The Giants have been hoping and praying that Daniel Jones could be a worthy successor to Eli Manning.
From The Mann who knows best:
“I think Daniel has played great this year. I think this offense fits him well,” Eli Manning told The Post. “They’re putting the ball in his hands to go win this game.
“I would assume and hope he’s proven he has the ability to lead this team and for a long time.”
The question for Manning about Jones is the same one he was asked in the summer before Super Bowl XLVI when Michael Kay asked him on his radio show whether he believes he is an elite quarterback.
“Daniel’s playing great, and I think he is becoming elite,” Manning said, with a laugh. “There’s still room to grow, and I think he knows that, and that is what is going to make him be that elite quarterback ’cause he’s gonna keep working. He’s in the first year of this offense, and they’re gonna keep adding players and adding some people to help in certain spots. And with his ability to run smartly, to at times take hits and be tough but to just run and get down, and the way he throws it accurately and making great decisions, I think he can be that elite quarterback.”
As Jones begins preparation for the Eagles in Saturday night’s divisional round of the NFL playoffs, Manning offers this advice for his protégé:
“The good thing is he’s played there, he’s been there. It’s a new game, it’s a new place, what’s happened in the past, it doesn’t play into this game. It’s about having a great game plan, understand the environment and what it’s gonna be and not be fazed by that. Just go in there and keep playing the way he’s been playing.”
And the way Jones has been playing heartens Manning. Because he was still the quarterback of the New York Football Giants when Jones was such a controversial draft pick in 2019. He has witnessed the blossoming of Jones from young pup to fearless leader everyone believes in.
“I get great joy out of watching him and being happy for him just ’cause, hey, I’ve seen what he’s gone through, I’ve talked to him through good times or rough times and times in between,” Manning said. “And feel like I’ve tried to be a good resource for him whether he wants to vent to someone. There’s not many people that know what quarterbacks go through. I can be that person to help him go through and just be a solid person to talk to and give him sound advice and help him through times.
“But the way he has worked, and his personality, I just appreciate it because he wants to win and do well for the right reasons. He wants to do it for the organization, for the fans and for his teammates. It’s not about him, it’s not about being famous or it’s not about anything else but going out there and just being rewarded for all the hard work and commitment and dedication that he’s put into this team because that’s never been doubted. He is focused, he is determined, he is very serious about his craft and his job and it’s paying off, and that’s fun to see.”
Jones is eerily similar to Manning in the manner in which he conducts himself under the searing New York microscope.
“In his demeanor and work ethic, there’s some similarities — he doesn’t really let everybody know what’s on his mind and what’s going through his head, and what’s bothering him or not bothering him,” Manning said. “He doesn’t show tons of emotion, but I think he’s true to himself, he’s not trying to be anyone else, he’s not trying to be me, that’s just his personality. … He’s not trying to be something that he’s not meant to be, so he’s very comfortable in his own skin in doing things his way.”
Manning could relate to the struggles of a young quarterback summoned to save the franchise. Manning was the first-overall pick by the Chargers before then-GM Ernie Accorsi engineered the blockbuster draft day trade that changed the course of Giants history.
And so as Jones was going through the ringer as the Giants kept changing head coaches and offensive coordinators, Manning felt for him.
“It’s not fun losing, it’s not fun struggling,” Manning said. “When you feel like you’re doing all the right things and working extremely hard and you’re not getting the results, it can be frustrating. And so now that he’s getting results it’s because he’s persevered and worked through it and being committed and kinda just stayed the course.”
I asked him what advice he gave Jones during the darkest times.
“Just to keep grinding,” Manning said. “That’s all you can do, just keep doing the right things, keep trying to get better yourself, be critical of yourself, be your greatest coach in the sense of places you can make improvements and be honest in that, but also you have to coach other people up and get everybody else on the same page and hold everybody accountable, too.”
Brian Daboll had been a godsend for Jones, and for Eli Manning’s Giants.
“He’s done a great job just getting Daniel into comfortable plays where he can make good decisions, being creative with the run game, the play action, the bootlegs, the nakeds, the zone reads, giving him confidence, ‘Hey, go run, use your feet, make those reads,’ ” Manning said. “They’ve done a great job getting everybody to play fast, to buy into it. It’s everybody buying in, kinda doing the dirty work and making everything look the same. The way he’s played, just protecting the football, making good decisions — it’s fun to watch him right now and happy for him in this moment. There’s not many better feelings than winning a playoff game and feeling good about the way you’re playing — he deserves it, the whole team deserves it.”
The way Jones carried his team past the Vikings was eye-opening.
“Only good things to say about the way he played [Sunday] just from decision-making, accuracy, toughness, running the ball, just to see him have a great feel of the game plan, of the offense, when to hand it off, when to pull it on those zone reads and whatnot,” Manning said. “Just his great control of the game the whole way through, and did everything right to put ’em in a great spot to win the game.”
Jones — 708 yards and seven TDs rushing this season — has evolved into a dangerous dual threat.
“He’s fast. He’s one of those guys, he gets the ball in his hands, he gets that top speed, he gets first downs,” Manning said. “A lot of it’s just making good decisions. I’ve never been in that position to make those reads, and what he’s reading and what his keys are. But obviously when he does pull it, he’s not getting 2 yards, he’s going to get 10 yards or 12 yards or more. So obviously they got good schemes and understand when he should pull it, when he should hand it otherwise to Saquon [Barkley].”
Manning beat the Buccaneers in Tampa for his first playoff win en route to Dallas, then Green Bay, then Super Bowl XLII MVP.
“Even the game before going against the Patriots where we played well and scored a lot of points [38-35 loss] just gave us some confidence going in,” Manning said. “You can call a more aggressive game when your players are making good decisions.”
Manning and those Tom Coughlin Giants did it their way. Jones and these Daboll Giants are doing it their own way.
“I think they’re just finding ways to win,” Manning said. “Looks like everybody is doing whatever it takes. When guys get in the game they’re cherishing that opportunity, whether it’s to block, whether it’s to get on routes, to do their role, do their job. No one’s saying, ‘I want more touches’ or ‘I want more looks.’ Everybody’s in it together, they play off each other. Both sides of the ball are stepping up at crucial times in the games.”
Now it will Giants Against The World, with Eagles fans spewing venom at them.
“It doesn’t play a factor in the game,” Manning said. “It is what it is, but once you’re on the field your focus is on the play, on the players and just going out there and understand the game plan and trying to execute it.”
Some players relish being the villain.
“It doesn’t take you much to get fired up,” Manning said. “You can get excited and know there’s gonna be a lot of energy in the stadium and that’s a good thing.”
Can Daniel Jones take these Giants to the Super Bowl and win it? (As a Road Warrior, same as Manning’s 2007 Giants).
“Hey, let’s worry about getting through Philly,” Manning said.
Can he go win this week?
“Sure,” Manning said, “but he’s gonna have to play well and everybody’s gonna have to play well.”
Manning won his Super Bowl in his fourth season. This is Daniel Jones’ fourth season. Go shock the world and go be elite, Kid.