Part of the extensive and exhaustive research, as the Giants were evaluating every nook and cranny of Daniel Jones, focused in on how the then-Duke quarterback handled not only the pressure in the pocket but the press in the conference room.
Scouts, coaches and prospect forecasters studied how Jones threw the ball, moved on the field, interacted with his teammates, handled adversity and, at times, mishandled the football. They needed to know everything possible about the player they eventually determined would succeed Eli Manning.
This included how Jones talked. Not his diction or accent, but the words and sentiments he revealed to the media. The Giants’ front office assigned someone on staff to review Jones’ postgame interviews during his college career. The other quarterbacks under consideration also were put under this scrutiny.
The verdict: Jones was perfect.
There was one striking example. Jones, while toiling for often-overmatched Duke, put a deep ball on the hands of his receiver for what should have been a touchdown. The ball was dropped. Afterward, Jones said, “I’ve got to put it in a better place.’’
Pivot to Week 7, when Jones dropped the ball into the hands of his tight end, Evan Engram, for what should have been a completion to seal a 21-16 victory over the Eagles. Engram dropped it, the Giants lost, 22-21, and afterward Jones said, “I have to do a better job of putting the ball in a better position.’’
Unless Jones meant he needed to put the ball somewhere other than directly between Engram’s hands, he was covering for his teammate. That is fine. Manning did it for 16 years. The Giants loved that about Manning, and they love it about Jones. But adoration has limits, and Jones, nearing the midpoint of his second NFL season, must do more to repay that affection.
That Jones, on Monday night, takes the Giants (1-6) into MetLife Stadium to face the Buccaneers (5-2) in a quarterback matchup of young (Jones is 23) and old (Tom Brady is 43) does not mean much of anything, as far as poignant storylines. At this point, all Jones should aspire to be is a player able to make enough positive plays to keep his underdog team competitive. The bar set after his promising rookie year is now lowered, as Jones deals with a new head coach, a brand-new offensive system (and a disjointed, COVID-19-affected offseason of preparation), the loss of star running back Saquon Barkley and the increasing weight of failure — he has lost 15 of his last 17 starts.
Jones does not get a do-over for this season, and the Giants hope all the extenuating circumstances inherent in 2020 explain at least some of the issues he is experiencing.
“We’re all still getting familiar with one another, and the first part of the season was a little bit rougher, I think, but I’ve certainly seen some improvement,’’ quarterbacks coach Jerry Schulpinski said. “There’s not many times when he comes off to the sideline that he’s very confused as to what the look was.’’
Falling on his face after an 80-yard run — as he did in the loss to the Eagles — is a meme that could last forever, but it in no way is representative of what is going on with Jones. That was a sensational play that ended badly. The problem with Daniel Jones in year No. 2 is that there is nothing sensational at all with his performance. Often, there is little to show for his 60 minutes on the field. In a time of pyrotechnic passing, Jones has only five touchdown passes, the fewest of any quarterback with seven starts this season.
Jones will see Brady after the game, and they will exchange pleasantries. Then Jones, most likely, will have to explain away another loss. He always says the right things. Flipping the script is far more difficult.
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