National Football League
Daniel Jones insists he's the right QB for Giants, and why a QB controversy would be bad
National Football League

Daniel Jones insists he's the right QB for Giants, and why a QB controversy would be bad

Published Apr. 15, 2024 5:32 p.m. ET

In the mind of Daniel Jones, there is no quarterback competition looming for the New York Giants this summer. There is only one possible quarterback who is right for the job.

So yes, it was hardly a surprise, when he was asked on Monday if he feels like the best quarterback the Giants could possibly have to start the season, he answered simply "I do. Yes." What else was he going to say?

But it wasn't just an obvious answer. And it wasn't just a boast. It was also a warning, and a reminder that any type of quarterback competition or controversy for the Giants is a really, really bad idea.

The idea of a competition/controversy — two words that in this case are virtually interchangeable — was floated by Giants co-owner John Mara at the NFL owners meetings in March. He was reiterating his faith in Jones, whom he has long supported as the rightful successor to Eli Manning, while giving general manager Joe Schoen the room to draft Jones' replacement, if that's what he wants to do.


But Mara wasn't willing to call Schoen's potential pick a replacement or successor.

"Why not let them both compete?" Mara said. "Let them both compete and let the better man win."

There are actually a group of people who feel like that's a tremendous idea, and almost all of them work in the New York media. For those whose job is creating the back pages of the city's famed tabloids or programming 24 hours of sports talk-radio content, the idea is an absolute dream.

Almost everyone else, though, recognizes that as the seeds of a nightmare, because it would set up the most high-profile quarterback competition/controversy the Giants have had since the explosive Phil Simms-Jeff Hostetler affair back in the early 1990s. It’s not the same, of course, since both Simms and Hostetler have both won a Super Bowl before their battle exploded.

But Jones vs. Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels or J.J. McCarthy, or even Bo Nix or Michael Pennix could be just as much of a mess.

And it's naïve to imagine it becoming anything else.

Do the Giants need to draft a QB?

Start with this: The biggest questions about Jones — the ones that the Giants privately and publicly insist is their reason for even dipping a toe into the quarterback pool — are about his injuries. Two neck injuries in the past three seasons are concerning. Then add in a torn ACL which, as Giants officials tell it, make it uncertain that Jones will even be ready by Opening Day.

Jones, during a Zoom call on the first day of the offseason program, took a flamethrower to those issues. He not only declared his neck to be "100 percent healthy," he gave his first detailed account of the second neck injury he suffered last season, downplaying it as "a stinger-type injury that's pretty common in football." In other words, it's no big deal.

As for his recovery from knee surgery, he said "The plan is to be ready to go by training camp" — even though the furthest coach Brian Daboll would go is calling Jones' recovery "day to day." That was his attempt to take his health off the Giants' list of concerns.

If he's healthy, any quarterback competition/controversy would be about ability. From Jones' perspective, he's still the same quarterback who led the Giants to the playoffs two years ago, earning a four-year, $160 million deal with $82 million guaranteed. He's not a 38-year-old trying to squeeze out one more season, or a 23-year-old trying to establish himself. 

He's about to turn 27. He's a playoff quarterback in his prime.

And that is what makes any battle potentially explosive. Back in 2019, when Jones took over for Manning in Week 3 of his rookie season, Manning knew he was in the final stages of his career. He understood his job then was only partially about winning. It was also to mentor Jones and make sure the transition wasn't the ugly disaster it could have been.

Jones, so far, is doing what he can to not make the Giants' quarterback decision ugly. He's saying the right things and staying classy and above any fray.

"I think you can get into trouble when you try to think too much about some of those things and how it all works out," Jones said. "I'm just focused on what I'm doing, and that's my rehab, getting healthy, spending time with the guys, and making sure we're getting on the same page, and having the best spring we can."

Is it time for the Giants to give up on Daniel Jones?

That's nice, but it's only April. Now imagine what he'll think and say in June or September. Does anyone really think he'll be able to completely hide how he really feels if, after spending six seasons behind a terrible offensive line and without a true No. 1 receiver, he's forced to suddenly compete with someone who hasn't even thrown an NFL pass?

This is much more like what happened in 2004, when the Giants had Kerry Collins as their quarterback, just three years removed from a Super Bowl, and traded up in the draft to get Manning anyway. Collins was 31, still basically in his prime. The Giants wanted him to be their Opening Day starter and mentor Manning until he was ready.

Collins responded by marching into Giants GM Ernie Accorsi's office two days after the draft and demanding his release.

Thanks to his contract and the salary cap, Jones would probably be stuck having to play with a kid he knows will inevitably and eventually take his job. And again, don't be naïve. If the Giants didn't declare one or the other would be their starter all year, and made it an open competition, it would impact everything about their season. It would be a constant topic in press conferences and interviews. Every completed pass or interception, win or loss, would be seen as a flashpoint.

And there will be battle lines drawn everywhere, including in the locker room. Back in 2004, there were veterans who didn't exactly welcome Manning. They were angry about what the Giants did to Collins. Plus, NFL careers are short and players generally don't want to waste them rebuilding, suffering through a rookie's growing pains, and hoping that the new franchise quarterback will turn out to be good.

Maybe a new quarterback will be better than Jones could ever be. Maybe sticking with Jones and building a better team around him is the right move. That's up to the Giants to decide.

But they'll need to settle on one or the other, and avoid the Battle Royale, because an actual competition is a headache and a controversy that they just don't need. It's one of those ideas that sounds good in theory, but is terrible in practice. 

And with two young quarterbacks in New York, there's no chance it would work out well.

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.


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