Eli Manning is out, Daniel Jones is in … it’s a new era for the New York Giants
Most great adventures begin at home, lead to a journey, and then return you home again, full circle.
Daniel Jones’ adventure starts this Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and that’s probably just as well.
That starting point is the only thing we know about the Daniel Jones era as the New York Giants’ starting quarterback. The rest of it — whether it is a grand success or a monumental failure; whether it restores past glories or fuels lingering heartbreak; whether it matches Eli Manning’s legacy or even lasts long enough to be classified an “era” at all — that’s all still up in the air.
There have been countless players and countless moments that have left the Giants’ MetLife Stadium faithful stunned and demoralized over these past few barren years since New York won Super Bowl XLVI. Simply having your name called as part of the starting lineup doesn’t a hero make, a fact Jones knows all too well.
“It was not really booing and it wasn’t cheering,” James Kratch, a reporter for NJ Advance Media, told me via telephone this week. “It was just this guttural ‘ooooh’, this kind of disbelieving growl. People were numb. All the air went out of the building.”
That wasn’t a description of a devastating last-second play that resulted in heartbreaking defeat, nor a depiction of a catastrophic injury to a beloved player. That was the scene Kratch found when he was dispatched to cover the Giants’ NFL Draft party at MetLife in late April.
With Giants general manager Dave Gettleman on the clock and holding the No. 6 overall pick, he opted for Jones, a quarterback coming out of Duke (hardly known as a perennial football powerhouse), and no one much liked it.
— FS1 (@FS1) September 18, 2019
“Going into the draft, there was lot of talk around the region that Gettleman didn’t have a plan,” Kratch added. “People really thought that. When he drafted Daniel Jones, it was like: ‘Oh, he does have a plan. … but we liked it more when we thought he didn’t have a plan.’”
MetLife heaved with disappointment. Social media went bananas, half the NFL world laughing at New York’s continued misfortune and the other half occupied by irate Giants fans. ESPN’s Mina Kimes, a Giants supporter, briefly walked off the set of the draft show she was co-hosting.
There were other reasons for fans to be outraged, and not just because the little-seen Jones came from Duke. Eli Manning is a New York institution, because winning two Super Bowls against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots gets you that kind of love. Drafting Jones at No. 6 was a further reminder for many that the clock on the Eli Era had nearly run out.
Others thought that a quarterback selection would come with the Giants’ later 17th pick, and many analysts and pundits thought Jones would still have been available at that point. Still more would have preferred the early selection to be used on Kentucky pass rusher Josh Allen, a New Jersey native familiar to the fan base. With the pick that immediately followed Jones, former Giants head coach Tom Coughlin wasted no time in snatching up Allen for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Yet at the Draft itself in Nashville, Jones headed to the stage, shook Roger Goodell’s hand, and got down to business.
Jones looks a lot and sounds a lot like Manning, from his haircut to his build to his bland responses in interviews. Following the Draft, there were even wild conspiracy theories that Manning had essentially handpicked his successor, which raises a question.
If Jones does turn out to be a Eli clone, which Eli are Giants fans getting? The guy who flung history’s most famous pass at David Tyree’s helmet and won just as many Vince Lombardi Trophies as his deified brother? Or the one with a career record of 116-116 who has watched his quarterback rating and other key stats plummet dramatically in recent seasons and is now tasked with mentoring his replacement?
.@ShannonSharpe: Eli Manning is one of only 5 players to win multiple Super Bowl MVPs… That'll be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame.@RealSkipBayless: He's not in my Hall of Fame. He's Jim Plunkett with a famous last name. pic.twitter.com/t3nxhalGWR
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) September 18, 2019
“I’m not dying and the season’s not over,” Manning told reporters after this week’s decision to send him to the bench. “There’s a lot to be positive about, a lot to be grateful for. I just have to accept my new role and make the best of it.”
Jones did enough in the preseason that the Giants faithful no longer see him as an automatic bust. Things aren’t joyous in Big Blue circles after a very familiar 0-2 start following losses to the Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills, but there is a glimmer of hope.
“They still don’t like Gettleman,” Kratch said of the fan base. “But they are willing to admit that Jones might turn out to be a good player.”
Kratch, who grew up in the area, said that had Jones started his first game at home, he likely would have heard cheers when he walked out onto the field. The New York diehards are ready for something to turn around, and this is — at least on paper — a fresh start of sorts.
But the new QB will still have to overcome nostalgia.
“It was hard; the Mannings are American royalty,” FS1’s Colin Cowherd said on The Herd. “The New York Giants (are) a blue-blood franchise and Eli Manning is nice and Eli is ‘us.’ ‘There’s great memories and we can’t bench Eli.’ Oh hell. He’s a fighter. If he had played in Denver he would have been benched years ago. It’s just the way the East Coast is. It has been holding the Giants back for half a decade.”
Unfair though it is, Jones will be compared against what Manning did at his peak, not the numbers he’s been putting up for the past few years. The New York fans and media will be waiting for Jones to struggle, with skepticism and sharpened knives.
Yet whether Jones returns to MetLife as a conquering hero in Week 4 or with further doubts hanging over him, at least this time he will have the chance to prove himself in action before judgment comes.
“This is dignified. Eli Manning can now be a mentor for the next 14 weeks… It’s a perfect time for Daniel Jones.” @ColinCowherd reacts to the New York Giants making a switch at QB. pic.twitter.com/N04KLD0wEF
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) September 17, 2019