Some players are lucky enough to have their exploits reach iconic status. Some are even luckier and have that happen when they are at their best.
With the Giants, when you think of Odell Beckham Jr. there is probably one catch that comes immediately to mind. Same for David Tyree. From Bobby Nystrom’s goal to Derek Jeter’s flip, our sports landscape is riddled with quick flashes of images that define athletes.
Daniel Jones now sits at the other end of the spectrum. The one reserved for players such as Joe Pisarcik or Ernest Byner or Bill Buckner, whose careers were perfectly fine and worthy of pride but for that one ignominious moment that came to define them.
Jones had an opportunity to be among the first group when he took off with the football midway through the third quarter of Thursday night’s game against the Eagles and had nothing but open space between himself and the end zone. Had he wanted to, he probably could have kept going after that, all the way up the Turnpike and right to his front door.
Instead he wound up running maybe a little too fast. He started to turn his head a bit to make sure he was in the clear. His center of gravity started to get out in front of him. And when he reached the 15-yard line, down he went. Splat.
"I just tried to run faster than I was running and I got caught up," Jones said.
That the play, an 80-yard run in which he topped out at a speed of 21.23 miles per hour -- the fastest an NFL quarterback has moved with the ball in his hands since 2018 according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats -- quickly became a meme and a viral sensation.
Maybe he was the anti-Icarus, flying too close to the ground.
Even his teammates on the sideline were pointing at the video board and laughing. A few plays later, the Giants scored a touchdown to take the lead, and Jones was able to smile about it himself.
"That was a relief to me for sure," he said.
But it wasn’t over. Because the Giants blew an 11-point lead in the 22-21 loss, it became an instant metaphor for the team and for Jones and for their inability to finish. The biggest winner on the play may have been Josh Norman, the Bills cornerback who was stiff-armed off his feet by Derrick Henry two weeks ago. Norman is no longer the NFL’s Photoshop du jour.
Jones is. And for a while now, until the next poor sap comes along with a more grotesque gaffe, he will be a punchline.
"Internally, that will be something that eventually we’ll be able to laugh about," head coach Joe Judge said.
As for the rest of the world, they’ve been chuckling since it happened.
"Look, the internet is undefeated," Judge said. "There are funny things all over the place. You just have to have a sense of humor. When someone sends you something or shows you something you have to be willing to laugh at yourself sometimes."
Like most of Jones’ play throughout his career, there was plenty to be impressed by on the run before it all collapsed. It was the longest carry by a Giants quarterback, breaking the record Jones himself set just five days earlier with a 49-yard dash against Washington. It was the longest run by an NFL quarterback since Marcus Mariota ran 87 yards for the Titans against the Jaguars in 2015 (though Jones, had he scored, would have topped that by a yard at 88).
It was tied for the fourth longest run in Giants history, behind Tiki Barber’s 95-yard play against Washington in 2005, Hap Moran’s 91-yard run against the Packers in 1930, and Ahmad Bradshaw’s 88-yard play in Buffalo that clinched a playoff spot for the eventual Super Bowl champs in 2007. Eddie Prince also had an 80-yard run for the Giants against the Eagles in 1951.
Moran’s scamper of 91 was, like Jones’, not a touchdown. Moran, who died in 1995, was lucky enough to live in a time when he did not have to watch whatever happened to him on that play over and over again on televisions and social media.
The good news is that Jones’ career is very young. He has time to replace that lowlight with a highlight. He literally has a chance to get back up.
Heck, some players are even lucky enough to have a couple of great plays they are remembered for. Eli Manning’s throws to Tyree, Plaxico Burress and Mario Manningham are interchangeable as the defining moments of his career. Jeter had the flip, but also had the dive into the stands. And the Mr. November home run.
Maybe one day, when people think of Daniel Jones, they’ll immediately conjure images of some great achievement on the field when he hoisted the Giants to a victory or made someone else look foolish with his obviously impressive athleticism. Maybe Jones’ faceplant into infamy, tripped up by the 15-yard line, the turf monster, or, as the old-timers at Giants Stadium used to say, a "tackle by Hoffa," will be a footnote to his sizzle reel.
Just not today.
Today, Jones is the the guy who fell down while the world was watching.