some way that they are serious playoff contenders, there will be murmurs for Shurmur to shove Jones into a live game. But if Big Blue stumbles out to a 1-5 start, there will be chants for Jones to play. 

Saquon Barkley, the team's only true star now that Odell Beckham Jr. is gone, carried the corporate mantra, telling WFAN that Jones can play. Sterling Shepard echoed the sentiment, adding that Jones is faster than he anticipated. Every pro athlete looks sharp in shorts. This is August, when New Jersey is warm and the jerseys are red and footballs sail through the summer breeze. 

Jones parked next to Boomer and Gio and looked the part. In fact, Jones looks oddly like Eli, tall and lean with the corporate cadence and hedge fund hair. Just by sound and silhouette, Jones comes from QB central casting. It’s easy to see him getting a shot, but not as easy when Manning is the one he’s replacing. 

The Giants have a pretty soft schedule over the first eight games, with just two tough road trips at Dallas to open the season, then a Thursday night game against New England on Oct. 10. The soft pockets include the Buccaneers, Redskins, Lions and Cardinals. Even as they rebuild, there's no reason for them to repeat their 1-7 record at the halfway point last year. If Big Blue bungles two of those games, it will likely mean they are in trouble. And trouble invites panic. Panic invites personnel moves. 

Jones may be under the microscope, but Shurmur could well be squirming on the hot seat by the end of this season. So it begs the question, are the Giants obligated to play Jones this season? Or does he get one honeymoon season at the altar of Eli?

Years ago, it was normal, if not proper, for a QB to have a de facto redshirt rookie season. He could learn the plays and the pace and be nursed into the starting job. Now you see rookie quarterbacks scrambling for their lives on the gridiron, behind brutal offensive lines, and a desperate head coach whose future is tethered to the passer. 

But Pat Mahomes sat for a season and then rolled over the league last year. Not that anyone should expect Jones to light up the league like the Chiefs QB did while winning NFL MVP. But Gettleman, who insists Manning has a few years left in his aging arm, could be using that PR smoke to shield Jones from the chaos of playing too soon. 

None of that will matter, however, if the Giants don't produce, and don't show any improvement over that 5-11 dumpster fire. At best, Jones would have Barkley, Shepard, Evan Engram and Golden Tate around him. (Barkley alone had more touchdowns than the other three combined last year.) Not exactly the pyrotechnic players from the '90s Bills or '80s 49ers. So ideally Jones would wait for Manning to finish his final season (at least according to his contract) and then slide in as the new sheriff. 

As the NFL celebrates a century of pro football, Big Blue is one of the blue bloods, a gridiron version of an Original Six squad. So it’s fitting that the Giants are faced with an ancient decision -- when to trade in an old quarterback for a new one. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel