Pat Shurmur fanned the flames of a potential quarterback competition between Eli Manning and Daniel Jones on Tuesday.
With a six-week break until Giants training camp in late July, Shurmur could have kept it boring on the final day of media OTA availability. Instead, the head coach danced around a definitive statement on the subject and left the door open a crack for Jones to challenge for early playing time.
Shurmur raised eyebrows, and elicited several follow-up questions, by making yet another comment about Jones possibly playing early. He said the No. 6 overall pick is “on track with the goal to be ready to play day one.”
Later on he called Manning his “starter,” but when asked if he foresaw a scenario where Jones could start in Week 1, Shurmur said: “You never know what’s gonna happen. But as I said, Eli’s getting ready to play, and so is Daniel.”
The coach cited “injuries” as something that can change a plan. That could also happen if “somebody just starts playing better than another.”
The primary takeaway? Shurmur is treating Manning as his starting QB for now and doesn’t want to label Jones publicly as a backup this early. He also believes Jones will be ready to play in Week 1 if needed, and he’s developing him on that timeline.
Shurmur’s coy approach to this topic is reminiscent of GM Dave Gettleman’s “we didn’t sign him to trade him” remarks on Odell Beckham Jr.
The head coach is saying enough to support the plan of Manning starting, but technically he is also leaving the door open to the scenario of Jones taking the job, too.
There’s nothing wrong with that, either. Shurmur should give Jones a shot if he gives the team the best chance to win, even if the rookie wasn’t lobbying for the job on Tuesday.
“I don’t think that’s my focus right now,” Jones said of whether he thinks he can earn the starting job. “I think in this offseason all of our focus is on just improving, being better than we were the day before. That’s certainly mine. We’re all trying to put ourselves in position to play. I think every man on the team has that mindset when they go out to practice. So whatever the plan is, I think my focus certainly right now is just to be better than it was the day before.”
In order to most accurately and transparently portray Shurmur’s press conference, and to assure nothing is taken out of context or lost in translation, here is the transcript of the coach discussing his quarterbacks on Tuesday.
Q: What do you think about where Daniel Jones is?
Pat Shurmur: I think he’s had a really good offseason. Much like we were talking about Darius Slayton, I think he’s had a really, really productive offseason. He’s on track with the goal to be ready to play day one. That’s really what all the players need to be thinking. The quarterback stuff will be kind of on the front-burner for everybody, I get that. But he’s on track.
Q: At what point do you start weighing who gives the team the best chance to win?
PS: I think that’s constantly what goes on in everybody’s mind. The other guy we’re talking about is Eli, and he’s getting himself ready to have an outstanding year.
Q: Comparing Daniel Jones’ intelligence but as a rookie vs. Eli Manning’s game management and experience as a veteran.
PS: That’s part of it, being able to manage the game but also being able to make plays, move the team and get us in the end zone. There’s a lot that goes into it. But I think Daniel has done a good job of getting up to speed with all the things you have to do at the line of scrimmage, which in a lot of ways there are some things that are very different from what he did in college.”
Q: You mentioned Week 1 for Daniel in a couple of ways. Is there a scenario that he could win this job in training camp?
PS: I think we’re going to play the very best player, and I know we’re dancing around the words here, but right now Eli’s getting ready to have a great year, and Daniel’s getting ready to play. We feel good about where Eli is as our starting quarterback, and we’ve got a young player that we think is going to be an outstanding player getting himself ready to play.
Q: How much do you view that as an open competition, though? You said he’s the starter and you want the other guy to be ready Week 1.
PS: Yeah we’re playing around the words again, and I’m not trying to be cryptic about it. It just is what I just said it is. Eli’s getting ready to have an outstanding year, and Daniel’s getting ready to play. That’s really about it.
Q: Both can’t happen, though.
PS: Again we’re playing around the words.
Q: How do you keep other guys excited if it’s a two-man competition?
PS: Well, I think everybody that’s on the team is getting himself ready to play. So if you were asking me about (Alex) Tanney or any other receiver or position player, I would probably tell you the same thing. And everybody understands that there are some uncontrolled situations that happen: injuries, somebody just starts playing better than another...
Q: How would you describe the situation?
PS: I just did. I’ll say it I guess for the third time: Eli’s getting ready to have an outstanding year, and Daniel’s getting ready to play. So at least in my mind that’s very clear. It doesn’t appear like it is because I’m getting a lot of follow-ups to it. But that’s OK. I get it. Because I don’t want to be cryptic.
Q: Are you saying that when you watch the film and practices and evaluate, whoever gives your offense the best chance to win is gonna play, or are you saying Eli’s gonna play?
PS: Yeah, the players that give our team the best chance to win play. That’s period. And we’ve seen Eli do that for a very long time. So we’ll what happens as we go down the road.
Q: Is there a scenario that Jones could be your Week 1 starter?
PS: You never know what’s gonna happen. But as I said: Eli’s getting ready to play, and so is Daniel.
Q: You’re playing around the words, not us.
PS: I’m not. I mean what more do you want me to say?
Q: Well there are times where guys say, this guy’s the starter and this guy is fighting to be the backup.
PS: I just said this guy’s the starter and this guy is fighting to be ready to play. So I think I did say that.
Q: So Eli’s the starter?
PS: Eli’s the starter and this guy’s getting ready to play. But I know we’re not gonna visit for a while, so if there’s something else…
Q: Well Daniel, you’ve obviously invested a lot in him, he’s the No. 6 overall pick, and if you’re excited about how he looks — and not only does he look good but he looks like he’s producing and moving the offense better than Eli consistently through August — is there a chance when you’re, say, getting ready to play that you mean PLAY? Or are you just saying—?
PS: In a game. In an NFL football game, yeah.
Q: But he can only play if Eli’s not playing.