INDIANAPOLIS – Joe Judge has yet to publicly say one nice thing about his presumptive starting quarterback since he was hired as the Giants’ head coach seven weeks ago. In fact, he hasn’t said anything about Daniel Jones at all. And now Dave Gettleman is following his lead, refusing to publicly support a guy who two months ago was clearly the Giants quarterback of the future.
So does that mean the Giants aren’t sold on Jones? Could they be looking at the quarterbacks in the 2020 draft? Could they maybe be in the market for a veteran? Could those Tom Brady rumors be real?
The short answer to all of the above is: No.
There is really no reason to believe the Giants are any less committed to the 22-year-old Jones than they were when they took him with the sixth overall pick last April, or when he concluded what Gettleman previously called a “terrific” rookie season. The Giants GM believed that one of his most important jobs was finding the Giants’ heir to Eli Manning, and he was convinced after the season that he had done just that.
Yes it’s true that Jones was selected long before Judge became head coach, but would Judge have gotten this job if he told Gettleman and John Mara in his interview that they had the wrong quarterback? Or that he believed they’d have to use a Top 10 pick on a quarterback for the second consecutive year?
Of course not. So what’s this all about? Why is Jones suddenly the Quarterback Who Shall Not Be Named?
For the most part, it’s all about coachspeak, which Judge learned at the feet of one master in New England (Bill Belichick) and another in Alabama (Nick Saban). It’s about a young coach wanting to establish himself with his players — all his players — and understanding that coming off a 4-12 season it’s better if none of them feel secure.
And give Judge credit: He’s not hiding from that either. He’s explaining it — over and over again. And even though some may get hysterical that he won’t say the words, that he believes in Jones, he’s being crystal clear about his reasons why.
“I want you to understand this because it’s very important to me,” Judge said on Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Every one of our players is going to come here with a blank slate and be able to compete from the ground up from Day 1. And I’m not going to establish any kind of status or hierarchy within the individual players or position groups by spending a month talking about individuals.
“That’s important to me. I want you guys to understand my reason for that. I can’t tell everyone they’ve got an equal slate and they show up on April 7 and I’ve spent a month talking about a specific player.”
That seems pretty reasonable, especially when you consider that Jones has really done nothing yet. He won three games last year. He fumbled the ball 18 times. He showed promise, but he’s still far from the elite level the Giants hope he’ll reach. Maybe it’s not the worst idea to let the kid know that unless he plays better and keeps improving that his entire future isn’t secure.
As for Gettleman, he seems to just be playing along with his head coach. His biggest problem is that many people don’t trust him. It’s easy and fair to point to what he said about Odell Beckham at the combine a year ago, when he declared “I didn’t sign him to trade him,” only to trade him two weeks later. He chose what he said and what he didn’t say carefully that day, which is why so many are parsing his words once again. Such as:
What are his thoughts on Jones? “I view Daniel Jones as going into his second year and learning how to be an NFL quarterback.”
Is he still the Giants starter? “Let me ask you this question: Who was the guy who took the last snap in the last game? So, I’ve answered the question.”
And would he bring in a veteran quarterback who could force Jones to sit for a year? “You know what Joe said? He’s got a clean slate and everybody’s competing.”
Maybe there’s fire behind the smoke because you never really know with Gettleman. But Judge seems like a pretty straight shooter, and when told some will view his words as proof that he doesn’t support Jones, he said “I never, in any way, shape or form, said that.”
“I understand and respect the outside perspective,” Judge said. “What’s important for me is the guys inside that building understand why I’m doing things and that I have their best interest at heart. Over time they’ll understand that.”
So yeah, Daniel Jones, barring an injury, will almost certainly be the Giants’ opening day starter. He also remains the Giants’ quarterback of the future — though just how long that future is depends on how he plays. You never know. Halfway through the 2007 season, one of the big storylines around the Giants was about whether they’d bring in a veteran quarterback to compete with Eli Manning in 2008 because he clearly wasn’t working out at the time.
So a little pressure on a quarterback — even a franchise quarterback — certainly isn’t a bad thing.
For now, though, it’s safe to say this: The Giants didn’t draft Daniel Jones sixth overall last year just to push him aside one year later. And it’s hard to imagine they’d be willing to start over with another rookie quarterback from this year’s draft. So don’t focus too much on what Judge isn’t saying. He’ll have plenty of time in the future to talk about Daniel Jones.