EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The NFL quarterback carousel has been spinning with exceptional speed and complexity this offseason, but the Giants were never tempted to jump aboard.
While Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff were traded for each other, Carson Wentz was dealt out of the NFC East, Deshaun Watson is constantly in the news and rumors about other quarterbacks continue to surface, the Giants contently watched from afar. Their reasoning is simple: they are very happy Daniel Jones plays the game's most important position for them.
That's not new; coach Joe Judge and general manager Dave Gettleman have vigorously and consistently endorsed Jones. They reiterated their stance today when asked on separate Zoom calls if their belief in Jones has changed in light of the quarterback movement in the last two months.
"No, it hasn't at all," Judge said. "Again, we have confidence in Daniel, he's a player that we want to work with going forward with this team. He's shown us a lot of improvement, there's a lot of things. I can go on and on about how we respect him and like him and how the locker room responds to him, but the simple answer to that is no."
Gettleman was asked if all the quarterback movement tempted him to examine the possibilities.
"Well, you do your evaluations," Gettleman said. "We've had Daniel for two years, we've done the evaluation on him and we really believe he's the guy. No reason to go look. What we're doing isn't fantasy football, we're not playing, we're not doing that. We've got a conviction on him, he's everything we want, he's got all the physical skills and I say this all the time, the kid just finished his second year of NFL football. How many of us after two years at our new job were great? No, we all start at point A and we hopefully get to point C, but the one common denominator is it takes time. Everybody's gotta understand that. We believe in Daniel and that's where it is."
Jones started 14 games as a second-year pro in 2020; he missed two contests in December with hamstring and ankle injuries. Although his touchdown passes declined from 24 his rookie season to 11 last year, many of Jones' other statistics were very similar. He had slight declines in attempts (459-448), completions (284-280), yards (3,027-2,943) and interceptions (12-10) and he had a small increase in his completion percentage (61.9-62.5).
"In terms of Daniel, like every other player and every coach, we all have things we have to improve on and take strides forward in this year," Judge said. "That's no different for any player on our roster or any player in the league really. But our focus is internally coach some players, we all have to improve, we communicate that directly, I do with all of the coaches, we communicate directly with all of our players in things that we have to improve on both short-term and then long-term throughout their career, and then we put together a system and plan for them to attack that and go forward."
*Judge is also bullish on another ballhandler, Evan Engram. In 2020, the fourth-year tight end played all 16 games for the first time, started a career-high 14 games and finished second on the Giants with 63 receptions, one less than the career high he set as a rookie in 2017.
"I love Evan," Judge said. "I have a ton of confidence in Evan. He's fun to coach, the guys have fun playing with him, he gives everyone in the locker room a ton of confidence. This guy's goes out there every day and this guy works tirelessly, I mean tirelessly. This guy is a tank every day, so in terms of confidence within the program, absolutely we have confidence in him, 100 percent. He's a guy that obviously we have to keep continuing to feature in the offense along with Kaden Smith and Levine (Toilolo) and all the other tight ends that will be in our program, because these are guys with skill sets and we've just got to keep on doing things to use their versatility and skill sets to put them in a position of strength."
*Two of the Giants' best defensive linemen are free agents. Leonard Williams, who had a career and team-high 11.5 sacks, today received the franchise tag for the second consecutive year and almost certainly is going nowhere. Dalvin Tomlinson doesn't have gaudy stats but has started 64 consecutive games, is a stout defender in the middle of the line and was a team captain and the team's Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee. Will the Giants be able to keep both he and Williams?
"Specific to our players who are free agents, I said it after the season and I'll say it again, I'd love to have all of our guys back, I really would," Judge said. "I'm not going to comment on anything specifically to contracts and obviously we have a lot of love for Dalvin as a person and as a player. To me, I don't think stats are always the overlying factor. You have to understand how you use him in your scheme and the overall production he has sometimes by allowing other people to be productive. In terms of Dalvin, I can't say enough good things about him. I love him as a person, he's a fun guy to coach. All that being said, we'd love to have all of our guys back. There's a process every team has to go through this time of year through free agency and all that stuff will be addressed when the time comes."
*When he spoke to the media three days after the season ended, Gettleman said, "we need to find playmakers." The Giants expect to welcome back a vital one with the return of Saquon Barkley, whose season ended in Week 2 when he tore his ACL in Chicago. But Gettleman has his sights set well beyond the star running back.
"Every team needs playmakers, let's be honest," Gettleman said. "Good Lord willing, Saquon will be 100 percent and obviously he'll make a huge difference. A healthy Saquon obviously makes a big difference, but, again, you're always looking to add good players. And, oh, by the way, we're not playing until September, so we've got free agency and we've got the draft, and we'll see how it plays out. It's not like we don't realize what we need, but, again, at the end of the day it's also about adding really good players. You can never have too many good players at any positions. Sure, we have our eye out for that, but we also have our eye out for guys that fit us culturally and fit where we're trying to get to."
Responding to a question, Gettleman touched on another consideration regarding Barkley. Does the organization need to see the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year on the field before initiating long-term contract talks with him and ow does the injury factor into that?
"I think that's part of the discussion," Gettleman said. "Obviously, we're going to have to make a decision this spring on whether we pick up the fifth-year option (on Barkley's rookie contract). You're back to that medical question. It's unknown and what you have to do is get your trainers and your doctor involved and make your best decision."
*Gettleman is clearly confident the Giants are on the right track and he expects continued improvement this year. He was asked, "how much better should this team be in 2021?"
"Obviously, everybody has expectations," Gettleman said. "It's about getting better. I'm not going to put a win number on it. I'm just not going to go there. I think we're just about there. You guys have alluded to a couple of our needs (wide receiver, pass rusher were two raised on the call). I believe we're going to get there."