Regional Sports

Jones brings hoorah to Giants

Few years ago, then-Giants head coach Ben McAdoo and then-Giants general manager Jerry Reese fell in love with Patrick Mahomes’ skill set. They imagined him leading the Giants to a new era and plenty of championship runs. They tried to move up in the draft to get him. Instead, the Kansas City Chiefs beat them to it by drafting him as the No. 10 overall pick in 2017.

McAdoo and Reese knew Manning was finished in 2016, and they wanted to move on from him as soon as possible. For McAdoo, he needed someone who could be versatile enough to run his play-action offense. That wasn’t going to be Manning, who can’t run, which makes him susceptible to being sacked and throwing interceptions.

They settled for Davis Webb to be the quarterback of the future, and they hoped he made enough progress to be the quarterback the following season. He never had a chance. He was so bad in the preseason that McAdoo never gave him consideration to replace Manning when he made the decision to bench the longtime Giants quarterback in the middle of 2017 season. He gave then-Jets failed quarterback Geno Smith the opportunity instead.

No one questioned the thinking of benching Manning, but the quarterback decision did not make sense. To put Smith in showed McAdoo was desperate in finding a quarterback that would fit his offense, never mind that the backup quarterback failed to generate much points when he started for the Jets. Not surprisingly, it failed miserably, and in the end, it cost McAdoo and Smith their respective jobs. Reese for getting it wrong about Webb, and McAdoo for thinking Smith was actually the guy.

If only Giants quarterback Daniel Jones was available that year. Maybe Reese and McAdoo stay, and Jones, Reese and McAdoo could have done something special for the Giants. We will never know. That certainly should have been the thought process of what Jones did in the Giants’ 32-31 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon at Raymond James Stadium.

Instead, Reese and McAdoo watched Giants general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur reap the benefits of Jones. One can only imagine what they were thinking watching Jones instead of Manning in their barcaloungers at their home Sunday afternoon. They could only imagine what could have been if they got their man in Mahomes, or Webb panned out, or a quarterback like Jones came out in the draft.

They settled for they told Giants CEO and co-owner John Mara so about Manning.

Jones played like a wily veteran that Reese and McAdoo would have envied and that made Gettleman and Shurmur salivate from the time they drafted him. He handled blitzes and pressure well, and he engineered a comeback in the fourth quarter of the Giants’ victory. He brought fluidity to the Giants offense by keeping them on the field for a good portion of the game instead of having them three and out in every Giants possession. In a sense, it was such a foreign concept from a Giants quarterback after watching Manning the last two seasons. It was refreshing.

Jones controlled the huddle when he operated the Giants offense. He looked sharp and composed in the pocket, and strong and fast when he ventured out of the pocket.

Just from the eye test, anyone can tell he is an NFL quarterback. This isn’t a game-manager quarterback along for the ride or being a passenger. He played like a driver.

Unless Jones gets hurt, we saw the last of Manning as a Giant for good.

On the first possession, Jones threw an 18-yard pass to Evan Engram from the Giants’ 25 for his first ever NFL throw. On third-and-9 at the Giants’ 44, he threw a 26-yard pass to Sterling Shepard to put the Giants on the Bucs’ 30. On third-and-6 at the Bucs’ 26, he threw a 6-yard to Engram on the Bucs’ 20.

The way he threw in that drive, a touchdown appeared to be in the Giants’ midst. So easy on the eyes by him, making it look easy.

Three opportunities presented Jones to throw a touchdown, but instead, he and the Giants settled for a field goal by Aldrick Rosas to make this a 6-3 game. No matter. For Jones to answer Jameis Winston’s first touchdown pass of the game that gave the Bucs a 6-0 lead, it showed right there the Giants have an answer at quarterback in a sense he matched his counterpart’s run. He certainly showed the goods in the way he dissected the Bucs’ defense.

Jones brought excitement on the Giants’ second possession. He engineered a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown, which he ran a 7-yard touchdown from the Bucs’ 7 to the end zone in the second quarter, cutting the Bucs’ lead to 12-10.

Yes, the Buccaneers made adjustments by blitzing Jones often from the second quarter and on.

But that’s where Jones’ first two possessions set the tone for him to engineer a game-winning touchdown and a 28-10 halftime deficit in the end. His ability to know what to do under pressure helped him a lot. He knew the plays to run. He kept the Bucs guessing of what he could do whether it was running for a touchdown or throwing a touchdown pass. The type of play that Shurmur and Gettleman craved from a quarterback moving forward. He did just that by throwing for a couple of first downs and running for the go-ahead touchdown on eight plays that would stick after Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay missed the game-winning field goal.

On what was a successful NFL starting debut, Jones completed 23-of-36 for 336 yards, and he threw for two touchdowns and ran for two touchdowns. Most importantly, he executed drives in the red zone by converting three out of his four attempts, and he converted six out of 13 attempts on third down and converted a fourth down once.

The Giants needed a productive day out of the rookie after Saquon Barkley left the game with a right ankle injury minutes into the second quarter, and they will need him to spearhead the offense even more with the Giants running back being out 4-to-8 weeks.

The quarterback of the present and future brings life to the Giants the rest of the season. They become watchable because of him. He piques everyone’s interest to see what more heroics he has in store, particularly when the Giants play on the road in places such as Foxborough, Chicago and Philadelphia this season. There’s no question teams will figure him out, so it will be interesting how he adapts and adjusts.

This season is about him now.

It wasn’t the win that made the Giants feel good about themselves. It was the play of their rookie quarterback.

For one day, he put the spotlight off Shurmur, Gettleman and Mara. He even made the Jets a non-story despite how awful they were against the defending champion New England Patriots in their 30-14 loss on Sunday at Foxborough.

As for McAdoo and Reese, well, from their seat of their barcaloungers, all they could think of is what could have been if they had a quarterback like that ready for the Giants when they were there.

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