Whelp, that pretty much went how I expected it to go. Not utterly terrible, but oof. The Giants are committed to the Daniel Jones experience for the next couple of years.

This Giants season was a blessing that might have also been a curse, time will tell for sure. The new regime did not have faith in Jones. They declined his fifth-year option, essentially betting against him. Reports are that Daboll deliberately made practices harder on Jones to pressure him. It kind of worked! Jones had his best season easily since his rookie year, throwing for 15 touchdowns and running for 7 more. He cut down severely on his turnover problem, becoming one of the safest QB’s in the league after years of being a turnover punching bag. He did all of this behind a sub-par offensive line with one good player on it. He did all of this with one of the worst WR rosters in the league. A guy we picked up from the Bills practice squad halfway through the year easily became his #1 target after 2 games. This was, by all accounts, positive. Jones finally looked mature. He went through his progressions. He made smart decisions. He used his legs effectively. We do not make the playoffs without Jones playing this well in 2022, and we don’t win a playoff game without him, either. It’s hard not to feel hopeful for him after one season of good development.

The problem is this year still wasn’t special in any real way. This is the kind of season you want your developing QB to have in year 2. Not year 4, in a contract season. 15 TDs is not impressive. 3200 yards is pretty low by today’s standards, weak WR corps or not. The only elevated thing Daniel Jones really seems to bring to the table is his value as a runner, which is not something QBs can count on long-term. Jones had a great development year, but it wasn’t elite. Jones was safe with the ball, but he was also very cautious with the ball. He rarely took shots and his yards per attempt was among the lowest in the league. The biggest issue here is that while Jones unquestionably took a step forward, he was stepping out of the absolute muck and is now gloriously average, and nothing he accomplished this year outside his good scrambling isn’t probably replicable with other options at the position that would have more time to mold and cost significantly less.

One of my big worries going into the season with Jones was that he’d play well enough to take us out of contention for a top draft pick, but not well enough to be elite or justify a big contract. He did exactly that. He took us to the playoffs and was easily outmatched when he went up against a team that wasn’t fielding a defense made of drunk ants running away from the ball out of fear. Jones has entered the Dalton Line. The Tannehill Jurisdiction. The Cousins Culdesac. The Garoppolo Exclusion Zone. QB Purgatory. When your QB is just good enough that the chance of you finding a better option is pretty low, so you have to pay him despite not being elite. This is a terrible place to be and traditionally has not produced success.

When is the last mid-range QB, on a big contract, that won a super bowl? 2015 Peyton Manning? That version of Peyton was physically broken and survived on his brain alone and one of the best defenses in history. Stafford? Maybe, but Stafford always flirted with the low end of elite and was surrounded by incredible levels of talent. Jimmy Garoppolo reached a super bowl and almost won it, but the 49ers arguably lost because he wasn’t good enough. Joe Flacco? The answer is probably Joe Flacco. And that super bowl win stuck the Ravens in cap hell thanks to the contract he earned from it. But over the past decade, the formula for competing for a SB seems to generally be two things: stacking the team around a cheap QB on a rookie contract or, more successfully, having elite talent at the QB position. Daniel Jones is not Patrick Mahomes. He is not Joe Burrow. He’s not Herbert or Hurts or even Tua. He’s a distinctly middle-class QB (provided this year wasn’t a fluke). And now he takes up a lot of space on the roster, making it that much harder to fill the space around him with the talent required to elevate him and the team to actual competitors. There is reason to worry about this.

But despite the unfortunate circumstances brought on by the success of the season, the Giants didn’t really have a better option. Derek Carr? A better passer for sure but pretty much also stuck directly in the QB middle class, and would be new to the system. Draft someone? The Giants have too many holes to give up the draft capital to take a chance on someone that high. Jones knows the system, improved within it, and could conceivably get better as the team gets out of the Gettleman hole. The contract is an overpay for what Jones is and what he’s achieved but it could be a lot worse and pretty much every QB is overpaid the first year they get their contract. Mahomes looked overpaid when he got his bag, now he looks almost like a steal. This wasn’t a DeShaun Watson contract, although we can partially blame him for how fucked up the QB market is now, as well as blame him for other things, like being a rapist.

So after all of this, I’m kinda just…neutral. Jones is the guy now for at least 2 seasons. It allowed us to retain Barkley on the franchise tag and either work out a new deal for our best offensive weapon or let him walk next year (which is what I expect, he’s an RB, he has a history of injury, I do not think paying him a lot is a good move). I’m worried how the Jones contract will impact us paying Dexter Lawrence and Andrew Thomas in the upcoming seasons, as well as maybe Xavier McKinney. It will obviously hamper free-agent signings, and our low draft position means we have to hit when we pick to maximize the cheap talent around Jones.

I entered 2022 under the impression Jones was not the guy. I still don’t think he’s the guy, and that this deal is punting the QB problem down the road. But unlike the start of the season, I do have reason to hope and root for him. The Giants could very conceivably get better next year as a team, and Jones could take another step forward if we find our true top weapon and grow him in the offense for another season. Whether I like it or not, I now have to root for Jones to be his best so that’s what I guess I’m gonna do. Prove all the haters wrong, Danny. Including me. Earn those Danny Dollars.