Pa Ralph Vaciano
FOX Sports NFC East Writer

No one ever questioned Daniel Jones“toughness, not after the constant beatings he suffered during his four years on the job Giants defender. And no one will be surprised if he overcomes the ankle injury he suffered on Sunday and plays in the team’s next game.

Even when Jones plays, and even when he plays well against Green Bay Packers in London on Sunday, and even if he plays well for the rest of the season, it still won’t erase the memory of that injury and the significance it holds for his long-term future. This particular injury may not last long for him, but it will undoubtedly be on the minds of the Giants brain trust as they evaluate Jones and try to decide what to do with him after this season.

It adds up to this inescapable and terrifying conclusion: Daniel Jones always seems to get hurt.

And that’s a big red flag flying over the Giants, telling them they should probably move on.

No, it’s completely unfair to the 25-year-old Jones, who never had much of a chance to thrive in New York. As Giants owner John Mara famously put it, they “did everything they could to screw this kid up,” with a constant merry-go-round of coaches and — perhaps most importantly — a consistently terrible offensive line that couldn’t keep him from getting beat up.

But “fair” doesn’t matter, given that the Giants have to decide whether Jones is worth at least a $31 million commitment if they use the franchise tag on him in 2023. That’s a steep price to pay considering he missed 10 of a possible 51 starts after taking over for Eli Manning’s Iron Man in Week 3 of the 2019 season. That’s almost 20% of the Giants’ games.

There was a high ankle sprain that kept him out for two games as a rookie. He then missed one game with a hamstring injury in 2020 and another two weeks later with another sprained ankle after he tried to come back from a hamstring injury too soon. This left him obviously limping into the final two games of the season (although he played well in both).

Then, last season, he was sidelined for one game with a concussion, though he managed to return the following week. But in Week 12 of 2021, he suffered a mysterious neck injury that forced him to miss the final six games of the season. He then had offseason neck surgery.

Now it’s the ankle. Again. And again, it’s not his fault. Injuries come with the territory in football, especially with quarterbacks who like to run and whose teams need them. And the risk increases exponentially when a quarterback runs behind a struggling offensive line.

But it’s still a big reminder of one of the few things former Giants general manager Dave Gettleman got right during his memorable tenure: “Injured guys get hurt. It’s just the truth.”

And the truth is painful: Daniel Jones is “a hurt guy.”

How then can the Giants even consider making a huge investment in him for next season? How could they even think of any kind of profitable, long-term deal? At this point, they have to assume Jones’ injuries will continue, that based on his history, he’ll miss one out of every five games. It would be one thing if they got an All-Pro quarterback for the other four, but Jones is clearly far from that.

And yes, there are examples of teams ignoring injuries — or injury histories — and giving players big contracts. Cowboys defender Duck Prescott he was still recovering from a broken ankle that cost him most of the 2019 season when he signed a four-year, $120 million contract in March 2020. But then he was already playing under the franchise. And more importantly, he started 69 straight games to start his career before the ankle injury.

That kind of longevity counts, and new Giants general manager Joe Sean and coach Brian Daboll know it. They watched their franchise quarterback in Buffalo miss four games with an elbow injury as a rookie. But Josh Allen then rebounded to start 59 straight regular season games and six playoff games since and develop into an All-Pro.

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Allen has proven he can be counted on on game day. Prescott did, too, before the combination of that ankle injury in 2019 and a broken thumb this season forced him to miss 15 of the final 37 games. Of course, Manning was once the gold standard for longevity, ruining the Giants by gutting every injury they’ve ever had and starting 210 straight games.

With a franchise quarterback approaching $50 million a year, teams can’t force them to consistently miss games or play less than their best. An important story of longevity.

And this is not at all the personal story of Jones.

Of course, there is still a long way to go before the Giants have to make a final decision on his future. Franchise decisions should not be made until the end of February. Free agency doesn’t start until mid-March. Jones can still play in every game this season. And who knows? Maybe he rises above his plight and becomes an All-Pro.

None of this, however, can quell the anxiety or ease the minds of those who will be clearing the salary cap or writing the huge paychecks. The only way a franchise quarterback can be worth the kind of money franchise quarterbacks get is if he can actually stay on the field.

Jones can’t. Or at least he couldn’t until now. And for all the flaws that have been revealed with him over the course of the first four seasons, there really isn’t anything bigger, scarier, or more important than that.

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. He spent 22 years covering the Giants, Jets and the NFL in general for SNY and the New York Daily News. He can be found on Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.

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