EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The future of the New York Giants began to change as quarterback Daniel Jones started falling on the first play of the second quarter in Sunday's 30-6 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.
In a way, it looked similar to when Aaron Rodgers fell to the ground in the New York Jets' season opener against the Buffalo Bills. Rodgers tried to get up and went down on one knee. He immediately knew something was wrong. He had torn his Achilles.
Jones lifted himself off the turf Sunday at Allegiant Stadium and also immediately knew something was wrong. He went down on one knee. The ACL in his right knee was torn, a fate that was confirmed via an MRI on Monday.
It put an end to Jones' disappointing 2023 season. It also jump-started the process of perhaps locating the next Giants quarterback (USC's Caleb Williams or North Carolina's Drake Maye are the top prospects), even if coach Brian Daboll won't allow his mind to go there.
"I just heard he had an ACL here 10 minutes ago," Daboll said Monday afternoon. "So my focus is on being there for the young man. I know he'll do everything he can to get back and ready to play."
Either undrafted rookie Tommy DeVito or veteran Matt Barkley will start Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Daboll wouldn't commit to DeVito after he went 15-of-20 passing for 175 yards with a touchdown and interception in Las Vegas after throwing for minus-1 yard the previous week against the Jets.
The reality of the Giants' (2-7) situation is that without Jones and backup Tyrod Taylor -- Daboll expressed uncertainty about whether Taylor will return from a rib cage injury this season -- this team isn't going to win many games. The Giants likely were destined for a similar fate even if their quarterbacks were healthy.
But this puts the Giants squarely in the quarterback mix.
Jones' contract, injury history and regression this season should make it an impossible position to ignore if they have a high pick in the 2024 draft. ESPN analytics says they now have a 23% chance of landing the top pick without Jones. It was 9.4% before he was ruled out for the season.
The Giants have an 89.4% chance of being in the top five and are 99.2% certain to be in the top 10. Giants general manager Joe Schoen was in Buffalo at the time when they drafted Josh Allen seventh overall in 2018.
The likelihood of a high draft pick provides Schoen and the Giants options in a well-regarded quarterback class that is expected to be headlined by Williams and Maye. Schoen, at the very least, would have to explore the options if they were within reach.
Schoen was at the USC-Washington game this past weekend getting at least his second live look at Williams this season.
Jones is guaranteed $35.5 million next season. After that, only $23 million is guaranteed the following year for injury only.
This gives the Giants a realistic option to get out of the deal after next season with a manageable $22.2 million dead money cap hit as a penalty. It makes drafting a quarterback a suddenly realistic possibility, despite signing Jones this past offseason.
It doesn't mean this team will intentionally lose games.
"If [Jones being out for the season] is the reality, we're 2-7. We still have a job to do. We still have to come to work. We still have to compete," running back Saquon Barkley said after Sunday's loss. "That's the mindset, until you're mathematically out of it."
That is the tricky part. The best interest of the organization long term may be to get one of those top picks in this draft to get in position to land Williams or Maye.
Except there will be a lot of competition. The Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos are all struggling teams that could be looking for a quarterback this offseason. Jones' injury puts the Giants in that conversation.
It has been four years since Jones was selected No. 8 overall in the 2019 NFL draft. It was the turnovers and injuries that left doubt early in his career. But last year, Jones did not miss a game because of injuries and had just eight total turnovers.
But now he has two neck injuries on his résumé and will be coming back from a torn ACL.
"You can't control what people say," wide receiver Darius Slayton said. "Quite frankly, people have been trying to get myself and him and multiple others out of here since we've been here. It hasn't stopped us before. It won't stop us now.
"Like I said earlier, he's a resilient human being. He's a good football player, and at the end of the day, he'll be back healthy one day and be back playing pro football somewhere. Hopefully here. And I look forward to that day."