Bill Parcells had a slightly unconventional way of judging quarterbacks, a not-so-scientific way of figuring out whether the passer would ultimately succeed at the NFL level. The Hall of Fame coach wasn’t concerned so much with arm strength, nor obsessed with completion percentage, or preoccupied with mobility.
The former Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys coach was more interested in how a quarterback responded to adversity.
“All that hype evens out when you get hit in the mouth a few times,” he’d say. He wanted to see what happens when the quarterback goes back in the huddle after a turnover or two — or more — and shows his teammates how he’ll react.
Daniel Jones got his chance Friday night to take the Parcells test.
He took over for starter Eli Manning on the Giants’ second drive of the night in a preseason matchup against the Bears. And after smartly driving his team down the field, including a 40-yard deep pass down the left sidelines to Cody Latimer, he promptly fumbled the snap on the next play, producing the first turnover of his fledgling career.
After a three-and-out by Chicago, Jones had another turnover on the next series when he was sacked by linebacker James Vaughters and stripped of the ball deep in Giants’ territory.
A week after Jones produced a touchdown drive against the Jets in his first appearance in a Giants’ uniform, earning plaudits from fans and creating some buzz about just how quickly he might one day replace Manning, Jones looked like a rookie against the Bears.
The games don’t count over the summer, and the turnovers will go unrecorded on his regular-season resume. But it was an important moment nonetheless when he got back in the huddle after his second turnover and faced his teammates.
Jones hit running back Rod Smith on a 4-yard pass and then threw a pass over the middle to receiver Britton Golden, who took it 27 yards to the Bears’ 31-yard line. Jones completed two more short passes before Aldrick Rosas hit a 47-yard field goal to give the Giants a 10-3 lead.
A modest drive, perhaps, but an effective one, nevertheless. Especially after the two turnovers.
Jones would get one more chance before halftime and again made the most of it. A short pass on first down to tailback Paul Perkins turned into a 26-yard gain with some nifty footwork, as Perkins found the open field before being tackled down the left sideline. Two short passes to T.J. Jones got the Giants to the Bears’ 15 with 1:19 left before the half.
Lining up in the shotgun, Jones took the snap and had Jones streaking down the left side. The quarterback placed the ball perfectly and allowed Jones to catch it in stride in the left corner of the end zone for a touchdown and a 19-3 lead.
That would be it for Jones, but that would be enough to take the next step in what the Giants hope will be a long and fruitful career. When that career will start in earnest remains unknown, although team president John Mara made his feelings known earlier in the week by saying he hoped Manning would play the entire season, meaning the Giants would be a playoff team for just the second time since their last Super Bowl win after the 2011 season.
But Mara knows the day eventually will come when Jones carries the torch for his franchise. And it’s these small victories that he hopes will add up and lay the foundation for a productive career.
Jones, of course, wasn’t thinking that big as he prepared for his second chance at live game action.
“I think for everyone, it’s just to build off what we’ve done, what we did in that first game, and what we've done since then, and kind of taking the next step as a team,” Jones said during the week. “I think with each group, it’s just building off what we’ve done.”
There was certainly some building in this one, but also some growing pains. It’s all part of the process.
Passing the Parcells test can only help.