Joe Judge remains smitten with Daniel Jones, his Quarterback of The Present and his Quarterback of The Future.
“Daniel Jones is our quarterback,” Judge reiterated Wednesday.
Jones has endured a sophomore slump of sorts, and Giants fans straddling the fence on him desperately want to believe he is The Mann to carry the torch from Eli Manning, and barring a setback from his improving hamstring and calf injuries, he will get a chance to start to sway them back to his side if he plays his best game of the season Sunday in Baltimore against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.
Because his best game of the season will be required here and now in what is a Week 16 playoff game to keep the season alive.
“My job is to earn it every day,” Jones said.
His job as The Quarterback of The Present is to save the season.
From Giants fans who have not celebrated a playoff berth since 2016 comes an S.O.S.
Save Our Season.
“At times, particularly earlier in the year, I felt like I was pressing to make a play when it wasn’t there and learning when it’s not there, when the best decision is to protect the ball,” Jones said.
A Giants loss and Washington or Eagles win and The Future Is No Longer Now for Jones and the Giants.
“He hasn’t been the reason that they’ve won football games,” ESPN college football and NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky told The Post. “He has been the reason at times that they’ve lost football games. He’s been the reason they’ve been in football games. And so, how do they get him, and can they get him, to a place where he consistently becomes one of the reasons why they win games, and minimizes those moments when he becomes the reason they lose them?
“That’s the biggest question that that organization has to ask itself over the next year.”
From ownership on down to Judge and to the players, the Giants believe in Daniel Jones.
“I think he’s demonstrated a level of toughness and leadership and knowledge on the field that gives us confidence to put him out there and build with Daniel,” Judge said. “This guy’s definitely earned my respect. I kinda made it very hard on him from the beginning in a lot of ways.
“And he hasn’t blinked.”
But at the end of a pandemic season during which he has been plagued lately with hamstring and ankle woes, stymied by an evolving offensive line, the absence of a No. 1 receiver and Saquon Barkley, and a second head coach and offensive coordinator, this is the perfect time for Jones to give the franchise and the fan base an unshakable reason to believe.
“My concern with Daniel Jones is he doesn’t look that much different from the player that came out of school … for a guy that’s very smart, there are a lot of moments when he doesn’t play smart,” Orlovsky said.
Moments when his ball security remains an issue. Moments when he panics with his decision-making.
“So the question becomes: Is that ever gonna go away, is there proof that that’ll ever go away? Right now that answer is no,” Orlovsky said. “Is he talented enough, or does he make enough of those wow or splash plays to kind of — I don’t want to say overcome that — but makes you feel like that stuff is so good I can’t pass up on it? And then, has he shown the ability to play as smart as we know he is? ’Cause there’s moments where you go, ‘Dude, get off No. 1. Get to a different person.’ Daniel Jones can throw it really well at times, but then there are things that are really difficult to get past. And he hasn’t given me any indication that that’s gonna happen anytime soon.”
Jones passes some important tests that give the Giants hope: He is arguably the toughest player on the field, and they love his leadership and athleticism. But he threw 24 touchdown passes in 12 starts as a rookie; he has eight in 12 starts this season. He has run more (403-279 yards) this season and fumbled less (10, 5 lost vs. 18, 11 lost). He will need his legs again to be the best Daniel Jones he can be.
What causes consternation among the fan base is Justin Herbert throwing 27 TD passes in his first 13 NFL starts, and Joe Burrow throwing 13 TD passes in his first 10 NFL starts. And have you checked out Jalen Hurts’ first two NFL starts — five TD passes and 251 yards rushing?
Asked about the Jason Garrett offense, Orlovsky said: “I thought they were understanding how much of an athletic threat he is and utilizing some of that stuff with the RPO game, or the zone-read game or the designed quarterback run game. I think Jason Garrett’s offense has been good. Jason Garrett’s not going to reinvent his offense. Jason Garrett came up in a style and a belief in a philosophy of football that’s grounded upon matchups and getting guys to win and playing really good fundamental football and making good decisions, so you’re not gonna see a ton of creativity out of him.”
Asked how the Giants win this game, Orlovsky said: “Daniel would have to play and Daniel would have to play well. But they’re beatable.”
“They’ve gotta be fantastic at setting the edge of the defense. They’ve gotta make Lamar play for four quarters from the pocket. Especially in situations, you can’t let him get out on third down, you can’t let him get out in the red zone, that’s where he’s really starting to get hot.”
And then it returns to Daniel Jones.
“You’ve gotta be willing to be aggressive with the football, try to take some shots at their secondary and then get that secondary to play a little bit timid and that’s when you get those completions underneath,” Orlovsky said. “And then hit those shots when they present themselves. There’s a way, they’re beatable.
If Daniel plays his best game of the season. He was listed as limited in practice. He can’t afford to be limited on Sunday. Quarterback of the Future can wait until tomorrow.