Daniel Jones staged one of the greatest comebacks by a rookie quarterback in NFL history, was selected as the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week and was universally admired for his spectacular performance in the Giants’ 32-31 win over the Buccaneers on Sunday.
Maybe the only person who seemed less than impressed with his performance?
While the rest of the football world was transfixed by Jones’ 336 passing yards, his two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns, including the game-winning score, the Giants’ newly minted starting quarterback was more troubled by his flaws.
“The main thing is ball security,” he said Wednesday as the Giants began preparations for Sunday’s game against the Redskins at MetLife Stadium. “Can’t afford to fumble the ball twice like that. Certain points in the game, I think that’s the first thing. There are certain other things that are specific to plays that I’ll look to correct and learn from. I’m excited to do that.”
Straight out of the Eli Manning I-can-always-do-better playbook.
Jones was welcomed to the NFL last April with a hail of boos at the NFL Draft in Nashville and was panned by plenty of football experts as not being worthy of the sixth overall pick. But after winning his first start in remarkable fashion, he has become an overnight sensation. The highlight shows can’t get enough of his individual heroics, which included the 7-yard run up the middle for the winning score late in the fourth quarter, another rushing touchdown in the second quarter, and third-quarter touchdown throws of 75 yards to Evan Engram and 7 yards to Sterling Shepard.
His No. 8 Giants jersey has quickly become a bestseller. And the praise is off the charts.
While Jones said he’s aware of the buzz surrounding his performance, he insists he hasn’t changed. Nor will he.
Does he feel like a celebrity?
“Not really,” he said. “It’s the same thing. I go home, and I come into work every day. I don’t feel like it’s changed a whole lot. I’m not sure I’m focused on that [attention] too much. I certainly appreciate the support and appreciate the fans. Trying to stack a few wins together.”
Jones is about the most level-headed, consistent personality that you could want, and it’s not a stretch to suggest his temperament has been cloned from Manning, who for 16 years has behaved with a rare equanimity. It helped Manning deal with the ups and downs of life as a star athlete in New York, and it is already showing with Jones.
Harping on the mistakes he believed he made Sunday rather than basking in the glow of all he did right was another example of why humility will serve him well
“There’s a number of things that we need to work on, and that I need to clean up,” Jones said. “Certainly, I will focus on that, but it’s always easier to do that when you win.”
Jones undoubtedly will be greeted warmly by the MetLife faithful for Sunday’s home debut, and Giants fans are surely filled with hope after what they saw in Tampa. While there are still challenges ahead with the defense, which surrendered four first-half touchdowns, the combination of Jones’ performance and a massive defensive improvement in the second half offered encouraging signs.
“I’m excited to run out there in front of the Giants fans and play the first game here,” Jones said. “We had some good support down there in Tampa Bay. Certainly, very appreciative of that.”
But Jones is more concerned by what’s happening inside his own huddle.
“We certainly have a lot of things to correct,” he said. “That’s where our focus is as a team. Each week, the goal is to be a better team, to play better, and hopefully that’s what fans see is a team that expected to play better — all of us, collectively and individually.”
After an auspicious debut that drew high praise from just about everywhere, Jones appears to be the one most reluctant to accept the plaudits.
In his mind, good was simply not good enough.
Which is the right way to live in a business and a city where fortunes can change so quickly.