EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Two years ago, today, the Giants' changing of the quarterback became official when Daniel Jones made his first career start and was responsible for four touchdowns in an epic comeback victory against the Buccaneers in Tampa.
Jones will make his 29th start on Sunday, when the Giants bestow a high honor on his predecessor, retiring Eli Manning's No. 10 jersey and inducting him into the franchise's Ring of Honor in a halftime ceremony.
"I'm excited," Jones said today. "It'll be cool to see. It'll be a cool moment. Obviously, a legend of this game, a legend of this franchise and what he represented, how he played for so long. Being able to be with him my first year was awesome for me. It was a huge opportunity and it'll be cool to see him recognized."
Jones was a rookie, the sixth overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, when he began sharing time in the quarterbacks room and on the field with Manning, then in his Giants-record 16th season. Manning started the first two games that year before the reins were handed to Jones. In his debut, Jones completed 23 of 36 passes for 336 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 112.7. He also ran for two touchdowns – including the deciding seven-yarder with 1:16 remaining – and led the Giants with 28 rushing yards. The Giants overcame a 28-10 halftime deficit to defeat the Buccaneers, 32-31.
Jones entered that game with a solid support system, including the teammates who blocked for him and caught his passes, a veteran coaching staff and Manning, who offered advice before one of the biggest days of Jones' professional life.
"I think there was a lot," Jones said. "I think certainly the routine, going about the week and preparing. I think I was able to see his preparation, so just talking through kind of how he prepared day by day, the things he looked for and how he went about his week."
Manning started two games late that year after Jones sprained his ankle. He retired less than a month after the season ended as a two-time Super Bowl winner and MVP and with an unassailable legacy as the greatest quarterback in Giants history.
Though disappointed to lose his job, Manning was a willing mentor to Jones during their one season as teammates.
"Just a tremendous opportunity to learn and to watch him, to be able to talk to him and ask him questions, watch how he went about his work and how he carried himself," Jones said. "On the field, how he played, how he prepared and then off the field in the building, dealing with teammates and leading this organization.
"I always looked at it as an awesome opportunity to be behind him and be with him for that year and have that relationship to be able to learn from him, and look to what he was able to do in his time – all he accomplished and the level that he played at. That's kind of how I look at it. I certainly have a ton of respect and I respect him and all he accomplished."
Jones was asked "the biggest thing" he learned from Manning.
"I think it was just day in and day out the way he prepared and the way he carried himself," Jones said. "I think anyone would expect a guy that successful and who has played that long at a high level, that he has a certain way to prepare. I think that's expected, but being able to kind of see it day to day and him go about it, being able to see him interact with teammates, interact with people in the facility, with staff members, and the leader that he was kind of in all aspects of the organization and for this team."
Jones was particularly impressed with Manning's work ethic.
"Extremely consistent," Jones said. "He never got bored with doing the fundamental things on the field, whether it was footwork – working on something as simple as a three-step drop or a five-step drop. You'd hear him talk about his footwork a lot and kind of a lot of those things and I remember that sticking with me early on. This is a guy that's played a lot and he's still focused on day one fundamentals and the little things. The little things were always extremely important, and he was just extremely detailed and specific in all of his preparation. That carried through to every aspect of his game."
The current and former quarterbacks remain close. They spoke regularly last season and Manning is available whenever Jones wants to use him as a sounding board.
"We've certainly stayed in touch and check in every now and then," Jones said. "He's always kind of been someone who's been willing to answer questions. I think in his position he's not in our meetings every day and I think he understands that. But he's played a ton of football and knows how to play the game and knows what it's supposed to look like. He's been helpful for me."
Manning rejoined the organization this year and has his hands in business development, fan engagement, marketing and community and corporate relations. The first game he attended as a fan was the season opener vs. Denver. Manning is involved with numerous other ventures, including teaming with his brother, Peyton, a Hall of Famer and two-time Super Bowl winner, on a secondary telecast of Monday Night Football that has received complimentary reviews.
"I've watched a little bit of it," Jones said. "I think he's pretty good. He's pretty funny. He's got some good one-liners and some good commentary. It's been fun to watch him and Peyton go back and forth."
In their first two shows, the Manning brothers have been joined by several guests, including Russell Wilson, Brett Favre and Charles Barkley. But not Daniel Jones.
"No, I haven't gotten the invite," Jones said laughing.
Given how Manning helps his successor, it's probably just a matter of time until he receives one.
Photos from the career of two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback Eli Manning