A lot of different people have said a lot of different things about Daniel Jones throughout his nearly four seasons with the Giants.
On Sunday, they all seemed to be saying the same thing at the same time.
In the fourth quarter of a 38-10 win over the Colts that put the Giants in the playoffs, Jones had his name chanted by the tens of thousands who traveled to MetLife Stadium hoping to be part of a celebration and stuck around to see it through without disappointment.
In an honor reserved only for the most beloved of players, each of the three syllables of his name throbbed with appreciation.
“Dan-iel Jones!” they yelled in deafening unison. “Dan-iel Jones!”
It echoed through the building where he so often has heard groans and boos, mocking and derision, but throughout this season and more specifically on this afternoon, he earned more than just the team’s first playoff berth in six seasons.
He earned respect.
“It beats the alternative, for sure” was about the most honest reaction Jones could muster to the overwhelming turn in the perception of him as a player. It included a standing ovation orchestrated by the decision to remove him from the lopsided game in the middle of a drive.
We always knew Jones could run, and he did that for 91 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday.
We always knew he could throw, and he completed 19 of 24 passes for 177 yards and another two touchdowns.
But there was something missing from his resume that finally has shown itself.
Now we know he can win.
That’s something the Giants believed despite the lack of evidence — he had only 12 victories in his first three seasons before nearly matching that number this season — and now they can gloat about their clairvoyance.
“He has all the traits you want,” center Jon Feliciano said. “He’s accurate, can throw the deep ball, he can run, he’s super-tough and he’s poised. He’s a great quarterback.”
Said running back Saquon Barkley: “I’ve been saying it all year, he’s a heck of a player, a heck of a quarterback. I’m just happy for him to hear his name get chanted. It’s a beautiful thing . . .
“Everyone has been big critics of him, saying this and that, but he gave us the opportunity to play playoff football and he locked it in today. When we needed him the most, he came up and made good plays.”
More important than the impression he has made on fans and teammates, though, is the one he has made on the folks who will decide if he should remain the team’s quarterback beyond this final season of his rookie contract.
At least one very significant observer at Sunday’s mini-coronation appeared swayed.
“I thought he was terrific,” Giants co-owner John Mara told Newsday as he walked through the tunnels of MetLife toward the winning locker room. “I think he’s everything that we thought he was going to be, and I’m just very happy for him because he’s just such a great teammate and a great person. I’m just happy for him.”
Mara later said: “You draft him as high as we drafted him, we got a lot of criticism, he took a lot of criticism. To see him coming into his own like this is very gratifying for us.”
Just about the only person not gushing over Jones was Jones. While most of the rest of the Giants were reveling in their accomplishment — Brian Daboll was throwing punches of euphoria into the air after his Gatorade bath, others were screaming and hooting with glee — Jones aw-shucksed his way through most of the conversations regarding his performance and the reaction it spurred.
He deferred to the company line about this being a team win and noted that there remains work to do in the playoffs, work to do before that, even, as the Giants correct the relatively few flaws that popped up in Sunday’s nearly perfect showing.
Those who know him best, however, recognized how special this was.
“He’s been booed a lot in this stadium,” Feliciano said. “To have the complete opposite reaction, it’s about time.”
Barkley, who was the first to meet and embrace Jones as he trotted off the field and was replaced by Tyrod Taylor, said Jones had to have been moved by the magnitude of that moment.
“He really doesn’t show it, but we’re human,” Barkley said. “I don’t want to speak for him, but he heard what everyone had to say [critically about him] . . . Everyone loves that. It’s not that he’s feeling his ego; he went out there and got the respect of the fans.”
Jones did give one little inkling that this meant something to him beyond a win over a team that is collapsing in on itself.
He was asked if he will allow himself to savor this day.
“Yeah, I will,” he said.
There remains a very slim but real chance that this will serve as the final home game of Jones’ career with the Giants. He is a free agent-to-be and they could decide to bring someone else in to quarterback the team for the 2023 season.
Such a direction becomes less appealing, however, with each passing week of play from him, with each demonstration of his abilities and leadership, and — this is not to be dismissed — each chant of his name that illustrates the newfound plurality of his popularity.
In many ways, this felt more like Jones’ first game as the Giants’ quarterback, not his last simply as a quarterback who plays for the Giants.
With Neil Best
On the biggest day of his four-year NFL career, Daniel Jones showed off his arm and his legs.
QB RATING 125.2
LONG GAIN 25