Daniel Jones is already adorned in the laurels of a conquering hero. His first NFL start a week ago in Tampa made him a toast-of-the-town player and bearer of the hopes and dreams of the franchise. The accolades and praise that are so often showered upon performances such as his still ring through the air. His exploits have awoken a slumbering fan base, energized a moribund roster, and pressed open the dusty record books in search of comparable career beginnings.
And now, the current king of New York football claims his castle.
Jones will take the field against Washington on Sunday for his first start in the building he will call home for, well, likely however long he remains with the organization. While there was a large contingent of Giants supporters in Florida a week ago, and Jones gave those who stuck around plenty to cheer about, this will be the first time he will play in a regular-season game in front of the team’s fans.
He’s the quarterback they didn’t know they needed when they greeted his arrival in April with skepticism and derision.
Now he’s the quarterback they finally will get to welcome warmly with an ovation befitting the promise pinned to him.
How juiced up are Giants fans to finally see Jones? According to TickPick, a secondary marketplace, the average price for a seat for this game has jumped 22 percent since the win against Tampa. Before that, the price had actually dropped 10 percent from Week 1.
Jones doesn’t have to scalp tickets to get in, but he’s feeling the moment, too.
“Yeah, I’m excited,” he said of his MetLife Stadium debut. “I’m excited to run out there in front of Giants fans and play my first game here. That’ll be fun.”
And quite different.
Jones will be the first Giants quarterback not named Eli Manning to start a game in the building. For the decade since MetLife Stadium opened, Manning and Manning alone has ruled this roost. Now there is a new tenant’s name on the lease, one who seems prepared to stick around for a while.
Manning has heard the roars from MetLife Stadium, as well as the boos. He knows how fickle the reaction can be. Jones and most of the current Giants have heard mostly the rumbles of discontent. The Giants are 4-13 at home in the past two-plus seasons.
This one, though, figures to have the feel of a postseason game. It may be the most raucous Giants crowd at MetLife since they actually played one of those there, too, hosting a wild card game against the Falcons in January 2012 that still stands as the only home playoff game by either the Giants or Jets at the venue.
As well it should.
Playoff games get their charge from the possibility they present, from the team attempting to take a step closer to a championship. In many ways, this game represents those same themes for the Giants. They’re just about longer-term possibilities and steps at this point.
Long snapper Zak DeOssie is one of the two current Giants who have been at every one of the team’s games at MetLife Stadium. He agreed that the wild card game was the most intense the crowd has been since the old Giants Stadium days.
“They were a huge part of that win,” he said.
Sunday could come close.
“Giants fans are the best fans in the world,” he said, “so I fully anticipate them going wild.”
None of which is expected to impact Jones himself. He’s so chill, if he does win a championship he might get the low-key to the city. Not even his burst into NFL consciousness last week created a ripple on his calm surface.
Pat Shurmur was asked this week if there had been any noticeable change in Jones.
“You’re asking if he has a big head? Is that what you’re asking?” the coach said. “No. No. Not at all. I see the same player I saw last week preparing to play his first game.”
The only difference may be that now he’s already done it in an NFL game. But even before his debut, that was hardly an issue.
“I think it’s hard to see by his demeanor if he’s not confident about anything,” Shurmur said. “That was what was great and on display last week was his toughness and his poise. Those are things we saw ahead of last week’s game. You just have to build on it. We all know this is a game of consistency. Sometimes it’s four, sometimes it’s six, sometimes it’s seven, sometimes it’s eight days, but you play another one and you have to be at your best. He’s aware of that.”
This next one just happens to be in his new home stadium. In front of his new fans.
“I’m sure they’ll be excited,” wide receiver Sterling Shepard said of the crowd on Sunday. “It’s something different for them. To be able to see him play live after they got to see him play on TV for most fans, that’ll be pretty exciting.”
The Giants haven’t had an “I was there” game in a long time, at least not any to brag about. Certainly not any that had the build-up of this one.
Of course, it’s one thing to have the stands bursting with anticipation at kickoff to a new era. It’s another to send the crowd home just as happy.
“It’s great for the game, but we have to focus on what we have to do,” Shepard said. “[Stuff] can go the other way real quick around here.”
Until at least the 1 o’clock kickoff, then, it’ll be a pretty good day to be a Giants fan.