Daniel Jones and the Giants are one of the reasons we love sports. Entering the season Jones' days in New York seemed numbered after his fifth-year option was declined this offseason. Yet here we are in late October and Jones ranks sixth in ESPN's Total Quarterback Rating (QBR), which accounts for his impact on plays beyond just pass attempts, like scrambles, sacks and fumbles.
He has done it with one of the worst offensive lines and supporting casts (excluding Saquon Barkley) in the business. Case in point, Richie James leads the team with 191 receiving yards. Jones deserves a lot of credit for the Giants' hot start. He has executed well in Brian Daboll's system and temporarily shed the turnover-prone label.
There is one stat making the rounds though that is giving him too much credit.
Jones has five game-winning drives in the fourth quarter/OT this season, the most by any QB through seven games of a season. He's on pace for 12 this season. The single-season record is eight by Matthew Stafford in 2016.
It would be easy to see that stat and assume Jones is suddenly one of the clutchest QBs in the NFL. However, game-winning drives, while interesting, are one of the NFL's most overrated stats. Hypothetically, a quarterback is credited with a game-winning drive if his team gets a turnover in opponent territory, kneels down and kicks a game-winning field goal. Jones got one last week without completing a pass on the game-winning drive. He got one for a Giants 13-yard drive off a Lamar Jackson turnover the previous week.
So has Jones earned the clutch label? He ranks 27th in passer rating in the fourth quarter of one-score games this season. A closer look at the Giants' five game-winning drives is even more revealing:
He's not stretching the field
Jones has been dinking and dunking this season, but his throws on these drives are staggering.
He has 10 completions on five game-winning drives. Two per drive is already a low number, but these 10 completions have traveled a combined 25 air yards for an average of 2.5 per completion.
He has not thrown a single completion beyond the first-down marker. His longest completion has traveled 6 yards from the line of scrimmage. And only one of his 10 completions was on third down.
Giants are running the ball a ton
The Giants are relying on the run, including Jones' legs, at an incredibly high rate despite being either tied or trailing on these drives late in the game.
The Giants have run the ball 74 percent of the time on game-winning drives, including runs and scrambles by Jones. Jones has 12 pass attempts and eight runs on these drives.
If you include any chance for the Giants to tie or take the lead in the fourth quarter, they are running it 55 percent of the time, well above the league average (35 percent).
Barkley deserves a lot of credit
I wasn't blown away by a single throw made by Jones on these drives, but watching Barkley's play-making ability and Daboll's play-calling stood out.
If you could split credit between game-winning drives, Barkley would get the lion's share. If you want an exact science, Jones has racked up 7.8 expected points added (EPA) on these drives to Barkley's 11.4. Barkley has three of the game-winning scores in these games: a go-ahead two-point conversion against the Titans, and go-ahead touchdown runs against the Packers and Ravens. He has accounted for 61 percent of the Giants' yards on their five game-winning drives.
Numbers on Giants game-winning drives this season:
- Saquon Barkley: 18 touches, 154 yards, 2 TD
- Daniel Jones: 10 of 12 passing for 80 yards and a TD; 8 rushes for 46 yards and a TD
Daboll also deserves a lot of credit
Rookie head coach Brian Daboll has been applauded for his impact on the Giants this year, especially with how he has created easier throws for Jones. He has leaned into that on those crucial drives. Two-thirds of Jones' pass attempts have come with either play action or motion, or from outside the pocket.
It's clear Jones hasn't been the main reason the Giants are making these late charges down the field. But, he can still be doing a good job without being called clutch.
Daboll said it best. "He's really been consistent since we've had him in all these games. He makes the right decision, throws it to the right guy. He operates our offense the way we need him to operate our offense."
So hats off to Daniel Jones and the Giants for a 6-1 start, don't just call him Mr. Clutch yet.