Sports

It’s Time to Overreact About Daniel Jones (but in a Good Way, Now)

TAMPA, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants celebrates with Jon Halapio #75 after defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 32-31 at Raymond James Stadium on September 22, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Daniel Jones celebrates the first victory of his pro career. Experts say he will never lose a game.
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Nobody knows anything about quarterbacks. This should be an accepted law of professional football considering that Tom Brady, the greatest to ever play the position, was selected with the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL Draft, 134 spots behind Giovanni Carmazzi. And yet, we nonetheless venture to predict how prospects will perform before they even take a snap in the pros. The only way to accurately assess a quarterback is to put him on the field against top-level talent and watch him perform. With this in mind, I can now say that New York Giants rookie Daniel Jones is one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the sport.

The winless Giants, who benched two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning earlier this week, followed their new leader to a 32-31 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was a heck of a game. Heck, it was a hell of a game. Jones threw for 336 yards and 2 touchdowns and rushed for 2 more scores, including this late go-ahead run on fourth down.

Jones did most of this without all-solar-system running back Saquon Barkley, who left the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter. The Giants were down 18 points at halftime, and by the time Jones completed the comeback Barkley was using his crutches as parade batons.

Can you blame Barkley for his exuberance? There’s just something about Daniel Jones that makes people overreact. The Giants were widely mocked when they selected him with the 6th  overall pick in April, and one myopic critic said the Duke prospect was an example of an “underqualified quarterback [who] gets drafted higher than he probably should because he is tall and has a side-part.” OK, I wrote that, but in my defense Jones really does have a side-part. (And I’m also literally myopic. I need opera glasses to read a dinner menu.)

But enough about me. Giants general manager Dave Gettleman is the biggest overreactor of them all. It was Gettleman who said he was “in full-blown love” with Jones after watching three of the quarterback’s drives during the Senior Bowl, a glorified exhibition game. When a reporter asked Gettleman why he didn’t wait to pick Jones with the 17th pick, he replied, “You’ve been married a long time, did you wait for your wife to fall to you?

If you don’t consider Jones to be a joke then you must make him your spouse. I don’t make the rules; that’s just how it goes with the guy. After Sunday’s masterpiece against the Bucs, there’s not much to do besides join Gettleman in professing your undying devotion to Daniel Jones. Really, what’s not to love?

He can pass. Crucially, he was able to pass the ball to his own teammates in the end zone on two occasions.

He can also pass it far, which must be a pleasant surprise for Giants fans. Eli Manning’s longest completion last year was 43 yards. This Jones pass to Darius Slayton in the third quarter went for 46.

And here’s a 75-yard touchdown pass to Evan Engram.

75 and 46 are both bigger numbers than 43. That’s what football experts call “improvement.”

He’s fast. Eli Manning’s usurper may share his doughy bone structure, but Jones looks nothing like the former Giants starter when he’s on the move. For one thing, he actually moves.

Jones is five rushing touchdowns short of Eli’s career tally. He’ll get there by Friday. (I am aware the Giants don’t play until Sunday, but I have no reason to doubt Daniel Jones any more.)

He makes opponents miss field goals. It may get lost in the Giants’ shuffle (a Super Bowl Shuffle now that Jones is at the helm), but Tampa Bay really should have won that game. The Buccaneers marched down the field with the clock running down, setting themselves up to attempt a 34-yard field goal as time expired Rookie kicker Matt Gay missed what should have been a gimme. It would be ludicrous to suggest that Jones used his mind to make Gay’s kick dance outside the uprights. Then again, someone or something transformed Bucs head coach Bruce Arians into a galaxy brain meme.

It was Daniel Jones. Daniel Jones made the Bucs stupid.

He has inspired some impressive copycats. Jones wasn’t the only quarterback to enjoy success after replacing a franchise legend this Sunday. Carolina Panthers backup Kyle Allen put together a positively Jones-ian stat line in a win against the Arizona Cardinals: 261 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions.

One could argue that Jones had nothing to do with that performance. Allen, an undrafted second-year quarterback, was 1,700 miles away from Tampa Bay and deserves credit for his own sterling play. I’m happy to provide that credit, but you still gotta admit: He really Daniel Jones’d it out there. That is a good thing now.