MINNEAPOLIS — The debate is over. Done. TOD: Sunday, 7:46 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
The Giants beat the Vikings in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs, 31-24. And in said victory, Jones cemented something as irrefutably clear: He is a franchise quarterback.
More importantly: He’s the Giants' franchise quarterback.
Absolutely no one can deny that anymore.
“Played good,” coach Brian Daboll said in jest after the game. “I’m not a writer.”
Daboll’s ability to say that with a straight face is a greater accomplishment than anything he’s done on the Giants sideline this year. Good? No. Jones was simply spectacular in New York’s upset victory over the 13-win Vikings in Minnesota.
The 25-year-old quarterback completed 24 of 35 passes (68.6 percent) for 301 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He had a quarterback rating of 114.1. Jones also rushed 17 times for 78 yards — an average of 4.6 yards per carry. Jones is the first quarterback in NFL playoff history to have over 300 passing yards, two-plus touchdowns, and over 70 rushing yards.
So, actually, make that record-breaking, franchise-quarterback Daniel Jones.
“It means a lot,” Jones said of the victory. “It’s a big win for us and I’m grateful to be a part of it.”
This year has been a unique one for Jones. Every day, week, month presented some new piece of evidence pointing toward the eventual divorce of his time in blue. There was the firing of the general manager (Dave Gettleman) who drafted him. There was the hiring of a GM who didn’t pick up his player option (Joe Schoen). There was the signing of Tyrod Taylor. There were the camp discussions of when the Giants should go to Taylor.
His performance (and the offense as a whole) throughout organized team activities, mini camp and training camp left much to be desired. You didn’t know if Jones’ turnovers would remove him from the lineup or his questionable durability.
Either way, Jones was a lame-duck quarterback bridging the gap between now and when the Giants found their real franchise quarterback in next year’s draft.
Then the games started.
“He’s a really special player,” said Saquon Barkley, who had 109 total yards and two touchdowns.
All Jones has done this season is eradicate each and every preconceived notion he cannot be the guy. Stay healthy? The only game Jones didn’t play this year was the one the Giants rested him for the playoffs. Avoid the turnovers? Jones has just eight from Week 1 through the end of this victory over the Vikings. Elevate the play of those around him? He’s turned Richie James, Isaiah Hodgins and Darius Slayton into legitimate weapons.
Jones finished this season 9-6-1 as a starter. He threw for 3,205 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. He completed 67.2 percent of his passes and had a quarterback rating of 92.5 — both personal bests. He also set career-bests in rushing yards (708) and touchdowns (seven).
There is no reason to believe that, if the Giants put legitimate weapons around him, Jones can’t continue to lead them to year-after-year success.
So maybe it’s time to stop discrediting, and start believing.
“Tremendous,” Slayton, who caught four passes for 88 yards, said of Jones. “He played a great game today. That’s what great players do.”
The reward for the Giants' victory over Minnesota is a date with the top-seeded Eagles next week. Philadelphia handled business against the Giants in the regular season, completing the series sweep.
The Eagles will certainly be favored. They’re the more talented team — an all-star roster against the exceeding-all-expectations Giants.
… but it would be silly to count New York out.
Yes, the Giants are hot. Yes, the Giants are feisty. Yes, the Giants are among the most well-coached teams in the NFL.
But the Giants also have a franchise quarterback.
And you always have a chance when you have a franchise quarterback.