From the moment Daniel Jones became a $40 million man, he accepted the Eli Manning Mandate:
Deliver us another Lombardi Trophy.
In the words of the franchise’s new marketing campaign:
Be Giant, even if you are the Other Quarterback in Town, and stand eyeball-to-eyeball with Dak Prescott and Micah Parsons and the Cowboys on a grandiose opening night “blue-out” at MetLife Stadium and make them blink.
Manning delivered the third and the fourth trophies that stand proudly behind the glass case in the lobby inside 1925 Giants Drive, and the Giants ponied up to ride Jones to a fifth.
The time has come for him to pay it forward.
And now Jones is set up better than he has been since he took the torch from Manning in Week 3 of his rookie 2019 season.
They have better weapons, starting with big-target tight end Darren Waller, who has the GIants keeping their fingers crossed after he showed up on the Friday injury report as questionable with a hamstring injury.
They have more speed, starting with Parris Campbell and deep threat rookie Jalin Hyatt.
They have an improved offensive line, anchored by left tackle Andrew Thomas.
And they have a superbly conditioned Saquon Barkley with an $11M chip on his shoulder.
Jones will begin a second season under head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, after all the turmoil he was subjected to during the Pat Shurmur and Joe Judge years.
Can Jones lead this team to the Super Bowl?
“Definitely,” Thomas told The Post. “Obviously we don’t want to make predictions, we got the first game we gotta get past, but does he have the talent? For sure.”
It means plenty to Jones that the franchise power brokers placed their faith in him to one day deliver that elusive fifth Lombardi Trophy by putting their money where their mouths were.
“Being a New York Giant, playing here for this team, for this franchise, the tradition of this team is something that we all take very seriously here,” Jones said, and has said from Day 1, long before he turned the draft-day jeers to cheers.
It was never realistic asking Daniel Jones to ”be like Eli,” not while there was that lack of stability and continuity on the sidelines that stunted his growth until quarterback whisperers like Daboll and Kafka arrived.
Jones solved his turnover problem and stayed healthy and was more Vanilla Vick on the ground (120-708, seven TDs rushing last season) than Manning (315-567, seven TDs rushing for his career) ever could have hoped to be. What Jones always had going for him was the respect of his teammates, for his toughness, for his smarts, for his Manningesque temperament, for his Manningesque commitment and dedication to his craft, and an underrated leadership that has seen him become more vocal.
“Stuff could be our fault as an offensive line, or a receiver, but he’s gonna take the blame for it, he’s gonna try to do something to fix it,” Thomas said, “and you want to play for somebody like that, that works that hard to be great.”
Manning never threw fewer than 18 touchdown passes for an entire season. For Jones to take a second-year leap to top-10 quarterback country under Daboll and Kafka, he will need to do better than the 15 TD passes he managed last season.
This is no longer about taking what they give you. It is time for Daniel Jones to take what he wants. It is time for Daniel Jones to make defenses defend every blade of grass.
His record in prime-time games is a nightmarish 1-10, and he is 21-32-1 overall, but he has never had as talented a team around him as he has now, and he has never felt as comfortable and confident as he does now.
“I like our guys a lot,” Jones said, “I think we’ve had a good camp, and we’re ready to go.”
“To me it means being a professional, coming to work every day, living by our standard,” Leonard Williams told The Post. “I think that it’s like a hard-nose, blue collar-type of team. I think that’s something the Giants have prided themselves on being like for a long time now.”
“Kind of like be the standard,” Adoree’ Jackson told The Post. “You think about being a Giant, you think about the history here, you think about the tradition, and the excitement that comes with being a New York Giant.”
“Fighting through adversity, being a standup guy, not take anything easy, knowing that things are gonna be hard but still fighting through it,” Xavier McKinney told The Post.
When they last saw Daniel Jones at MetLife Stadium, Giants fans serenaded him with chants of “Dan-iel Jones” the day he led the Giants, almost single-handedly, back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
From the very beginning, the Giants and their fans have yearned for Daniel Jones to be like Eli. And in a number of ways, he has been.