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The blind confidence of drafting Daniel Jones

If Jones was such a flawed quarterback, how did the Giants get here?

I think it’s a good place to start by saying this: It’d be great to roll through life with the blind confidence of someone like Dave Gettleman. It would be amazing. It would mean parallel parking without looking back, paying every bill without ever checking your bank balance, and eating the most suspect oysters with gusto.

Life would be one long heat check if I had the confidence of someone like Gettleman, and I’d hit every corner three without even looking to see if it went down.

That might be what being an NFL general manager feels like. It might be one reason why Gettleman, the general manager of the New York Giants, took Duke quarterback Daniel Jones without flinching in the first round of the NFL Draft. The sketchiest oyster of them all in the NFL’s seafood buffet of talent, Jones got a no-look vote of confidence, first-round money, and a shot at an NFL starting quarterback gig from Gettleman and the Giants for reasons that frankly not even Gettleman seems to be able to explain without making the situation worse.

Jones got drafted at No. 6 despite leaving Duke with little to suggest he deserved first-round consideration at all. His numbers didn’t make him one of the top picks in his own college football conference, much less in the total talent pool of the 2019 NFL Draft. He performed poorly against good defenses, didn’t inspire any particular awe in peer and coach reviews, and didn’t knock anyone flat with his physical prowess. Gettleman saw Eli Manning where a lot of others saw Cooper.

In other words, no one who watched a lot of college football who saw Jones saw anything remotely like a first-round pick at quarterback. Not that Gettleman knows a lot about college football, since he put Ohio State in the Big 12 last week when discussing his decision to draft Jones (Gettleman has spent a lot of time defending the pick post-draft).

Gettleman claimed he had to draft Jones that early because two other teams were looking to draft him before the Giants’ next pick at No. 17. Those two teams were (supposedly) the Denver Broncos and the Washington NFL team. One has drafted every talentless hat rack over 6’4 for the past 10 years, and the other is the Washington NFL team. This is not the kind of company that should inspire confidence in your own decision-making.

Gettleman claimed that in lieu of actual quantifiable production, Jones instead succeeded in a difficult situation and displayed “fiber.” There is a joke here about a 68-year-old man like Gettleman having an exaggerated valuation of the word “fiber,” and I just made it.

If these explanations still don’t seem OK, then maybe the testimony of one Definitely Real Guy at a bagel shop will convince everyone that Gettleman made the right call.

Bagel shop guy loves it, and therefore you should, too.

If Jones was so underqualified, so grossly unable to make his case on the field, then ... how?

How did any of this happen in the first place, especially with more obviously talented and productive quarterbacks available like Dwayne Haskins, eventually picked by division rival and possible competitor for Jones’ services, Washington?

Step one to understanding how this happened is this: When someone tells you how they’re bullshitting you, don’t interrupt them. Gettleman probably should stop talking for his own benefit, but letting him go at least helps pick out the specific brands of gibberish here — namely some very old and very unscientific justifications for selecting the sixth-best quarterback in the ACC in 2019. (Maybe seventh, it’s up for grabs here.)

Jones had a connect, and connects in a network of good old boys and “prestige bloodlines” are always to be trusted unequivocally.

Jones played for David Cutcliffe, the same well-respected coach who tutored Mannings Eli and Peyton, and who also runs an influential high school camp for developing quarterbacks. I’m sure Cutcliffe believes Jones can be successful. I am also sure he believes Jones, regardless of any future success, should get paid as much as possible playing football, and go as high in the draft as he can.

These things are not contradictory, but they aren’t exactly complimentary either.

Jones fits a type.

The extent to which people rely in general on “things that kind of look like what is supposed to be here” is genuinely scary. Jones looks like the top-down, managerial, and pedigreed concept of the professional quarterback people relied on 20 years ago. He played in a sort-of pro-style offense, or at least one coached by someone well-versed.

He is a 68-year-old man’s idea of the prototypical quarterback copied and pasted directly from the year 1990 and into the present: A big sturdy white dude who interviews well, works hard, and doesn’t try to do too much.

As a player, Jones works within a system, takes instruction, and isn’t a terrifying freelancer.

He will do what he is told, work hard, and look a certain part while doing it. Fun fact about this type: The manager is always in charge, not labor, and receives credit for any and all successes by the management-anointed successor.

The NFL is full of control freaks doing things control freakily. Picking a QB with a limited upside and a real need to stick to the script is peak control freak design, and the logical complement to what Gettleman might be trying to do with the Giants.

*Might? There is no plan, but let’s pretend there is just for fun.

Jones looks a lot like Eli Manning.

Really, he does, it’s terrifying how much I want to make the argument that Gettleman just went down the list and picked “Replacement Eli.” I’d make him do the sand bucket photo if I could.

All of these are non-quantifiable reasons. These are considered deeply uncool in the year 2019, when most football people will admit that the game is one of data, information, and rigorous evaluation by set metrics. Talent evaluation, more than even game management, has come to rely on that kind of hyper-picky analytical work and scouting. It’s not enough for a scout to just have a hunch despite the numbers, tape, and statistical resume.

It is, apparently, enough for a GM to make the call against all evidence.

That anyone noticed this, raised hell, and reduced Gettleman to citing The Bagel Guy as a public defense is probably a good indication that:

a) football in general has come a long way in terms of understanding and recognizing talent

b) the Jones pick is an outlier, rather than standard operating procedure

c) Gettleman might have a case of walking brain-eating amoebiasis

It’s also a reminder the NFL — while not alone in this — still runs on a lot of reliable old vices and decision-making shortcuts. Connections still work way too well. Management still sometimes has a phobia of being outshined by talent. Stereotypes of the nastiest possible variety still creep into the conversation about positions, talent, and evaluation. (See: NFL analysts inadvertently getting into very strange and bad territory by using weird terms like “strong bloodlines” in the most literal sense possible on air.)

*This is all without getting into how the game itself is still sometimes called — an ongoing cultural struggle inside football where NFL offensive coordinators still try to “establish the run” at all costs, even though nothing has shown it to be an effective strategy for anyone.

None of this is Jones’ fault. He will get paid more than most people earn in a lifetime, and should take it running. (Preferably away from football, and toward his Duke buddies in finance or some other lucrative non-contact industry.)

Even the obvious screaming comparison to Jones’ good fortune in this draft — Ohio State’s more qualified Dwayne Haskins, who had to watch Jones get picked ahead of him — only had to wait nine spots to get picked by Washington. He got the Brady Quinn waiting room treatment for a hot minute on ESPN, but on the whole? Haskins came out of this with the same result.

But maybe, just maybe, I don’t want the kind of blind confidence Gettleman thinks he has. Maybe what I really want is the real kind of blind confidence that would take Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson with a draft pick. Buffalo didn’t even need to spend one to get the closest analogue to 2018 draft success story, Wyoming’s Josh Allen.

Buffalo now has not one, but two huge, risky, and still mostly unproven tree-sized prospects on the roster at quarterback. Buffalo GM Brandon Beane’s idea of what a quarterback should be might be a dangerous strain of crazy. But to his credit, he obviously feels it deeply and is very committed to it. There should be a real respect or a commitment to that kind of lunacy.*

*Also might be worth asking why someone like Tyree Jackson ends up undrafted out of the MAC, but the similar Josh Allen gets a first-round pick out of the Mountain West. Miiiight want to look into that!

Gettleman’s variety of crazy here pales in comparison. It’s less a bold devotion to an idea, and more of a move they were going to make no matter what was actually on the buffet.

To come back to the buffet: Gettleman and the Giants walked into the draft less like chefs looking for what was good, and more like a beach vacationer determined against all sense to eat oysters. And like someone eating at a restaurant out of season and well above their price range, the Giants will have to eat it simply because it’s already on the plate.