The Duke of New York

A new era for the New York Giants has begun with rookie Daniel Jones replacing veteran Eli Manning as starting quarterback.

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Commissioner Roger Goodell stepped onto the stage to the usual boos, but the crowd went silent and inhaled sharply as he began to read from the envelope that would transform a troubled franchise’s luck: “With the sixth pick in the 2019 NFL draft, the New York Giants select…Daniel Jones, quarterback—Duke University.” The Giants fans in attendance were shocked, with hands on their heads. The Giants’ watch party in Metlife stadium erupted into boos. Ohio State’s star quarterback Dwayne Haskins was still on the board, as were quality defenders like linebacker Josh Allen. Yet the Giants selected a quarterback no one had going so early on their draft boards. But a few months later during the preseason, Jones won the hearts of Giants fans with his unexpected maturity and versatility in the quarterback position. Going into the regular season, there were already shouts from fans to start Jones immediately, but Coach Pat Shurmur said the team would stick with veteran Eli Manning to kick off the season.

After a sound loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week One, the Giants continued to underwhelm the Big Blue faithful in a Week Two matchup against the Buffalo Bills. A play that summed up the game: Manning backed out of the pocket, launching a last-ditch effort at a touchdown downfield. The pigskin sailed 10 yards past the nearest Giants receiver, and a Bills defender dived to make the simplest interception of his life as the clock wound down. Eli flashed his signature expressionless shrug, ignorant to the fact that the throw may have been the last of his 16-year career. That Week Two matchup dropped the Giants to 0-2, a seemingly lost season, putting pressure on the front office and players alike.

Two days later, the Giants announced that Jones would start Week Three against the Buccaneers, quickly ushering in a new era for the Giants. Manning provided words of support for Jones, and the football world eagerly awaited the debut of the Duke product.

That Sunday, Jones didn’t disappoint in his debut, leading a rousing Giants comeback in Tampa to top the home team 32-31, giving the Giants their first win of the season. “Danny Dimes” proved worthy of his nickname, forming an electric connection with tight end Evan Engram and wideout Sterling Shepard and throwing them a touchdown each, including a 75-yard catch-and-run to Engram for his first NFL passing score. His presence clearly energized the team, and the receivers were all eager to catch passes from the rookie. Jones kept his cool and looked comfortable and mature in a hostile environment, while Mike Evans and crew kept the pressure on the other side of the ball, killing the Giants’ secondary.

Jones showed his athleticism as well, rushing for two scores, including the tying seven-yard touchdown on fourth down leading to an Aldrick Rosas game-winning extra point. Saquon Barkley left the game with an injury after an ineffective rushing game of just 10 yards on eight carries, and the Giants were down by as much as 18 points, but Jones carried his team back into the game. It sounded like a home game for the Giants with the house shaking after another missed field goal by the Buccaneers’ kicker Matt Gay and the clock striking 0:00, sealing the win for Big Blue.

Many analysts peg Jones as a Manning clone—produced by the same coach—but they forget about one crucial aspect of Jones’s game: his legs. In key moments, Jones showed his dual-threat capability, rushing for a total of 28 yards on four carries with two touchdowns, a modern mobile quarterback that Giants fans haven’t seen ever.

As Giants fans move on to a new era under Jones, it’s important to look back on Manning’s long career. His legacy will forever be cemented as the clutch Tom Brady-slayer, beating the GOAT not once, but twice in the Super Bowl, including once to deny the Patriots of a perfect season. Two of his throws led to the greatest catches of all time, by David Tyree and Odell Beckham Jr. And lastly, possibly most importantly, he won the hearts of fans of the league through everything from his Dunkin’ Donuts commercials to his Walter Payton Man of the Year awards to his famous game-winning drives. Today, many view Manning as a washed-up veteran. Yet, there are few better suited than him to lead the Giants to a last-minute drive in the Super Bowl. Now, as he gracefully passes the torch to Jones, never forget the lasting contributions Manning made to the Giants franchise and the league. With Manning now mentoring the young quarterback and calling plays on the sideline, if Jones were to turn out even half as successful as Eli, the future is bright.

Going into Week Four against a weak Redskins team, the Giants are supercharged with optimism for not only this season but also the seasons to come with Jones under center. The hype is real; two New Yorkers are even trying to trademark the “Danny Dimes” nickname. Jones showed his brilliance, and Manning will likely soon retire a Hall of Fame career knowing his franchise is in great hands. Giants fans are loving it—jersey sales for Jones are up 500 percent. All of a sudden, it is great to be a Giants fan, all because of one kid from a predominantly basketball school: Danny Dimes.