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Giants left to wonder what could have been as Justin Herbert wins Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year

Justin Herbert Giants
Justin Herbert
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Jones still has plenty to prove to cement his status as the New York Giants’ franchise quarterback of the future, but Thursday provided yet another moment of pause for Big Blue fans wondering what might have been.

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert was voted as the Pepsi Zero Sugar NFL Rookie of the Year after putting together an impressive first campaign, completing 66.6% of his passes for 4,336 yards with 31 touchdowns compared to just 10 interceptions.

Taken No. 6 overall out of Oregon last year, Herbert has the most touchdown passes, most completions (396), and the second-most passing yards by a rookie quarterback in NFL history.

His eight games with at least 300 passing yards were tied for third-most in the NFL this season and surpassed Andrew Luck’s six games in 2012 as the most 300-yard passing games by a rookie quarterback in NFL history.

Along with five rushing touchdowns, his 36 total touchdowns eclipsed Cam Newton in 2011 for the most combined passing and rushing touchdowns by a rookie quarterback in NFL history.

Herbert was initially a potential draft target of the Giants in 2019 when they had the sixth-overall pick of that year’s selection process. However, the then-junior opted to return for one more year at Oregon, forcing the Giants to look elsewhere.

After Kyler Murray was selected first overall by the Arizona Cardinals, the proceeding four teams — the 49ers, Jets, Raiders, and Buccaneers — believed to have their franchise quarterbacks at the time and understandable went with other playmaking options outside the passer position. Had Herbert opted to enter the 2019 draft, he would’ve been there for the Giants’ taking.

Instead, they shocked the football world by taking Jones with the sixth pick out of Duke, even though there was an initial belief that he would be available the next time the Giants picked at No. 17.

Jones hasn’t come close to posting the same kind of numbers Herbert did. Over two seasons, the Giants’ man under center is posting a 16-game average of 3,538 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

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