For a long, long time, the Giants resisted the idea of an Eli Manning succession plan. They kept kicking the franchise quarterback can down the road.
Finally, when they reached the painful conclusion that Manning would not, could not, deliver a third Super Bowl championship, GM Dave Gettleman staked his legacy on Daniel Jones to be his Eli Manning.
As Jones prepares for his third season, a cautionary tale is unfolding in Florham Park, N.J.
Jets GM Joe Douglas is fielding calls from teams interested in potentially trading for Sam Darnold.
In the eyes of the Giants decision-makers, Jones is untouchable.
A year ago, so was Darnold.
But then he couldn’t overcome his coaching and his supporting cast.
It is a textbook case of how to ruin your franchise quarterback and shatter the hopes and dreams of your tortured fan base.
The Giants cannot afford to make that mistake.
Their mandate: Do everything possible in free agency and the draft to aid and comfort Daniel Jones so they can believe in him a year from now every bit as much as they believe in him now.
Playmakers and protectors.
First and foremost, get the kid a true No. 1 wide receiver who can complement Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, and take the heat off Saquon Barkley — who would be a boon if he comes back from his ACL surgery as Saquon Barkley.
With Allen Robinson and Chris Godwin off the free-agent market, Kenny Golladay would be a perfect fit as long as he passes Joe Judge’s culture and character fit.
At 6-foot-4, 214 pounds, Golladay would give Jones the kind of big target that Plaxico Burress gave Manning once upon a Super time. And Golladay is 27. He is the one to target given the cap-strapped realities that will limit how deep into the free-agent waters Gettleman can wade.
Manning’s decline was hastened by an incompetent offensive line, and trading Odell Beckham Jr. and replacing him with Golden Tate.
Now Tate needs to be replaced, and if Golladay winds up with the Dolphins, the Giants should keep their fingers crossed that either DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle will be available with the 11th pick of the draft.
“Every team needs playmakers, let’s be honest,” Gettleman said. “A healthy Saquon obviously makes a big difference. It’s not like we don’t realize what we need, but at the end of the day, it’s also about adding really good players. You can never have too many good players at any position.”
Gettleman is still working on fixing the offensive line. Judge believes he has upgraded the coaching with new O-linecoach Rob Sale and consultant Pat Flaherty, who need to develop the kiddie corps of left tackle Andrew Thomas, left guard Shane Lemieux, center Nick Gates and right tackle Matt Peart.
For the Giants to be a legitimate contender, whether the NFC East is the NFL Least again or not, they desperately need Jones to make a third-year leap in his second year in coordinator Jason Garrett’s offense, after Jones failed to make a second-year leap (11 touchdown, 10 interceptions, 11 fumbles, 65 carries for 423 yards and one TD rushing).
As the Jets eyeball Zach Wilson and the quarterback class of 2021, Gettleman and the Giants are not in the quarterback business and look inward instead, at No. 8.
Gettleman: “We’ve had Daniel for two years. We’ve done the evaluation on him, and we really believe he’s the guy. … 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.
“The kid just finished his second year of NFL football. How many of us after two years at our new job were great?
“The one common denominator is it takes time. Everybody’s got to understand that. We believe in Daniel, and that’s where it is.”
Giants fans: It didn’t take Justin Herbert time.
Judge: “We have confidence in Daniel. He’s a player we want to work with going forward with this team.”
Douglas and Adam Gase were saying the same exact thing last year at this time about Darnold. Picking up his fifth-year option suddenly isn’t as palatable now as resetting the financial clock with a rookie franchise quarterback.
Message to Giants: Don’t just say you believe in Daniel Jones. Show you believe in Daniel Jones.