Tears welled in Daniel Jones as he talked about what had happened 24 hours earlier.
The Giants’ third-year quarterback was shaken at Jason Garrett’s ouster as the team's offensive coordinator, even if he understood why the decision was being made. At least intellectually understood.
Emotionally, it was a different story. That’s why his eyes moistened and his voice trembled ever so slightly when someone asked him if it was tough knowing that Garrett had been fired because Jones’ offense simply hadn’t done enough. The sense of his personal responsibility was palpable.
"That’s obviously a big part of how we all feel right now," Jones said. "I think if you don’t feel like that, there’s an issue, and we all take responsibility for our lack of production. I certainly do. That’s what makes it tough."
Jones gathered himself for a moment and then answered the rest of the questions in his post-practice news conference in a straightforward manner. But it was clear he was doing everything he could to hold his emotions inside. Which was completely understandable.
After all, the two men had shared a football bond over the last two years in a way that none of us can truly grasp. You spend that much time with someone, expend that much energy toward a common goal – even if you come up short most of the time – there is a kinship that builds. There was genuine respect and affection between the two – from one former Giants quarterback to another.
Garrett was a backup here during the Jim Fassel years from 2000-03, a well-liked player who earned the trust of his teammates and coaches. He had done the same with Jones, who may not have developed as much as the Giants had hoped during his two-plus seasons as the starter, but who hasn’t stopped trying with every fiber of his being. Jones may simply not have the talent to get to the level expected of a No. 6 overall draft pick, but he certainly has the will.
Garrett loved that about Jones – the motivation to do whatever was necessary to improve, the countless hours in the film room and on the practice field. And the daily competitions they had after practice, when they’d take turns throwing the football at targets to see who had the better accuracy. You spend all that time together, you grow close.
And when that is suddenly taken away, there is a void that Jones now feels. And a responsibility for why it all went wrong. Even though much of it is on Garrett himself for the sometimes predictable play-calling and lack of creativity, you can’t ignore the fact that Jones has dealt with inconsistent pass protection and run-blocking from an ill-equipped and underperforming offensive line.
Jones took his share of the blame for the fact that the Giants are averaging just 18.9 points per game, and for the decision that Joe Judge made in dismissing Garrett to try and jump-start the offense with a different play-caller, most likely Freddie Kitchens.
"It certainly affects all of us," Jones said. "I think (Garrett) was a big part of what we were doing on offense and obviously leadership there, so I’ll miss him. We’ll certainly miss him, and he did a lot for us. We’ve got to keep moving forward and get ready to play the Eagles this week."
He knows it is about "moving forward now, understanding that we’ve got to keep going and it’s on all of us to perform better at each of our jobs. We all have to play better and produce more."
But that doesn’t make it any easier on Jones, who has just nine touchdown passes and seven interceptions and comes off a dispiriting 30-10 loss to the Buccaneers in Tampa.
"I feel responsibility for our lack of production as an offense," he said. "Coach Judge is going to make the decisions as the head coach, that’s his job, but I don’t think that should change how we feel about how we’ve played, the points we’ve scored, how we’ve done at times. I think we know we’ve got to do better. That falls on each one of us, on players and certainly me."
Especially Jones. He knows this is on him.
Fighting back the tears tells you all you need to know.