When Roger Goodell stood on a stage last Thursday night at the NFL Draft in Nashville, Tenn., and announced the Giants No. 6 overall pick in the first round, the league’s commissioner sent shockwaves through a fan base totally blindsided by hearing the name Daniel Jones.
In the run-up to the draft, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman assured the ardent supporters of the team that he would use the high draft slot to select the best player available regardless of position. The Giants, who finished 5-11 last season and at the bottom of the NFC East, had many areas of weakness, including a desperate need for a game-wrecking pass rusher, of which the 2019 draft boasted several.
However, Gettleman emphasized the Giants wouldn’t draft based on need. He maintained that taking the most talented players was the prudent course of action.
“I’m not going to force a pick,” said Gettleman a week prior to the draft. “You’ll get screwed every time. You’ll make a mistake…The priority is to select the best players,” he expounded.
“I know that sounds silly. But last year, again, we couldn’t pass up on Saquon Barkley. He was the best player in the draft. You can’t do that.” Indeed Barkley went on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, rushing for over 1,300 yards.
Yet Gettleman was seemingly the only general manager in football who deemed Jones, a redshirt junior quarterback from Duke University, who by most measures had an average college career, including passing for only 22 touchdowns and throwing nine interceptions in 11 games last season, as the best player available when it was the Giants’ turn to choose someone who ideally would make a significant positive impact sooner rather than later for a team that has missed the playoffs six out of the last seven seasons.
With Kentucky defensive end Josh Allen, Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary—both products of New Jersey—Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams, Michigan linebacker Devin Bush and Ohio State quarterback and New Jersey native Dwayne Haskins, who this past season broke the Big Ten records for passing yardage (4,831) and touchdowns (50) in a single season, fans were holding Gettleman at his word that he would secure one of them.
Instead, Gettleman assumed the role of Pinocchio by taking Jones. “I absolutely loved him. I loved everything about him,” said Gettleman addressing the media after making Jones the Giants’ heir apparent to Eli Manning as their new so-called franchise quarterback.
“I made up my mind that I was staying for the [Senior Bowl] and frankly, he walked out there and I saw a professional quarterback after the three series that I watched, I saw a professional quarterback. I was in full bloom love.”
Gettleman has admitted that staking his reputation and future as the Giants GM on Jones was as much about developing the culture of the team as it was about Jones’ ability on the field. It’s a theme both Gettleman and Giants head coach Pat Shurmur have harped on for months.
It’s also a subject that now has racial undertones whether Gettleman and others want to acknowledge that passing over the high character and exceedingly productive Haskins, who is Black, in favor of Jones, who is white with dubious on-field credentials, was bound to elicit the debate if culture and race are subconsciously one and the same for the Giants decision makers.