Had things turned out differently the night of April 25, Bill Belichick might have been the one taking Daniel Jones into his future and not the Giants.
Jones and the Giants were greeted by a torrent of boos when the Duke quarterback was announced as the sixth overall pick, but Belichick had his own reasons for disapproving that choice.
Belichick might very well have taken Jones with his own first-round pick.
Jones met with the Patriots in a predraft visit, and Belichick, who knows a thing or two about great quarterbacks, came away extremely impressed.
“We had a great visit,” Belichick said Monday on a conference call with Giants reporters. “He’s very mature. Certainly a good understanding of the Duke offense.”
Before Jones left Foxborough, Belichick caught wind that the quarterback had a change of plans and reworked his schedule to visit the Giants next. The six-time Super Bowl champion coach pretty much understood he wouldn’t get a chance to draft Jones.
“When I saw that,” Belichick said, “even I could figure out something was going on there.”
Belichick called Jones “a very impressive young man” and praised Duke coach David Cutcliffe for his work with the young quarterback. FYI: Cutcliffe thinks the world of Jones, and not simply because he coached him at Duke.
“He can win a championship,” Cutcliffe told me at the draft shortly after the Giants took Jones. “He’s that level of NFL quarterback … I just know he’ll be a championship quarterback in that league.”
So, to all you Giants fans who thought general manager Dave Gettleman was out of his mind when he took Jones much earlier than expected, just know that your quarterback received the highest compliment from the greatest coach in NFL history. And who knows? Perhaps Jones would have been the successor to Tom Brady, even though he’s still going strong at age 42 and shows few signs of slowing down.
Jones will get his first shot at Belichick on Thursday night, as the Giants face the defending champion Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
“We are looking forward to the quick turnaround and the fact that we get to play four days from now,” Jones said a few minutes after the Giants’ 28-10 loss to the Vikings on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. “It gives us a chance to get back out there and correct some of the things we need to correct.”
Jones had high praise for Brady, whom he admired from afar while growing up in North Carolina. On Thursday, he’ll face the most successful quarterback in NFL history in person.
“I think I watched everyone growing up and enjoyed watching everyone,” Jones said. “[Brady] has been one of the best guys for a long time. I’ve always enjoyed watching him.”
Jones looks back with appreciation over his pre-draft visit with Belichick.
“I enjoyed the conversations I had,” Jones said. “I have a whole lot of respect for their coaches and how good they’ve been for a long time. I certainly appreciate the interest and appreciated it during the draft. Just the opportunity to visit up there, talk to those coaches and obviously coach Belichick was cool.”
Belichick also had kind words for the Giants’ backup quarterback, who happens to be one of only two passers to beat his Patriots in a Super Bowl. Eli Manning beat the Patriots twice, earning MVP honors in Super Bowl XLII and XLVI, as the underdog Giants stunned Belichick, the Giants’ former defensive coordinator in the Bill Parcells era.
“I have a ton of respect for Eli,” Belichick said. “He’s a great person. Very professional. Team-oriented. He’s done a tremendous job and certainly had a lot of success against us.”
Belichick engaged in his usual pregame routine of throwing bouquets at his opponent, and at one point during the call made it seem as if the Patriots didn’t even stand a chance. But his praise of Jones and Manning seemed heartfelt. After all, Belichick did give enough consideration to drafting Jones that he brought him in for a visit, and Manning’s previous work against the Patriots speaks for itself.
Chances are that Belichick will get the best of the Giants this time; New England is a 17-point favorite. But Giants fans who took the team to task for selecting Jones would be well-advised to see Belichick’s endorsement as a legitimate sign of hope for the future.