It was as revealing a moment as we’ve seen from Daniel Jones.
Which is saying something for a quarterback who has been nothing if not careful and guarded as a Giant. But Jones, 22, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, acknowledged Wednesday that things got a little sideways last year with Eli Manning, who was benched after only two games.
Jones might never have revealed that if Manning himself had not brought it up in a radio interview last week. But the second-year quarterback didn’t hide from the reality that yes, there were moments when the situation wasn’t all that comfortable.
“Last year, it was probably awkward for him, me being there and me being in meeting rooms, kind of the whole dynamic,” Manning said last week.
“I think, looking back, it was probably a little bit awkward at certain times,” Jones said.
He was quick to point to the positives about his relationship with Manning, who retired in January after a 16-year career with the Giants. Even so, the mere fact that he conceded that things weren’t always as good as the two quarterbacks might have indicated publicly was revealing.
Manning mostly disappeared from view after Jones was named the starter following an 0-2 start. He spoke publicly only after replacing Jones late in the season because of the former Duke quarterback's ankle injury.
“I think we did a good job working together,” Jones said Wednesday in a Zoom chat with reporters. “I know I enjoyed working with him, and certainly learned a ton from him and appreciate everything he did during that year.”
It will be better for Jones moving forward in one very important respect: The greatest quarterback in franchise history is no longer in the locker room.
“I think it’ll be easier this year for him to step up as that leader,” Manning said. “Me being gone, he is the quarterback, and he is the guy.”
There’s no question Manning’s absence makes Jones the unequivocal leader, something Jones is mindful of as he prepares to begin his first full season as a starter — assuming there will be a season, given the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Going into this year, I certainly feel the responsibility of being a leader,” Jones said. “That’s something I take seriously. But it’s our team. I don’t know if it’s one guy’s team. It’s not Coach’s team, it’s not my team, it’s not Saquon’s team or anyone else’s. It’s our team, and I understand that.”
Jones sees his role much the same as Manning viewed his throughout his career: leading by example.
“I’m going to do my best to first, take care of what I’m doing, take care of my responsibility and be prepared to play at a high level,” he said. “Hopefully that rubs off on guys, and trying to do my best to help guys, work with guys as best I can. At this point, what we’re doing right now, we need to stay on top of our information to do our best to be prepared when we can get back up to New Jersey.”
Like every other team, the Giants are forced to work remotely from their homes because of the coronavirus restrictions. The league announced Wednesday that those virtual workouts will extend through at least the end of May. Previously, the league had set this Friday as the final day of those sessions, although Wednesday’s announcement of an extension was not a surprise.
Once Jones does return to his team, he understands he will be perceived differently from last year, when he was considered more the quarterback of the future, given Manning’s continued presence.
“It will certainly be different, different in the [locker] room,'' Jones said. "But I really enjoyed working with Eli last year. I thought it was a huge advantage for me to be able to learn from him and talk to him every day. It will be an adjustment, but I’m looking forward to this year and this team we have.”
And now that Manning is gone, there is no longer any question: It’s Jones’ team.
Even if he won’t admit as much.