New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said that Duke’s Daniel Jones was the obvious choice to become the heir apparent to quarterback Eli Manning with the sixth overall pick in Thursday’s NFL draft.
Even if others didn’t exactly agree.
Jones’ early first round selection was booed loudly by fans gathered at MetLife Stadium and panned by the New York tabloids with headlines such as “Blue’s Clueless” in their Friday morning editions.
Gettleman responded to the skeptics by urging them to be patient, saying that “In time, you’ll be very pleased” with the pick.
The Giants were one of the few teams, if not the only one, that had Jones rated so high. Most pre-draft boards had him ranked behind both Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State and Missouri’s Drew Lock as the next-best quarterback to top overall pick Kyler Murray.
But Gettleman said he fell “in full bloom love” with Jones after watching him at the Senior Bowl in January and didn’t want to risk losing him by waiting until the Giants’ second selection in the first round at No. 17.
While the former Carolina Panthers’ GM was most impressed with Jones’ size and pocket presence, it also didn’t hurt that his top pick was coached in college by Duke’s David Cutcliffe — the same man that mentored Manning and one of the nation’s top quarterback gurus.
“Obviously Cutcliffe, he’s a hell of a coach,” Gettleman said at a press conference Thursday night. “He didn’t fall off a turnip truck yesterday. The kid has been well trained. The huge part of this, and I’ve said it before, a big part of this is his make-up.”
One thing Jones won’t have to deal with is the pressure of stepping right into a starting job. He was drafted specifically to serve as Manning’s understudy.
How long that apprenticeship lasts will depend on several factors, not the least of which is Manning’s effectiveness.
The 38-year-old future Hall of Famer, who has won two Super Bowls with the Giants, is only under contract through the end of the coming season. But Gettleman suggested that he could remaining the starting quarterback for at least three more years.
Either way, Jones said he plans to make the most of the situation.
“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity to learn for a young quarterback,” he said. “(Manning) 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.”
At the same time, he added that he’s “not going to try to be Eli or be anything but myself. I think staying confident in that and staying confident in who I am is what’s going to be key to that process.”
This won’t be the first time Jones has had the opportunity to work with Manning. Both Eli and his older brother Peyton have made frequent trips to Duke to work out with Cutliffe during the offseason.
They’re also a constant topic of conversation during film sessions in the Blue Devils’ quarterback room.
“We certainly did watch a whole lot,” Jones said. “It was cool going to Duke and being with Coach Cut and being able to hear those stories from when Eli and Peyton were in similar positions to me.
“Whether it was my first year there, second year, whenever it was just hearing those stories and being able to learn from some of those experiences was an awesome perspective for me and certainly a great situation.”
Despite the criticism, Gettleman characterized the selection of Jones as an advantageous situation for both the young player and the team.
“We are thrilled to get Daniel. He was up there with everybody else on our board in terms of value and he was just perfect for us,” Gettleman said. “I really believe in this kid. I really believe he is going to be a really nice, quality quarterback for us, for our franchise.
“He understands what’s in front of him. We’ve spoken to Eli and talked to him and Daniel is coming in here to learn. Learn how to be a pro, learn how to be a professional quarterback. He’s the right kid for us. He’s just the right guy, he has the right head. He’s a very mature kid. I have no doubt he is going to come in and do everything he can to prepare himself to follow Eli.”