PHILADELPHIA — Daniel Jones now carries a team and a dream in his hands into the belly of a beast of a place where football muggings cheered on by a merciless antagonistic crowd have become commonplace for the New York Football Giants across the last nine seasons.
These aren’t the Vikings, these are the No. 1 seed Eagles who will be trying to sweep the Giants into next season, which means that Jones should not be expected to throw for 301 yards and rush for 78 more on Saturday night.
So the question Giants fans ask is this one:
What can Daniel Jones do for an encore?
Eli Manning, following his first playoff win in Tampa on his way to Super Bowl XLII, said: “It’s a great feeling, but you can’t just be content with this. You have to win the first one to keep this going. It’s about keeping this going further in the playoffs.”
Now it is Daniel Jones cast as lead Road Warrior.
Perhaps it is too much to ask, perhaps it is not, for the quarterback the franchise and the fan base have seen grow up from Danny Boy into Dan The Mann, but Giants fans afflicted with Saturday Night Fever will ask him nevertheless:
Be Eli Manning beating Tony Romo in the 2007 Divisional Round.
Manning (12-18, 163 yards, 2 TDs) upset the Cowboys, 21-17, at Texas Stadium.
Be Eli Manning beating Aaron Rodgers in the 2011 Divisional Round.
Manning (21-33, 330 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT) upset Rodgers, 37-20, at wind-chilled Lambeau Field.
Daniel Jones will try to upset Jalen Hurts and silence the most hostile crowd he has ever encountered.
He has to get the ball out of his hands in the face of a raging pass rush and make one good decision after the next and use his legs when Saquon Barkley isn’t using his and be better than Hurts, whether Hurts, who has a sprained right shoulder, is less of a running threat than he has been or not, and especially if the game is there to be won in the fourth quarter.
He is playing like any sixth pick of the NFL draft should. Forgive Brian Daboll if he looked at Jones against the Vikings and saw Josh Allen. Daniel Jones is not Josh Allen.
No. 8 is enough.
David Cutcliffe coached Jones at Duke. When Jones was drafted, Cutcliffe compared him to both Eli and Peyton Manning.
“I did in the regards of preparation and knowledge of the game and a hunger to get better,” Cutcliffe said. “You can’t compare people until they are on even playing fields, but I have had all three in college, and so absolutely, his work ethic, and his focus, and you find that out as a coach with the kinda questions they ask on the first workday of the week for the next opponent.
“And yes, he’s that kinda accurate, and that kinda fast-twitch thinker. He’s a brilliant guy, just like Peyton and Eli are brilliant. I don’t think people really understand sometimes what I mean when I say brilliant. Their minds could have allowed them to be anything or do anything. And then all three are tough guys.”
Cutcliffe, now special assistant to the commissioner for football relations at the SEC, likes to tell the story of when he challenged the manhood of the freshman Daniel Jones.
“He’s not gonna be real vocal about getting tough, you kinda know if you’re around Daniel, you know the look. I’m not gonna tell you what I said, but it was pretty brutal, OK?” Cutcliffe said with a chuckle. “It’s just kind of a football thing. His eyes — I could tell he was ready to hit me. And he came that close. And what I did, I turned around and grinned, ’cause it was exactly the response I wanted to get. And he went out and played as good a football as you could possibly play. We come back and won the ballgame.”
Wait, there’s more.
“And the other part of it is,” Cutcliffe said, “is I’ve seen him play with a fractured rib. He never missed a beat. I had to convince him to get down some. I’ve seen him play with a clavicle break. Both of those happened to him at Duke. I couldn’t believe, and our medical people, they cleared him, but they said it’s just not gonna work. I got pictures of both X-rays still on my phone got own purposes, just to never forget how tough Daniel Jones is.”
Jones used his legs as a weapon in college as well. “He was phenomenal in college, gaining big yards, and big runs. He’s really a fast athlete, and quick,” Cutcliffe said.
Cutcliffe is asked for the one intangible trait that gets teammates to follow Daniel Jones. “He’s genuine,” Cutcliffe said. “How many people in your life do you know that are truly genuine that you can count on, and what they say and what they do are the same things?”
Jones persevered through it all until Daboll arrived and changed everything for him.
“If you just sit back and watch him be a great teammate, it’s a beautiful sight,” Cutcliffe said. “And you can tell those guys around him are responding to that.”
Cutcliffe is proud of his former quarterback, who will cash in on a new contract as worthy successor to Eli Manning. “He’s earned it,” Cutcliffe said. “This is one of the things I like to say — if it’s not the long way it’s the wrong way. I think he’s earned it and proven himself through some tough times. You cover the Giants, you know what the personnel issues were around him.
“He’s earned it.”
Cutcliffe will be at the Linc on Saturday night.
“I love the Jones family … it’s as if I’ve got a family member,” Cutcliffe said.
Giants fans who booed Daniel Jones on Draft Day have adopted him.
“Between Eli and Daniel, I qualify as a pretty damn good Giants fan, you know?” Cutcliffe said.
He wouldn’t want anyone else to quarterback his team now.