‘An elite quarterback’: How Daniel Jones made statement in Giants’ victory

MINNEAPOLIS – Becca Jones went digging for the photos by request for a feature story on her son, the newest quarterback of the New York Giants two days after he was drafted by the franchise four years ago.

The first one was of Daniel Jones wearing an Atlanta Falcons’ Michael Vick jersey, long before social media gave him the nickname, ‘Vanilla Vick.’

The second image suddenly captured far deeper meaning, and Mom knew it, which is why she asked for a promise to include proper context. In that one, a 10-year-old Daniel Jones was smiling while wearing Eli Manning’s blue No. 10, the iconic now-retired jersey of his future teammate and the man he would ultimately replace behind center.

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‘Never would want anyone to think Daniel was disrespecting Eli, coming to replace him or anything like that,’ Becca Jones wrote in a text that night. ‘I know he’s honored just to have the opportunity, and he’s coming to learn, and he’s going to earn this.’

Thought of this exchange Sunday after re-posting the photo of Jones in the Manning jersey on Twitter.

Now, four years later, there will probably be young quarterbacks out there – not just in New York and New Jersey, mind you, but across the country – snapping photos of themselves wearing Daniel Jones’ No. 8 as he made a statement with the entire NFL world watching.

In the biggest game of his career, with the first chance to step up on the playoff stage, Jones seized the moment in leading the Giants to their 31-24 upset victory over the Minnesota Vikings, silencing an enthused and at times deafening crowd inside U.S. Bank Stadium just about every time he touched the football.

Afterward, Saquon Barkley was asked essentially the same question that radio host Michael Kay posed to Manning in the summer of 2011, the interview that served as a mission statement on the road to putting the fourth Vince Lombardi trophy in the glass case inside the lobby of the team facility at 1925 Giants Drive.

Now that Jones has led the Giants to their first playoff victory since Super Bowl XLVI, the question seemed appropriate enough when it was asked more than a decade later, albeit with a twist: is Daniel Jones elite like the Mann he succeeded?

Saquon Barkley answered for him.

‘I know we have an elite quarterback,’ Barkley said. ‘He’s shown that multiple times. We’ve also got amazing players around him too. We have his back.’

And make no mistake: Jones has earned their respect, just as Becca Jones vowed, and he has done this with his back to the wall. Things have not come easy for the 25-year-old, and the play has not always been pretty. But the development under Brian Daboll, offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney has been staggering, and give Jones the credit for delivering under the most daunting of circumstances.

Jones threw for two touchdowns, completing 24-of-35 passes for 301 yards with no interceptions and a quarterback rating of 114.1. He also rushed for 78 yards, carrying 17 times and keeping the Vikings on their heels.

‘That was big time. That was an impressive run from him,’ Jones said of Barkley. ‘It was kind of one of those where, he wasn’t gonna be denied, and you could sense that. You could see that almost in the huddle before the snap. We had an expectation and just saw it – he did a great job there, offensive line did a great job, lot of credit to those guys.’

Barkley told a different version of the play, revealing that it was Jones who set the tone with a challenge for his star running back.

‘D.J. looked at me and said, ‘LFG.’ I gave him the look back that said, You already know,” Barkley said. ‘That’s the type of relationship we have with each other. We expect a lot of each other.’

Asked if Jones used the initials for the ‘Let’s [expletive] Go’ phrase or the words, Barkley quipped: ‘He said the words.’

Daniel Jones, carrying the Giants with his words and his actions.

Offensively, the Giants used Barkley as their centerpiece early this season to set the foundation of a winning season. He delivered big games and forced the opposition to set their sights on stopping him, and rightfully so.

Over the past month, the Giants have evolved. Barkley remains a big part, as he showed despite just 14 touches (nine carries) in scoring twice and finishing with 109 total yards. But everything runs through Jones now.

Barkley had nine carries.

‘We have a new identity,’ Barkley said.

And that identity, much like Eli Manning before him, has now been established in every way by Daniel Jones.

Giants receiver Isaiah Hodgins said that, last season when he was with the Bills, his position group would watch other quarterbacks besides their own, Josh Allen, and they considered Jones ‘a playmaker who is up and coming.’

‘I think it’s safe to say he is here to stay now,’ Hodgins said. ‘And he’s only going to keep getting better and better.’

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