The three days of dysfunction gifted to the NFL by the Jets have provided unexpected cover for the other New York/New Jersey NFL franchise that has recently cornered the market on mucking things up.
Yes, the Giants have enjoyed a break from the non-stop scrutiny of their confounding football decisions. But the break surely will be short-lived, with fans and media eventually returning their focus to the “what the f–k are they doing?” refrain regarding most aspects of the franchise.
The biggest question regarding the Giants is one that really hasn’t been asked. Will quarterback Daniel Jones get a chance to compete for the starting job?
Most scoff at the notion that Jones would supplant Eli Manning so soon, pointing to the repeated incantations of the KC model (sit for a year) and the GB model (sit for three). But the 2017 Chiefs were a playoff team, and Alex Smith was still regarded as a very good quarterback. And the 2005-07 Packers had Brett Favre, one of the all-time greats, with Aaron Rodgers on the roster primarily as insurance against the ever-present possibility of Favre heading back to Hattiesburg for good (or at least for long enough to give the job to Rodgers and slam the door on Favre).
The situation is fundamentally different in New York. Despite anything/everything said by the team, Eli is in decline. Yes, his full-season numbers for 2018 weren’t horrible, but a 92.4 passer rating still kept him out of the top 20 among all starting quarterbacks, behind even Ryan Tannehill, at 92.7. Like it or not, the official stats for determining the effectiveness of NFL passers has him not among the top two thirds of all quarterbacks in the league.
So if Eli isn’t good enough (relative to other passers) and if (sure, a big if) Jones lives up to the potential that made him the sixth overall pick in the draft, shouldn’t Jones be able to win an open competition for the job? The easy answer is yes, and the team’s hope that this happens could be hiding in plain sight, as evidenced by the team’s decision to make Jones the sixth overall pick.
The question becomes whether Jones can perform well enough in the offseason, training camp, and the preseason to make it clear that he’s the better option. It’s a higher-stakes version of the Seattle situation in 2012, when third-round rookie Russell Wilson supplanted free-agent arrival Matt Flynn by performing significantly better than the presumed starter to make it clear and obvious that Wilson would be the best option.
What if Jones blows the Giants away? Surely, they hope he does, if for no reason other than to get everyone to quit calling the Giants goofballs for taking Jones at No. 6 when they could have had him at No. 17. But if he does, don’t they have to give him the job?
Already, the hints have emerged. From offensive coordinator Mike Shula saying that, in theory, Jones could be ready to go as of Week One to tight end Evan Engram praising the speed with which Jones is mastering the offense, if that trickle becomes a stream by the middle of August, the Giants may have a situation that they’d characterize as a “good problem to have.” And that good problem possibly could be resolved by saying goodbye to Eli.
That’s the other side of this. It’s one thing to start Jones with Eli looming on the bench. It’s quite another to rip the Band-Aid off in one motion and move on from Eli, either by cutting him or by persuading him to waive his no-trade clause for a chance to start for a team that, due to injury or otherwise, would be inclined to plug Eli in and ride with him for the full season, like the Vikings did with Sam Bradford in 2016.
For now, here’s the point: The Giants have shown us that nothing can be ruled out when it comes to whatever their plan is. Even if they have one, they have no desire or urgency to share it, and there’s a chance they already tipped their hand a bit by taking Jones over the likes of Josh Allen and Ed Oliver.
The Jets definitely hope that’s the case.