EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – When he was surrounded by reporters shortly after Joe Schoen was introduced as the Giants' general manager on January 26, team president John Mara said of quarterback Daniel Jones, "We've done everything possible to screw this kid up since he's been here."
Five days later, at coach Brian Daboll's introductory news conference, Mara said he "would be very surprised" if Jones was not the starting quarterback in the 2022 season opener.
In the two months since, Mara, Schoen and Daboll have all stressed that Jones is the Giants' starter.
The Giants today began their offseason conditioning program and Jones said on a Zoom call with reporters that he is grateful for the endorsements.
"I'm excited to get going here and I appreciate the support," Jones said. "It's my job to do my role, prepare this team, prepare myself, play as well as I can, and put the team in a position to win games. So, I take that responsibility very seriously and that's what I'm focused on."
Jones is entering his fourth season having started the last 37 games in which he's played. He has demonstrated the ability to move the offense with both his arm and his legs and his 62.77 completion percentage is the highest in franchise history among quarterbacks who have thrown at least 1,000 passes. But he has also committed 49 turnovers in 38 games and the team is 12-25 is the game's he's started.
"I take full responsibility for how I've played, and we haven't won enough games," Jones said. "We haven't scored enough points. We haven't done things well enough. I take responsibility for that. As a quarterback, you play a big role in those things. So, that's what I'm focused on. I'm working on improving and making sure that myself as well as the offense, as well as the team, is ready to go and we're improving daily."
Daboll spent the last four seasons as the Buffalo Bills' offensive coordinator and working with quarterback Josh Allen. Buffalo reached the playoffs in each of the last three years, won the AFC East each of the last two years and advanced to the conference championship game in January. Allen threw 93 regular-season touchdown passes over those seasons.
On his Zoom call with the media today, Daboll was asked what he wants to see Jones accomplish this spring.
"I've answered this really the same way the last four years with Josh," he said. "It's an all-encompassing job. It starts with you just being able to communicate effectively in the huddle or run the no-huddle operation well. Really get to know your players and the body languages of each player, receiver, or the things that we're asking him to do. Have some input on what he likes and doesn't like, and then ultimately evaluate his decision making and try to put him in as many different situations as we can to teach him off of the situations that we can learn from and hopefully he can retain that as we're playing. Look, it might not come up until Week 3 of the season, but you're trying to hit all those things for the quarterback to make sure that he's on point in that regard."
Jones threw 10 touchdown passes in 11 games for a Giants team that finished 31st in the NFL with an average of 15.2 points a game in 2021. He missed the final six games of the season after injuring his neck against Philadelphia on Nov. 28. Because there is no contact in the offseason, Jones will not get hit until he plays a game.
"I'm feeling good and ready to go," he said.
Jones is learning his third offense in his fourth year as a pro. He began with Pat Shurmur's scheme before playing in Jason Garrett's attack for two years (Garrett was fired by Joe Judge five days before Jones was injured last year). Now Jones is digesting the terminology of the offense Daboll and coordinator Mike Kafka have brought to the Giants.
"I think it's great," Jones said. "I think it's a tremendous opportunity for me to learn a lot of different ways to do it and to see a lot of approaches. You know you can pick up things from each system, but obviously this system has had a ton of success. They had a ton of success in Buffalo with it and there's a reason. So, I'm looking forward to finding out what those reasons are, learning the offense, and then building it around what we do well as a team with the guys we got here. That's what's exciting to me. I think it's an awesome opportunity for all of us here."
View photos from the voluntary offseason workout program at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
*Linebacker Blake Martinez and wide receiver Sterling Shepard both suffered serious injuries last season. Martinez tore his left ACL against Atlanta on September 26. Shepard ruptured his left Achilles tendon vs. Dallas on December 19.
Both players agreed to restructured contracts that lowered their 2022 salaries. The Giants need to create room under the salary cap.
"It was definitely a difficult decision," said Martinez, who was a team captain in each of his first two seasons with the Giants. "But I think for me, it all came down to my family. I think being able to have the structure and the ability to have my daughters in the schools they're in and have that situation handled. I just love playing football and I knew what the coaches brought here from my time rehabbing here and those types of things and the interactions. I just felt confident knowing that I can go out there and prove the type of player I am coming back from my injury."
Shepard is a seven-year veteran who is the Giants' longest-tenured player.
"They wanted me here, I wanted to be here," he said. "We were able to work something out that made sense for both sides and I've moved on from it. Just looking forward to getting to know these guys and getting to know this playbook and trying to do my part and win games.
"It's tough, man, but I did the pros and cons and the pros outweigh the cons by a landslide. I did a lot of talking to my family and ultimately it was the best situation for me and my family. I was super happy that we were able to come to an agreement and if everything goes the way that I hope that it goes, hopefully I'll be here for a little bit longer. Like I said, I'm focused on right now, doing everything in my power to get better, get back on the field and stay on the field and learn this book right now. That's where my head is and where my focus is."
Both Martinez and Shepard avoided specifics when asked about the timetable for their return.
"For me right now, it's just focusing day by day, trying to get each checkpoint, doing the things the trainers have me doing for rehab and then all of the strength staff, what they have me doing in the weight room," Martinez said. "All I can say is it's going well and just excited to keep chopping wood and make that progress."
"I'm taking it day by day and just listening to the trainers, doing everything they ask of me," Shepard said. "I also do some extra stuff when I get home. I'm doing everything in my power to get back on the field and get back out there with my guys."
*Jones was in the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans Saturday when his alma mater, Duke, lost a national semifinal NCAA game to archrival North Carolina. His younger brother, Bates, is a senior reserve forward on the team. Bates Jones did not play in the game, which Duke lost, 81-77.
"It was a lot of fun, "Jones said. "It was an unbelievable atmosphere. That many people (70,602) at a basketball game is a different deal. So, that was cool. Obviously, it was a tough game for us. I thought we played well, and Carolina played well. They just got there at the end."
Jones said the cavernous stadium was loud and the atmosphere intense throughout the game, in which neither team led by more than seven points.
"That was the fun part – it seemed like in the last five or six minutes it was big shot after big shot, with the momentum going back and forth" Jones said.
The game marked the end of legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski's 47-year career, the last 42 at Duke.
"I didn't think it was going to end like that for us," Jones said. "It was a great season and a great game to end it. But I was certainly disappointed."