Eli Manning had no choice when it came to letting Daniel Jones in the Giants’ quarterback room. The team’s brass selected the rookie from Duke with the sixth overall pick, making it clear they are committed to his learning from Manning and then eventually – this year, or next, or at some point after that – supplanting Manning. So the 16-year veteran has opened the door and let his eventual replacement walk in.
“Fine with it,” Manning practically shrugged on Monday in his first public comments since the Giants picked Jones a month ago.
What Manning says he has barred from the room and the budding relationship, though, is any natural resentment or unease or dysfunction that Jones’ arrival could easily have brought along. So while the rest of the world watches and waits for the inevitable drama that could accompany the team’s transfer of power – peaceful or otherwise – Manning insists that none of it is welcome to join the small group of men who call themselves the quarterbacks of the New York Giants.
“No awkwardness in our room,” he said. “Don’t create it. It’s not there. Don’t make something that is not there. It doesn’t bother me. It’s not about being nervous or worried. I am treating it the same that it has been the last 15 years.”
Of course it is not. Monday’s OTA workout was the first time that Manning and Jones were seen on the field together at the same time. It was a bit like simultaneously looking into the past and the future.
As for the present? Well, Manning represents that, too. Pat Shurmur at least took that idea off the table.
“At the quarterback position, we have a starter in Eli and we have guys behind him, specifically Daniel Jones, who need to do everything they can to be ready to play Week 1,” the Giants head coach said. “That's where we're at.”
Manning took the starter’s reps and Jones took mostly third-team snaps with a smattering with the second team. Veteran Alex Tanney worked mostly with the second unit.
Asked if there is any sign of tension between them in meetings or other interactions during their brief time as teammates, Shurmur seemed amused and gave a long “Noooo.”
“Not at all,” he said. “These are pros.”
Nor is he surprised by the lack of conflict.
"They're smart guys who are highly competitive, well-accomplished players and they're doing what they can to get ready to play,” Shurmur said. “Eli is getting ready to play winning football and Dan Jones is trying to learn the offense and get himself ready to play Week 1…Because they have a general respect for one another and because that is a healthy quarterback room, they both can improve and get better."
Manning, unlike some other thirty-something quarterbacks around the league who have publicly bristled at the idea of tutoring rookies, said he’s fine with the role. It’s not really any added responsibility, he said. It’s just about him doing what he’s always done.
“You are always willing to help guys who are willing to be helped,” he said. “I think I have been doing that for the last 11 or 12 years. I don’t know exactly when you become a mentor officially, but when you’ve been in the league longer than any other guy in the room, you should be a mentor in that sense where you know a little bit more.”
So for now the two co-exist in peace and harmony…tenuous though it may be. Sooner or later, that negativity will be rapping on the door. It will be time to make the switch. The Giants have two quarterbacks, and obviously only one can play at a time. Eventually, Manning will have to step aside – or be pushed there -- for Jones. The only way Manning can delay that is by winning.
“I understand the circumstances that I am in and sure, I need to play well and play well early,” Manning said. “Just do my job.”
And hold on to it for as long as he can.