This off-season in East Rutherford has seen a lot already in the selection of Daniel Jones with the sixth overall draft pick, the trade of the division’s best wideout, not to mention additional roster moves that set up numerous questions.
Remember this time last year? When the New York Giants were in a rebuild that was almost certainly close to a conclusion? Those weeks after the 2018 NFL Draft were exciting! Fans felt relieved in the choices made by new general manager and head coach Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur in the off-season to this point. There was a smell of certainty in the air as OTAs were beginning.
What a time to be alive.
I don’t need to recap this past season for you, and that’s good, because I don’t want to. I, among many, am still in the digestion process of the 5-11 record posted. As for the changes that have been made to the roster in recent months, certainly there are questions being posed and assumptions being made. But all that really can be assumed are those questions themselves, which will undeniably revolve around comparisons. I hope to, in 10 years, return to these comparisons and their corresponding predictions, and be wrong.
Over the next stretch of time, as the Eli Manning era comes to a close, the following will undoubtedly be rivaled:
- Daniel Jones to Dwayne Haskins
- Sam Darnold to Daniel Jones
- Josh Allen to… well, everyone selected in the first six picks of the 2019 NFL Draft, at least
And… of course…
- Daniel Jones to Eli Manning
Let’s start there.
Daniel Jones Will Face Comparison to Dwayne Haskins, Sam Darnold, Eli Manning, and More for Years to Come
The Story of Eli Manning
Manning was highly touted entering the 2004 NFL Draft. So much so, that he essentially got to select his team, after word broke that he was to be selected first overall by the then San Diego Chargers, to his dismay. When Manning announced that he would not play for the Chargers, he was traded to the Giants that very night.
Manning had a rocky start to his career. He won the starting job from Kurt Warner in Week 11 of his rookie season at home against the Atlanta Falcons. My father was at the game (it remains the only Giants showing he has ever attended live) and remembers the anxiety of the crowd who had felt so confident in the coming of their new savior, as the dirty birds overcame. Manning’s only victory that season was in the final week against the Dallas Cowboys.
However, it didn’t take long for Manning to warm up. 2005 brought promise in the naming of Big Blue as the NFC East champions; which can be attributed to a strong start to the season, despite an anticlimactic ending in the post. 2006 had a similar trajectory but excluded a title. And then, 2007 brought Manning his first of two championship rings.
When Manning was beginning his career 15 years ago, the internet and freedom of social media opinionating wasn’t the fashion quite yet. Therefore, it’s difficult to culminate examples of public opinion on the quarterback’s early years. However, simply considering the memories of those like my father, who witnessed that first full game he played, versus the widespread viewpoint of Giants fans of the ages, it’s clear that Manning will be remembered for his two-ring legacy, while his first-chapter flaws will be tucked away in the cheap seats of old Giants stadium.
Daniel Jones’s quarterback story will, like that of Tom Brady, and unlike that of Eli Manning, begin with the “nobody wanted him” trope, despite his early selection in the draft and no matter the outcome of his career.
Just as Eli has been compared to the other quarterbacks drafted during round one in 2004 (Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and J.P. Losman), Daniel Jones will face similar evaluation alongside Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State’s Heisman finalist who was selected by the Washington Redskins with the later-than-projected 15th overall pick. While reports leading up to the draft did eventually begin to suggest that the Giants weren’t interested in Haskins, it is undeniably less than ideal that, if these two rookies are the men of the future for these franchises, the Giants will be seeing a LOT of Haskins in inter-divisional match-ups for years to come.
Jones and Haskins are both projected to begin their rookie seasons on the bench as second-stringers, but with team-jumper Case Keenum at the helm of the D.C. team, it’s hard to believe that Haskins won’t be seeing the field in a hasty timeline. Manning is scheduled for free agency in 2020, so Jones will likely have his time in this sun this year as well, as the opportunities present themselves for proving his worth.
The Redskins as a team are older than the Giants, even after the recent draft. But with age comes assuredness—something the Giants roster shows little of. Over the next decade, it’s hard to imagine Jones leading the Giants offense to better statistics than Haskins, who led his Buckeyes in his singular year as their starter to a Big Ten title. Right now, the Redskins look like the better team. But much can change in the coming years as Haskins and Jones prepare for their dynasties to take effect.
In ten years, Haskins will have a quarterback rating in the range of 85-90. Jones will be rated in the 70-75 range. Both will still be starting for the respective teams in which they were drafted.
The Millenial Monarchs of MetLife
Clearly, the Giants know something that the rest of us don’t about Daniel Jones. His sixth overall selection proves that fact beyond any other reasoning. Jones likely could (should?) have been taken with a much later allocated pick. Gettleman’s confidence in his selection also brings to mind the 2018 draft, which boasted quarterbacks who were, like many of Jones’ colleagues, significantly more reputed.
In no universe would I be so crass to suggest that Saquon Barkley should not have been selected second overall last year. Still, Sam Darnold was drafted by the New York Jets immediately after. The G-Men could have snagged him.
Jones and Darnold will share control of MetLife for the foreseeable future. And we’ve already seen Darnold play. And he’s good. Like, for a rookie year, really good. All that yelling I did last season about the dangers of starting rookie quarterbacks? He’s done a pretty stand-up job of proving me wrong in most regards.
The reality is, if the Giants had drafted Darnold over Barkley, the whole projection of the franchise would be aggressively different (we certainly wouldn’t have let Odell Beckham Jr. go). The team would be in an entirely different place. Thus, Big Blue has set themselves up for years of pie charts that associate Darnold to Jones. And Darnold is facing significantly less adversity than Jones will with the vicious Giants family.
Athletically, the young men are very similar. They ran similar 40-yard dashes and three-cone drills. Physically, they’re both tall and lean and have similar hand size. Both will have had the mentorship of experienced and respected NFL quarterbacks. But Jones is under significantly more pressure. He doesn’t have a Josh McCown ready on the bench. He doesn’t have the awareness or care to maneuver the pocket without throwing risky balls into double-coverage. And he doesn’t have the Jets understanding base of fans, who aren’t even asking for a title right now – they just want to NOT LOSE.
In ten years, Darnold will still be operating at a functional level for an NFL starter. He’ll be playing like a Roethlisberger. Jones will be, comparatively, in a Mark Sanchez-esque downfall, and struggling to compete with stronger, younger quarterbacks on the bench.
And then… there’s the one that got away. Josh Allen went to the Jacksonville Jaguars in this year’s draft with the seventh overall pick. That’s right. He was snagged immediately after the Giants took Jones. And even then, it’s a miracle such a promising player was still available when he was. When the Giants passed (honestly, they could have taken Haskins, or Nick Bosa, or ANYONE, and I still would have been shocked that they passed on Allen), it opened up room for another 10-year quandary. For the next era, Giants fans will be comparing Allen to EVERYONE.
The thing about Allen is… well, he’s already elite. He looked like a pro in college. And he’ll be playing on one of the top NFL defenses for years to come. In a Giants draft where an edge rusher would have been particularly valuable, the team will now face Allen on multiple occasions over the next coming of age.
Allen will make the Pro Bowl in two years, if not this year. He’ll terrorize offenses for years to come, and the Giants will covet him for the entirety of his inevitable championship-winning career.
Last Word on Comparisons Surrounding Daniel Jones
In modern media, bygones are never left bygones. Everyone’s got something to say, and until the Giants start winning games again, there will be more than a few regrets in the books. I’d like to make clear how deeply I hope I am wrong about Daniel Jones. He’s definitely taken more heat in recent months than is deserved. It is he, after all, who is to credit for putting the Duke Blue Devils on the map. Plus, he already seems to be performing well in camp, according to his teammates…
Saquon Barkley: “Daniel Jones had himself a day yesterday in practice … Everyone thinks he’s a terrible pick, but wait until he wins two Super Bowls and see what they’re saying then.” #Giants pic.twitter.com/HhF44ZfgQc
— Matt Lombardo (@MattLombardoNFL) June 1, 2019
Whether these associations will favor Jones, or follow these less-flattering predictions, they will be unavoidable as rival franchises usher in their new eras alongside Big Blue.