John Mara gave final approval on drafting Daniel Jones in the spring, has been impressed by the rookie quarterback in practices this summer and was excited by his preseason debut last week.
“So far, so good,” the Giants co-owner said on Tuesday. “He’s everything we thought he’d be. He’s been terrific on the practice field and did a good job the other night.”
Come September, though, he doesn’t want to see him anymore.
Not on the field. Not until at least next year.
Because in Mara’s perfect vision of the 2019 season, Jones won’t be needed.
“Eli [Manning] has a great year and Daniel never sees the field,” Mara said. “That would be in an ideal world. You’d like to see that . . . I’d be very happy about that because it means we’re having a great year and Eli is having a great year.”
Is that a realistic outcome?
“Sure,” Mara said. “Why not?”
Mara, who spoke after announcing a partnership with Investors Bank to introduce their New York Giants checking account, knows, however, that it is unlikely. Manning is 38 years old, in the final year of his contract and has had just one winning season in the past six. The Giants used the sixth overall pick in the draft to select Jones in April.
To paraphrase an infamous Dave Gettleman soundbite, they didn’t draft him to sit him.
At some point this season, Jones likely will play in a regular-season game. It could be in mop-up duty. It could be as a starter.
“That’s going to be a decision by the head coach as to when or if Daniel ends up playing this year,” Mara said in his first public remarks of training camp. “Eli is our starting quarterback and will start the season. He’s obviously been a great representative of our franchise for a lot of years and will continue to be. We’ll just have to see how it all unfolds.”
In 2004, the last time the Giants were in this situation with a rookie quarterback ready to grab the reins of the franchise, it took nine games. The Giants were 5-4 then under Kurt Warner when Tom Coughlin made the move to start Manning.
“We weren’t quite sure when that was going to take place and how it would all work out,” Mara said of 2004. “I guess there is a certain similarity to it.”
The difference is that Warner was brought in to help Manning along and essentially keep the job warm until the kid could plop into it. This time, it’s not a free agent with no ties to the organization that is playing the role of starter-until-he’s-not. This time, it’s a two-time Super Bowl MVP who has worn the Giants uniform longer than any player in history.
That complicates matters. Both professionally and personally.
As far as Manning’s expiring contract at the end of the season, Mara said he is taking a “year-to-year” approach to the 38-year-old.
“That’s fair,” Manning said a few minutes later when he spoke to the media.
Even if Manning does perform the way Mara envisions in 2019, Mara would not commit to bringing Manning back in 2020.
“Let’s worry about next year next year,” he said. “We have to get through this season first.”
As for the personal aspect, that’s a bit trickier. Wellington Mara famously wept on the day the Giants cut Phil Simms. He was loyal to Kerry Collins and averse to drafting Manning. He had to be convinced to approve the Manning selection by, among others, his son, John.
Now it’s John Mara who has the emotional bond with the quarterback. It’s John Mara who was handed two Lombardi Trophies after Manning victories.
That call, to move on from Manning and hand the team to Jones, will be made by Pat Shurmur, Mara said, just as Coughlin made the decision in 2004.
“Hopefully it’s a decision we won’t have to make until way in the future,” he said. “It will be a very difficult, emotional moment, for sure. But I’m not thinking about that just yet.
“He’s still the starting quarterback.”
And in Mara's ideal circumstance, he'll remain so.