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Hiel: The Daniel Jones Era is Born in New York

| Friday, September 27, 2019

Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones burst onto the national scene on Sunday in his first regular-season NFL start.

Completing 23 of 36 passes for 336 yards, two touchdowns and a 112.7 passer rating. Jones also added a couple of running touchdowns to his already impressive stat line. The heir to Eli Manning’s throne looked more and more comfortable as the game went on, eventually leading his team to a game-winning drive that culminated in Jones’s second rushing touchdown of the night to put the Giants up by a point with just over a minute to go.

Now, the beloved “Danny Dimes” is being regarded by Giant fans as New York’s savior, the quarterback that will help rescue the team and lead them back to the promised land. But all the positivity surrounding the first-year QB begs the question: What happened to the sure-fire bust that got booed at Yankee Stadium? How has public opinion of Jones shifted so drastically in a matter of months?

Jones was not a highly recruited player out of Charlotte Latin School in North Carolina. He played college ball at Duke, a school not typically known for its football program (however, head coach David Cutcliffe’s reputation as a quarterback guru did help his draft stock). Jones started three years for the Blue Devils and drew attention from pro scouts after an exceptional senior campaign.

Jones possesses intangibles like impressive intelligence, a strong work ethic, good size and decent arm strength and athleticism that made him one of the top quarterback prospects of the 2019 NFL Draft. It also helped that his draft class was not regarded nearly as highly at the quarterback position as the previous year’s, which featured players like Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen. Still, Jones was projected to go mid-to-late first round at best in most mock drafts, and was a second or third rounder in others.

When the New York Giants, led by unpopular general manager Dave Gettleman decided to take Jones with the sixth overall pick, the football world was shocked. Jones was booed as he walked on stage to be congratulated by commissioner Roger Goodell. Giants fans watching the draft live at MetLife Stadium erupted in disbelief. A viral video of Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who many believed was clearly the second best QB in the draft after Kyler Murray, emerged in which Haskins laughed and shook his head in disapproval. Seemingly every major sports talk show criticized the pick, many calling it the worst pick of the draft.

Daniel Jones went through training camp with reporters scrutinizing his every move. Along with the staggering amount of people counting on his failure, Jones had to carry the added pressure of playing in New York and dealing with the New York media through his first few weeks as an NFL quarterback. If Jones made a bad throw during an open practice, he’d be sure to hear about it in the news the next day.

Even after a successful preseason campaign, Baker Mayfield’s comments from an interview with GQ arose in which Mayfield expressed his disbelief in the Giants’ choice. “It blew my mind,” Mayfield said. “Some people overthink it. That’s where they go wrong. They forget you’ve gotta win.” Still, the calm, cool and collected Jones seemed unphased by the unprecedented amount of negative press he was getting in his early NFL career.

Now, five months after his controversial selection, Jones has usurped Eli Manning as the Giants’ starting quarterback. He has a 1-0 record, but his most challenging obstacles lie ahead of him. Will he be able to have any success with star running back Saquon Barkley out with a leg injury? How will he fare against top-tier NFL defenses like the Patriots, Cowboys, Bears and Packers? These are still unanswered questions, but Giants fans can’t help but feel optimistic about Jones’s promising future. The rookie has done everything that could’ve possibly been expected of him and more in his young Giants career and has forced his critics to eat their words. Jones’s next chapter comes on Sunday against a struggling Redskins team, in a game where Danny Dimes will once again have the opportunity to show the world why he is a franchise quarterback.

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