New York Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman held a news conference Saturday, after the NFL draft wrapped up. And it wasn’t long before he was asked about his decision to take Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the sixth pick Thursday night.
That choice was widely panned as a huge reach for a prospect not considered deserving of such an early selection. Gettleman was asked why he didn’t at least wait to see whether Jones was available when his team was back on the clock with the second of its first-round picks, at No. 17.
“I know for a fact there were two teams that would have taken him in front of 17,” Gettleman said. “I know that for a fact."
Neither Gettleman nor Giants Coach Pat Shurmur, seated alongside him, revealed which teams had the purportedly strong interest in Jones. A reporter for SNY, Ralph Vacchiano, claimed on Twitter that the teams were the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos, citing NFL sources.
The Washington Post’s Les Carpenter reported that the Redskins’ preference was Dwayne Haskins, and the Ohio State star was certainly under that impression heading into the draft. When asked Thursday whether Haskins was the team’s top-rated quarterback, Washington Coach Jay Gruden quickly nodded and said: “Oh, yeah. For sure.”
The Redskins selected Haskins with their first pick, at No. 15. The Broncos waited until the second round before trading up to grab Missouri’s Drew Lock at No. 42.
Other NFL reporters questioned what Vacchiano posted to Twitter. Jordan Ranaan, who covers the Giants for ESPN, tweeted that while two teams may have had such interest in Jones, it was a “fact” that they were not the Redskins and Broncos.
Ranaan also quoted ESPN colleague Dianna Russini’s comments on a New York sports radio station: “The Redskins and Broncos were never taking Daniel Jones. In Washington, some tried to convince ownership they should take Jones, but it never was going to happen.”
Mike Klis of Denver’s 9 News, replied to Vacchiano by saying: “It was NOT the Broncos. They were not taking any QB at 10.” Klis added that Lock, not Jones, was Denver’s top-rated quarterback and said, “Sorry Mr. Gettleman, Broncos can’t bail ya out on this one.”
That was a reference to the criticism Gettleman has taken over the selection of Jones, who was drafted just five spots after Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray went No. 1 to the Arizona Cardinals.
The latter was an expected development after Murray had rocketed up draft boards during a Heisman Trophy-winning season, but the Giants stunned many with their decision.
Not least among those taken aback by the selection were Giants fans, several of whom went viral Thursday evening with severely disappointed reactions. More than a few draft analysts chided the team for passing up better bets for NFL production, including a number of defensive talents, to take a player many experts had rated no better than the fourth- or fifth-best quarterback prospect.
Other analysts liked the pick, pointing to Jones’s intelligence, competitiveness and athleticism, as well as his less-than-stellar supporting cast at Duke. Some went so far as to liken Jones’s traits to a combination of Peyton Manning and Eli Manning, although that also served to highlight the close connection between Eli Manning and Jones through their mutual college coach, noted quarterback guru David Cutcliffe.
“They’ve already spent a lot of time around each other” said Cutcliffe, who coached Eli Manning at Mississippi. He said the pair are “real comfortable with each other.”
Cutcliffe added that when Manning would come to Duke for offseason workouts, “Daniel’s eyes got big, and Daniel watched and begged to come into film studies [with Manning]."
In other words, Jones appears to come with Manning’s seal of approval, which might help smooth out what could otherwise have been an awkward situation. However, it also reinforces existing suggestions that the team has been overly solicitous of its two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.
On Thursday, Gettleman suggested that Jones might sit on the bench for three years and learn under Manning, much as Aaron Rodgers did while Brett Favre was still playing in Green Bay. Rodgers dropped in the draft before going 24th, though. Jones’s lofty selection would normally merit a much speedier push to the starting lineup, and the Giants’ general manager was pressed on his claim that the apprenticeship could take almost as long as a presidential term.
“Who knows? I may go out there in my car and get hit,” Gettleman told reporters. He also raised eyebrows by asserting that — after not seeing Jones play in person during Duke’s season — he fell “in full bloom love” after watching the quarterback participate in the Senior Bowl.
“Frankly, he walked out there, and I saw a professional quarterback after the three series that I watched,” Gettleman said, “I saw a professional quarterback.”
If Jones does turn out to be a terrific quarterback, there won’t be much second-guessing about Gettleman’s decision. In the meantime, though, the general manager has had to explain himself to a skeptical public, and his answers only seem to be raising more questions.
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