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GREG JOHNSON: Giants waited too long to go back to Tyrod Taylor at quarterback

New York Giants quarterback Tyrod Taylor (2) in action against the Philadelphia Eagles during an NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)
New York Giants quarterback Tyrod Taylor (2) in action against the Philadelphia Eagles during an NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

Brian Daboll is notoriously one of the more tight-lipped head coaches when speaking to the media, but some of the few words he uttered two weeks ago have only made the Giants’ quarterback situation more confusing.

“I’m not going to make a week-to-week change,” Daboll said when asked why he named Tommy DeVito as the starter for Christmas Day against the Eagles immediately after the Giants had a dreary 24-6 loss to the Saints on Dec. 17, without even reviewing the film. “He’s earned it. It’s not always going to be perfect, but he’s earned the opportunity to play.”

That seemed to imply that the Giants were going to ride out the season with DeVito under center, partly because he has the tools to help them win and partly because it made more sense to evaluate the undrafted rookie for next season as opposed to a veteran on an expiring contract.

Yet imperfection was insufficient after 30 minutes of football in Philadelphia. Daboll yanked DeVito from the game at halftime and inserted Tyrod Taylor, simply stating afterward that he was trying to spark the team.

That obviously put to rest any talks that the Giants (5-10) were subtlety tanking by playing the less-experienced DeVito in the first place, but what was so egregious about his performance against the Eagles that made Daboll backtrack on the notion that he wasn’t going to make a “week-to-week change”?

DeVito only completed 9 of 16 passes for 55 yards in the first half, which was obviously not nearly good enough. But he also didn’t turn the ball over for the fifth straight game. That wasn’t enough to let him battle through some adversity?

The only plausible explanation is that Daboll realized that he misevaluated DeVito as the quarterback who gives the Giants the best chance to win. Taylor threw for 133 yards in the second half including a beautifully thrown 69-yard touchdown to Darius Slayton that eclipsed DeVito’s total yardage. So, naturally, Daboll announced Wednesday that Taylor will start this Sunday’s home game against the playoff-contending Los Angeles Rams (8-7).

“I thought Ty did some good things in the second half of Philly, so he earned the right to start this game,” Daboll said.

Ultimately that is the correct call, but the Giants waited too long to make Taylor the starter again because now they are out of playoff contention.

He played well enough during Weeks 6-8 that he never should’ve lost the job when he missed four games with a rib cage injury. It was obvious that his mobility, pocket presence and willingness to air it out downfield made him one of the NFL’s top backups. The fact that there was even debate over whether Taylor was a better fit for the Giants as presently constructed than 40-million-dollar man Daniel Jones, who is out with a torn ACL, said it all.

“I think it’s a lot that he does,” offensive coordinator Mike Kafka said when asked what Taylor’s strengths are. “Not just on the field but as a leader, as a good teammate. I think Tyrod does a hell of a job, in the huddle, getting guys organized, so there’s a lot of things that he does just outside of playing the quarterback position that makes him special.”

Even the man of few words also complimented Taylor as a good person who has navigated through a lot in his 13-year career.

“He’s the model of a true professional, how he takes care of himself, how he prepares, how he is with his teammates,” Daboll said. “That’s why he’s been in the league for so long. So, I think all the stuff that he does, whether it’s (being) in really early, lifting in the weight room, how he is in the meetings, how he is with guys in the huddle, it’s kind of been built over the years, but I really think that’s who he is as a person and how he was raised. Incredible human being.”

It’s just hard to fathom how the Giants got so caught up in DeVitoMania that they lost sight of what made Taylor one of the NFL’s highest-paid backups in the first place.

No offense to DeVito, but beating Washington and New England only proved that he belongs in the NFL — not that he should be starting for the Giants. Taylor would likely have feasted on Green Bay’s weak pass defense as well, and then the Giants scored only six points in New Orleans. There was no reason to expect a good game from DeVito against the division-leading Eagles.

If Daboll simply wanted to ride the hot hand and not mess with positive mojo — the Giants had won two in a row when Taylor came off of injured reserve and then beat the Packers in primetime — that’s fine.

But the offense’s abysmal outing of only 193 total yards in New Orleans should have ended DeVito’s run. Yet Daboll doubled down in his postgame presser, which made his decision to bench the undrafted rookie at halftime one week later all the more confusing.

Regardless, Taylor seems ready to embrace what will likely be two more starts with the Giants before hitting free agency in the offseason.

“It means everything to me,” Taylor said. “Obviously the work that you put in week in and week out. I’ve been playing this game for a long time and anytime I get a chance to lace up the cleats and go out and compete means the world to me. That’s where I’m the happiest, and it’s what I love to do, to be able to go out and not only show your peers but prove to yourself what you could do.”

Giants Gameday

The Game: Rams (8-7) at Giants (5-10), MetLife Stadium, Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

The Line: Los Angeles by 5.5

History: The Rams lead the all-time series, 29-17, and have won three in a row. The last two in the Meadowlands came in dominant fashion: 38-11 in 2021 and 51-17 in 2017. The Giants last beat the Rams at home in 2011.

Key Matchups:

Giants offensive line vs. Rams DT Aaron Donald: The future Hall of Famer actually has only two sacks and six QB hits in five career games against the Giants, but this still sizes up as a huge mismatch for the Giants’ offensive line.

Giants WR Darius Slayton vs. Rams secondary: Slayton picked up his chemistry with Tyrod Taylor where they left off in last Monday’s loss to the Eagles as they connected for a 69-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Rams rank 22nd with 231.3 passing yards allowed per game.

Giants CB Cor’Dale Flott vs. Rams WR Cooper Kupp: Puka Nacua is questionable, so the former Super Bowl MVP could get even more targets. Kupp has battled lower body injuries this season but still has 55 catches for 710 yards and four touchdowns in 11 games.

Giants run defense vs. Rams WR Kyren Williams: Williams ranks sixth in the NFL with 5.1 yards per carry, and he’s gone over 100 yards in five of his last six games. The Giants are allowing the fourth-most rushing yards per game (134.2).

Injury Report:

Giants: DOUBTFUL: TE Lawrence Cager (groin); QUESTIONABLE: DE Deonte Banks (shoulder), WR Wan’Dale Robinson (quad).

Rams: OUT: DB Tre Tomlinson (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: OL Joe Noteboom (foot), WR Puka Nacua (hip), OL Alaric Jackson (thigh).

Giant Facts: Rams special teams coordinator Chase Blackburn played linebacker for the Giants from 2005-12. … The Giants’ defense has the NFL’s sixth-highest opponent fourth-down conversion percentage (58.82). … Between their three quarterbacks this season, the Giants are averaging the fourth-fewest yards per pass attempt (6.1).

The Prediction: Giants 24, Rams 20