It may be a platitude and they may be lying, but ask any player or coach in the NFL about a time for celebration and they’ll note how short lived it should be. The dividing line between joy and the inevitable emotional pinch of the next prove-it situation is so thin you wonder how anyone enjoys anything.
It’s fair to wonder if that’s the case with Daniel Jones on a fascinating Saturday for the Giants. The team signed Kenny Golladay to a four-year deal worth $72 million, making the receiver one of New York’s most significant non-draft acquisitions in more than a decade. The last time the Giants were this invested in the offensive side of the ball via free agency, they inked Plaxico Burress to a six-year deal the year before winning a Super Bowl.
Golladay now leads a unit with incredible upside. Alongside a healthy Sterling Shepherd, Darius Slayton, Kyle Rudolph and (in an ideal world) a version of Evan Engram whose catch rate can more closely resemble his athleticism and route running ability, they are likely the most complete unit on paper in the division if you factor a healthy Saquon Barkley into the fold as both a runner and receiver (Dallas would theoretically be a close second, with more star power at wide receiver, but a less complete tight end depth chart and a declining Ezekiel Elliott).
And so, if you’re a quarterback who, over the past two seasons, has yet to post a net positive in Yards Above Replacement, has yet to finish in the top 18 in Total Quarterback Rating, has yet to complete more than 65% of his passes in an NFL season and took more sacks while leading fewer game winning drives in his sophomore season than his rookie season, this is a double-edged sword.
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For Jones, the Golladay signing will finally reveal to the football world what he is. Could he be miscast, buried during his rookie season by an underperforming offensive line and his sophomore season by an underperforming offensive line, slew of injuries and largely unimaginative offense? There’s no doubt. Some of the more analytically minded football people see Jones as a diamond in the rough, who is performing well enough to be a quality NFL starter without any of the trappings. There are plays in which he looks the part. There are throws that are pinpoint to difficult, high-threat areas of the field.
If that’s true, this was a move to elevate him above the fog and into his rightful place as an unquestioned starter in the NFL.
If it’s not, an offense this good will quickly expose both Jones and the general manager who fell in love with him at the senior bowl a few years back. There is a new, highly thought of coaching staff in East Rutherford that is not beholden to Jones the way the previous regime was. Joe Judge will probably remain with the Giants longer than Dave Gettleman, and if his offense is dragging after assembling (arguably) the best set of skill position players in the division, it is not Golladay, a player who has a better rate of contested catches than any receiver in the NFL over the past two seasons, who will take the blame.
The good news for Jones is that we said almost all of this about Josh Allen a year ago. Before he was considered an Elite talent in 2020, on course for an MVP season, he was one of the worst statistical quarterbacks in the NFL. In 2018, Football Outsiders had Allen as posting a negative 534 yards below replacement. In 2019, he was at negative 21, below Mitchell Trubisky.
Then the Bills bet big on Allen’s development, going out and finding him a No. 1 wide receiver who could evolve their brilliantly schemed offense into the best version of itself. Credit goes to the Giants for spending the money to follow the blueprint. Now, fingers crossed.
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