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Daniel Jones Earns the Right to Be Giants' QB of the Future with Playoff Berth

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 2, 2023

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 01: Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants runs during the second quarter Indianapolis Colts at MetLife Stadium on January 01, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Vincent Alban/Getty Images)
Vincent Alban/Getty Images

There isn't a team in the NFL that has exceeded expectations in 2022 by a wider margin than the New York Giants. Part of the reason those expectations were modest was uncertainty under center. Headed into the final year of his rookie deal, the general belief was that Daniel Jones was just playing out the string—after three mostly unimpressive seasons, the Giants passed on Jones' fifth-year option last offseason.

With the benefit of hindsight, the Giants probably now wish they had picked up that option. After blowing out the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Met Life Stadium, the Giants are 9-6-1 and in the postseason for the first time since 2016 and only the second time since their victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.

There have been several reasons for New York's surprising success in Brian Daboll's first season as head coach. The play of Jones has absolutely been one of them. In leading the G-Men back to the playoffs, Jones has turned the trajectory of his career around. And he has earned a multiyear contract extension and status as New York's starter long-term.

Not that long ago, the idea of Jones earning a second deal in New York seemed far-fetched to say the least. Last year, Jones threw for just 2,428 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 starts. After a promising rookie season in which Jones surpassed 3,000 passing yards with 24 touchdown passes, he threw just 21 touchdowns in 2020 and 2021 combined. Entering 2022, Jones had never posted a passer rating of 90 for a season, and he was 12-25 as the team's starter.

As recently as last summer, there was speculation that the Giants might turn to Tyrod Taylor as the starting quarterback after Jones struggled in training camp. But as Tyler Dunne reported for Go Long, a source close to Daboll said those struggles were by design—Daboll wanted to see how Jones responded to adversity, so he set his young quarterback up to fail.

"He wanted Daniel Jones to deal with the adversity," the source said. "He wanted to see how he dealt with it on a daily basis. And he passed it with flying colors. So, I know he loves Daniel Jones. He loves Daniel Jones. He loves him."

Jones has passed just about every other test placed before him this year with flying colors, as well.

Sunday's victory over the Colts was Jones' 2022 season in a nutshell. His passing numbers weren't gaudy—19 completions in 24 attempts for 177 yards and two touchdowns. But as he has been most of the season, Jones was efficient and didn't make mistakes. He was also very dangerous with his legs, leading the team with 91 rushing yards and two scores on 11 carries.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 01: Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants passes against the Indianapolis Colts during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium on January 01, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Jones entered Sunday's action fifth among quarterbacks in rushing yards, and he has now eclipsed 700 for the season. He was 10th in completion percentage, first in interception percentage (1.1) and 11th in QBR (56.8).

Taylor told reporters that he's been impressed by the growth Jones has shown in his fourth season.

"He has done a great job week in and week out of doing what every team needs from that position," Taylor said. "He has been a great leader and someone who goes out and wins games by commanding guys on the field and running the show. Obviously the job is not finished. We're going to need him to continue leading us and putting us in a position to go out and score points."

Wide receiver Darius Slayton lauded Jones' maturation as well.

"I think it starts as an ability thing—you have to have the athleticism and the arm to be able to do it, and I think DJ has both of those," Slayton told Art Stapleton of NorthJersey.com. "He has grown in that area, being able to make plays out of the pocket, and it's something he's added to his game. The league has gotten past the point of being able to just sit in the pocket and pick people apart. He's making plays he hasn't made before."

Jones received a standing ovation when he was taken out of Sunday's game with a 28-point lead, but he was quick to credit his teammates while addressing the media after the game.

"I'm really appreciative and grateful for the support of the fans, but it's a team thing," Jones said. "This was a complete team win today."

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, left, is greeted by head coach Brian Daboll while leaving during the second half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

For all his improvement, Jones also told Stapleton that he knows there's still room to improve.

"I think there are a lot more plays that I can make," Jones said. "A lot of times it's simple decisions: when to take a check down or throw the ball away, run quicker [instead of waiting in the pocket]. Those are things I've gotten better at, things I didn't do as well earlier in my career."

The Giants appear to have seen enough to change their minds about Jones—Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported earlier Sunday that they intend to extend both Jones and running back Saquon Barkley in the offseason.

"Both of these guys are free agents. The Giants do plan to attempt to work out a deal with both of these guys," Rapoport said on NFL GameDay Morning. "Obviously the franchise tag is available. You can only tag one, so in this scenario, one would need a multiyear deal and one could have tag."

That's a move that some Giants fans may not agree with. But it's a no-brainer. To be clear, Jones isn't an elite quarterback. He's not going to throw for 5,000 yards or toss 40 touchdown passes. He may not even hit 4,000 yards.

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) reacts against the Indianapolis Colts during an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP Photo/Adam Hunger

But it's not like there are a handful of clear upgrades who would be available in the offseason. Jimmy Garoppolo is coming off another major injury. Derek Carr is on the wrong side of 30 and coming off a down year. And an argument can be made that neither is markedly better than Jones.

Jones has shown an excellent understanding of Daboll's offense. He's respected by his teammates. Jones' ability to make plays with his legs has been a major asset for the Giants this season. And at just 25 years old, Jones could be even better with another offseason in Daboll's offense.

This isn't to say that New York should just hand Jones $40-plus million per season, and the tag is in play as a fallback if they can't agree on a number.

But the quarterback question so many expected to loom over the Giants in the offseason has been answered.

As it turns out, the player so many thought wasn't the guy actually is.

Danny Dimes is back.