“They clearly have a quarterback problem, and they’re making a mistake if they don’t think so.”
You’d almost automatically think that’s a statement about the Jets, but no, that’s what former NFL GM Michael Lombardi told Moose and Maggie about the Giants in an appearance on Wednesday’s show.
Daniel Jones is 4-16 as a starter in the NFL, including 1-7 this season, and his reviews for 2020 have ranged from bad (“he’s still trying to do too much” was Bruce Arians’ synopsis after Monday night) to worse (“he’s the only reason the Giants aren’t winning” according to Tiki Barber).
So what Lombardi see halfway through the 2020 campaign?
“I see the same things I’ve been saying ad nauseum: when he has to play fast, that’s when things break down,” Lombardi noted, before dipping into a baseball analogy: “When he can set himself and check the runners, he’ll deliver the ball to the plate and looks like he can be a good player. The problem is that in the NFL, it’s a fast, high-octane game; you have to play fast and react fast, and you can’t make bad fast decisions – and that’s what he has repeatedly done.”
But wait – there’s more!
“He also struggles with long-ball accuracy down the field, and accuracy under pressure,” Lombardi said. “He’s playing to the level he played it in college, but he was probably over-drafted; it’s not his fault they picked him so high, but the expectations are higher.”
The question, of course, is what the Giants can do about it. Jones was the No. 6 pick in the 2019 draft, and was installed as the starter by mid-September of last year. As such, it’s fair to expect at least progress, if not immediate success. However, he won only three of the nine games he started – Eli Manning won the fourth for Big Blue – and has seemingly regressed according to the numbers and the eye test.
“You can ignore it, and you can believe, which I’m sure the Giants do, that it will eventually get fixed,” Lombardi said. “But it never will, because the speed of the game will always be a problem for Daniel Jones. You hope he can grow out of it, but you’ve yet to see quarterbacks grow out of it.”
The Giants would own the No. 2 overall pick if the draft order were determined today (behind only those Jets), and in the race for Trevor Lawrence, or even Justin Fields or Trey Lance, Lombardi is adamant that Big Blue can’t make a double mistake on Jones.
“Every week we talk about it, but every time it happens, it always reverts back – it’s like a golfer who has a great round on the range, but doubt creeps in when he gets on the course,” Lombardi said. “Phil Simms said one wrong is all wrong, and it’s a challenge; you can only throw so many slants or three-step drops. You have to believe what your eyes are telling you, and you can’t make two mistakes: if you make a mistake on drafting him, you can’t make a mistake on evaluating him, too.”
That, he notes, is a lesson the Giants should be able to learn from the three teams who selected quarterbacks in the Top 10 last year.
“The media has made Tua Tagovailoa out to be the second coming, and he may be. But we know Justin Herbert is really good, and probably better than Tua, and we also know that Joe Burrow is really good,” Lombardi said. “We also know the Giants are 13-44 since the boat trip, and there’s a reason why: they misevaluated Eli at the end and hung on way too long, and now they’re here with Daniel Jones.”
And there’s one more lesson Lombardi hopes Big Blue gets after inculcation.
“The only way you get better in the NFL is believe what you see and be honest with yourself; the Dolphins are playing Tua because they don’t know, but they know they have Houston’s high draft choice, so they can see and figure out what to do,” Lombardi said. “I don’t attack peoples’ evaluations, I attack when they keep lying to themselves about the evaluation.”