It’s time to start realizing Daniel Jones is the Giants’ franchise QB

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Jones hyped after walk off TD with Golladay back turned in foreground
Jones hyped after walk off TD with Golladay back turned in foreground

Dave Gettleman knew when he was hired by the Giants that his most important job would be to find a new franchise quarterback. He wanted to do what Ernie Accorsi did for the franchise when he traded for Eli Manning back in 2004. He wanted to find the one who would lead the Giants to their next era of greatness, even if he wasn’t around to see that quarterback win the next Super Bowl ring.

For three years, Gettleman never wavered in his belief that he found one.

After Daniel Jones’ performance on Sunday, everyone else should believe it, too.

“Hopefully you all are starting to see it,” said Giants running back Saquon Barkley, after the Giants’ season-saving, 27-21 overtime win in New Orleans on Sunday. “Ever since the day he’s been drafted he’s been criticized. That guy’s done nothing but come in and work and get better and lead every single day. He’s a competitor and he showed he’s a special player.

“We knew he was a special player.”

Knowing and seeing it are, of course, two different things. But this year, the world is starting to see it. Jones has been terrific since the start of the season, but the 24-year-old was even better on Sunday, completing 28 of 40 passes for a career-high 402 yards and two touchdowns, and just one interception on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half.

It was one of the finest games of his career in one of the loudest and most hostile stadiums in the entire NFL. He put a pin in the balloon that was the Saints’ emotional homecoming after they were exiled for a few weeks after Hurricane Ida.

Most importantly, he saved the Giants from falling to 0-4.

And though he got huge help from a revived Barkley and his 126 total yards and two touchdowns, Jones is the one who carried this battered team on his shoulders. He took an offense that had looked flat for most of the season and made it sing. He went on the road in a tough spot with his season on the line and gave a virtuoso performance.

Isn’t that exactly what franchise quarterbacks are supposed to do?

“Look, I love Daniel,” said Giants head coach Joe Judge. “He had a heck of a game today. I am going to leave that right there. I’m not going to sit here and make broad picture statements and headline-type things. If you’re asking me if he’s our quarterback, as I have said consistently, Daniel Jones is our quarterback. However you want to label that and go forward with that, you guys can put that in the paper.”

Judge can downplay it all he wants, which is consistent with how he’s handled Jones since he refused to even say his name for months after he was hired in January of 2020. But don’t mistake his words for a lack of enthusiasm. Everyone with the Giants understood this was something of a make-or-break season for Jones, that they needed to see if he was truly worthy of his status as their franchise quarterback and the sixth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. They believed he was, but they needed to see it for real before they headed into the next draft sitting on two potentially high first-round picks.

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) passes against New Orleans Saints during the first half at Caesars Superdome.
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) passes against New Orleans Saints during the first half at Caesars Superdome.

And what they’ve seen the first four weeks is the version of Jones they touted all offseason and all summer long. They acknowledged he took some steps back last season, but many in the organization have insisted other factors – like his own injuries, the loss of Barkley, the lack of playmakers on the offense and the struggling offensive line – were to blame.

Those may have seemed like excuses, but it turns out they were right. Because look what Jones did against the Saints when he got protection from his line, some big gains from Barkley, and had play-making receivers actually making plays. And look at what he’s done this season – completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,184 yards with four touchdowns and just one interception and one lost fumble through the first four games.

The win over the Saints, though, was his breakout performance – the best of them all.

“That was a great performance by Daniel,” said rookie receiver Kadarius Toney. “I don’t feel like nobody in the locker room doubts him no matter what.”

“He went out there very competitive and he had a day,” said receiver Kenny Golladay. “It’s what I knew he was capable of doing.”

There is more to do and more to prove, of course. The Giants are still just 1-3, staring at a gauntlet over the next six games. And Jones is still only a dismal 9-21 as a starter in his career. Also, as good as he’s been this season, his passer rating of 98.3 only ranks him 15th in the NFL and it’s not great that he’s only thrown four touchdowns in four games.

But for the first time, the arrow is pointing up – way up -- based on his performance against the Saints.

“I see the work he puts in,” Golladay said. “I see how great he wants to be.”

Now everyone can actually see how great he can be, too.