Look at the numbers and the conclusion seems obvious: Daniel Jones over Sam Darnold
Except the debate that could rage here for a decade is not as easy as judging on a one-game sample, even if it is an apples-to-apples comparison provided by the unbeaten Patriots.
The best defense in the NFL — maybe one of the best defenses ever in the NFL — tortured the young franchise quarterbacks of the Giants and Jets in back-to-back games in the prime-time window.
Jones emerged as the slightly lesser of two evils. In a 33-0 loss on “Monday Night Football,” Darnold finished an abysmal 11 of 32 passing for 86 yards, with four interceptions and a passer rating of 3.6. Yes, 3.6. Eleven days earlier, Jones became the first (and only) quarterback to throw a touchdown pass against the Patriots in seven games this season when he dropped a 64-yard touchdown pass in tight coverage to Golden Tate during a 35-14 loss. It was his lone highlight in a 15-of-31 performance, with 161 passing yards, three interceptions and a 35.2 rating.
“Two young quarterbacks trying to figure it out,” Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty told The Post. “I wouldn’t really compare between two totally different offenses. Two really good running backs on their team. I think they’re two really good guys who are going to continue to get better and lead their franchise. I’m not going to give either one any bulletin-board type of stuff.”
The Patriots play a more complex defense than other teams — like when Darnold lit up the Cowboys last week or Jones debuted with a splash against the Buccaneers. Their zero-blitz (no safeties) pressure has been eating up quarterbacks with much more experience than the two playing off Broadway.
Why does that work? “They better get their butt home to the quarterback before he gets the ball in the air,” McCourty said. “For us as DBs, it’s just a trust thing. We are trusting the guys up front are going to get home.
It’s tough times right now for Jones, who is 2-3 as a starter since replacing Eli Manning in the third week of his rookie season and facing questions about a benching. Darnold’s second year hasn’t gone any smoother, as he missed three games with mono and now is coming off the biggest stinker of his two-year career.
The Giants passed on Darnold with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft in favor of Saquon Barkley. The Jets grabbed Darnold at No. 3, and the Giants grabbed Jones at No. 6 this year. Patriots star linebacker Dont’a Hightower declined to answer which of the prized young quarterbacks showed him more over the last two games but said it’s not as simple as looking at numbers.
“I’m not here to say Daniel Jones is better than Sam Darnold or vice versa,” Hightower told The Post. “It’s not fair for me to say that or for anybody to say that. It’s two different offenses, two different philosophies, two different coaches. There’s more than looking at the box scores.”
Jones and Darnold both are making the mistakes young quarterbacks make — whether it’s Jones holding the ball too long and committing too many turnovers or Darnold throwing off his back foot. Their quarterbacks’ development will define the tenures of coaches Pat Shurmur and Adam Gase. “You attack one defense different than any other,” Hightower said. “Gase, Sean Payton, Sean McVay, all these guys are doing different things. It’s not the same.”