When the Giants drafted Daniel Jones, it was the beginning of the end for Eli Manning.
When Manning watched Jones play, he knew it was the end of the end for him.
Manning said on Friday that having Jones in place as his successor made his decision to retire much easier.
“If it was someone that I didn’t think appreciated playing quarterback and it didn’t mean something to him and it’s not as important to him as it is to me, then I think it would have been a difficult scenario,” Manning told Newsday. “But I see the dedication and the commitment and the desire to win. So I wish him all the best.”
Jones was one of the many in attendance at Friday’s retirement news conference, the weight of the two Super Bowl trophies and the five-minute highlight video on display now firmly on his shoulders.
“When you look at his career and what he’s accomplished, how long he played and the level at which he played, that’s certainly what you aspire for your career to look like,” Jones said. “I certainly have the goal to play a long time and accomplish the things he accomplished.”
Jones said he understands the gravity of his job, not only on the field but off it. Being the only teammate whom Manning mentioned by name in his news conference on Friday might have driven that home for Jones. Being the only person whom Manning seemed to get tripped up by his emotions while speaking about certainly did.
“He’s thinking about the future of an organization that means a whole lot to him,” Jones said. “I understand that being an emotional situation for him for someone who has done as much as he has for the organization, who has been the face of the organization for 16 years.
“It makes sense that he’d be emotional about the future of it. And that’s something I take seriously, his concern for it and the responsibility we all have as current Giants to where he’s left the legacy of the organization. It’s our job to continue that and to build on that.”
That won’t fall only on Jones. New Giants head coach Joe Judge also was in attendance. He joined the Patriots as an assistant in 2012, so he missed the two Super Bowls that Manning won against New England. He did, however, play against Manning when both were college quarterbacks, Judge at Mississippi State and Manning at Ole Miss.
“We got one,” Judge said of the Egg Bowl between the rivals. “I’ll tell you what, now, he was tough to beat. Eli is tough to beat. Let me tell you something, when you played Eli Manning, you knew you were in for the toughest game of the year probably.”
That was the same in Foxborough as it was in Starksville, Judge said.
For Judge, Friday was a sort of indoctrination into Giants culture. He met some of the franchise’s all-time greats for the first time and got to see firsthand how the franchise tries to identify itself.
“Everything [Manning] stood for is exactly what this organization stands for,” Judge said. “I’m proud to be part of the organization that he’s part of.”
Judge even wore a pin on his lapel, blue with a white number 10, as did Jones. “I’m part of it now,” Judge said.
Manning downplayed the impact he had on Jones in their only season together.
“I don’t know what he learned from me,” Manning said. “Hopefully he learned a few things. You have to take the mix. Enjoy your teammates, enjoy the celebrations. Celebrate the wins but work hard to get them because they are tough to get sometimes.”
Last season there were only four of them. Jones had three.
Manning’s last word of advice to Jones?
“It will get easier,” he said. “It will get better.”