Daniel Jones isn’t playing.
The Giants hope he is still learning.
Having the rookie quarterback sit out Sunday’s game against the Dolphins — he apparently still is a bit too hampered by the moderate high ankle sprain he suffered on Dec. 1 to get back on the field — is a strike against his development. The best place for him to gain valuable experience and build on the football encyclopedia that he’ll be relying on next season and for the years to come is to play.
Even Eli Manning agrees with that.
“I think it’s very beneficial just to have that experience the first year, just to go through the ups and downs, have the good plays and have the bad plays to learn from,” said Manning, the beneficiary of Jones’ injury, who will make his second straight start and perhaps his final one at MetLife Stadium. “I think it just helps you so much into the offseason knowing how you had to prepare and know coverages and know defenses and know protections … I think it’s just important to learn all of those things and start getting a base for what you need to improve on and what you’ve got to work on in the offseason.”
The Giants brought Jones to the game in Philadelphia and kept him on the sideline so he could be part of “the process.” He just served as an observer.
“I’m obviously the guy with the least experience, so I try to offer what I can,” Jones said of the sideline huddles with Manning, Alex Tanney and quarterbacks coach Mike Shula. “I also understand those guys have seen a lot more than I have. When the defense is out there, we’re always trying to come up with different things that might work based on what we’re seeing and what they think is working throughout the game.”
But there are lessons to be absorbed beyond X's and O's, too. And maybe those are the ones that Jones is being exposed to this month.
If you want to play in the NFL, you have to learn how to deal with injuries. Some of them will come with pain that can be put aside and played through, others require a bit more convalescence and sitting out of games. While Manning, remarkably, has never had to deal with the latter in his 16-year career, Jones is now facing that obstacle in the first 16 weeks of his.
“You are learning on and off the field all the time,” he said. “I’m trying to do that. I’m trying to improve in whatever ways I can from each of these things. Yeah, I think it’s an opportunity to learn.”
Pat Shurmur certainly does too.
“There’s a lot that goes into becoming an experienced player,” he said. “A lot of these guys come here having kind of played through charmed lives.”
Jones hasn’t. He had a losing record at Duke with a team that was overmatched in most of its contests. He played through injuries there, too, including a high left ankle sprain. His trajectory from high school afterthought who couldn’t get a scholarship to sixth overall draft pick is well-documented.
It’s Manning, really, who has led the charmed football life. His father was a beloved NFL quarterback, his brothers paved the way in high school, and he pretty much had his pick of colleges for which to play. He was a Heisman finalist, the first overall pick who maneuvered his way to the team he wanted.
He’s won two Super Bowls and had his sub-.500 career record as a starter whitewashed as “not his fault.” And, by the way, he now gets the farewell start or starts that he may or may not have craved, but which his family and friends and former teammates most assuredly are embracing.
But it’s Jones who must find the lessons from this game … and this injury. About managing time between the training room and the meeting room. About being honest with the medical staff even when it brings more pain than the injury itself. About how the only thing worse than losing might be not participating and losing.
“You develop mechanisms for handling adversity,” Shurmur said. “Part of that is learning how to come back from these types of injuries and the urgency you feel inside, doing everything you can to get back.
“Certainly, there’s something to be learned from that.”