EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- One week ago, New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman described playing quarterback in New York as a mental load. You have to have a mental toughness, he said. The implication was clear: Whenever the Giants settled on their next quarterback, that person would have to be someone the team was certain could handle adversity.
Daniel Jones will need that, and then some, after the Giants made him the sixth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and, more importantly, the long-awaited heir to Eli Manning. The Giants' quarterback need has not been a secret for at least two years. Manning is 38, and though the Giants feel they can still win with him while they rebuild the roster, the eye test has suggested those moments may be increasingly fleeting. That they took this particular quarterback so high, after passing on the more highly regarded Sam Darnold at No. 2 overall a year ago, while leaving a desperately needed pass rusher like Josh Allen sitting on the board, will cast Jones under even greater scrutiny, perhaps for the duration of his career. Gettleman said in February he would love to do for the Giants what Ernie Accorsi did -- draft a quarterback who wins Super Bowls. The kind of excitement that accompanied Accorsi's trade for Manning in 2004 certainly was absent Thursday night. Instead, there were some boos for Jones at the Giants' watch party, an ugly exit poll of a restive fan base.
"He's the right kid for us," Gettleman said. "He's got the right head. He's a very mature kid. No doubt he's going to come in and do everything he can to prepare himself to follow Eli when the time comes."
The Giants loved him so much that Gettleman said he was not willing to risk waiting for him until the 17th pick, his second first-round selection entering the night. Still, the decision last year to pass on Darnold in favor of running back Saquon Barkley -- as special a player as Barkley is -- has shaped everything that has happened since. And the echoes were heard again Thursday night.
Jones was a lightly recruited walk-on at Duke who played beside inferior talent; the Giants' second first-rounder, Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, helpfully noted how many of Jones' passes were dropped when he watched Duke games. But the payoff was that Jones was molded by Duke coach David Cutcliffe. Cutcliffe's imprimatur can't be overlooked. He mentored both Peyton and Eli Manning. His endorsement certainly carries weight in the NFL and, undoubtedly, especially for the Giants, who can only dream that, though Jones did not enjoy anywhere near the collegiate success that Peyton or Eli did, he will bear more than just a physical resemblance to the tall, cerebral pocket passers. Jones' production is certainly not commensurate with that of the other top quarterbacks, though the Giants suggested that had something to do with the players he was surrounded by. He completed 60% of his throws at Duke, with 52 touchdown passes and 29 interceptions in 36 games.
Now, the question looms about when Jones will take over for Manning. Both Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur spoke to Manning on Thursday night and relayed that he is fine. Shurmur seemed to issue a bit of a challenge in their conversation, telling Manning it was his job to win games and keep Jones off the field. And both Jones and Shurmur shook their heads when asked if this means Manning is definitely done after 2019 with the Giants. Not necessarily, they said.
"Maybe we're going to be the Green Bay model, where (Aaron) Rodgers sat for three years," Gettleman said. "Who knows."
"I think it's a tremendous opportunity to learn for a young quarterback," Jones said in a conference call. "He is a guy that's had a whole lot of success in the NFL, and there is a reason for that. I'm looking to understand that and do my best to learn as much as I can from him while he's in New York."
That assumes that the Giants will be competitive enough in 2019 to stave off the inevitable calls for Jones to replace Manning at some point during the season. The Giants have been struggling with this transition since former coach Ben McAdoo tried to pass the baton to Geno Smith in 2017, with the blessing of ownership; Manning was so upset, that the fans howled in protest. The ball went back to Manning, and the awkward dance has continued ever since. The Giants' competitiveness remains to be seen, after an offseason that has included the departure of their best defensive player in Landon Collins and one of the best offensive players in the game in Odell Beckham Jr., and it will be incumbent on Manning to be the player the Giants still believe he is to keep Jones on the bench.
That means that, at best, Jones can offer only limited help this season. Are the Jets better off with Jones and Barkley right now than they would have been with Darnold and Allen? We won't know the final answer for several years, but that is the difficult calculus with which the Giants will have to contend.
To compound the questions at the quarterback position around the NFL, the Washington Redskins selected Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins at No. 15 overall Thursday. With Alex Smith's career in doubt after a gruesome leg injury suffered last season, and with the Redskins featuring a depth chart of Case Keenum and Colt McCoy, Haskins is likely to start at some point in 2019. He was, in many estimations, the second-best quarterback in this class behind Kyler Murray, who the Arizona Cardinals made the first overall pick in the draft. All of those moving parts leave the Cardinals' 2018 first-rounder, Josh Rosen, in professional limbo -- caught among franchises moving ahead so rapidly that the former 10th overall pick has been left behind. Rosen will almost certainly wind up elsewhere now that Murray is in Arizona after a whiplash-inducing year for the Cardinals. But the market for Rosen's services plummeted as soon as Jones and Haskins went off the board, leaving few teams still desperate for quarterbacks.
Now Rosen waits. And so do the Giants. They wanted a consensus of their top decision-makers before deciding on a quarterback. They got it this year, after they didn't last year. It will be quite a while before we know if this was the right consensus. But early on Friday morning, the Giants went back to contemplating the next rounds of the draft. They still have many needs that a quarterback -- especially not one who seems assured of sitting awhile -- can fix.
"Rome," Gettleman said in parting, "wasn't built in a day."