Keidel: Gettleman Will Be Forever Tethered To Daniel Jones

Jason Keidel
July 12, 2019 - 3:14 pm

Since he assumed the helm as Giants general manager, Dave Gettleman has looked equal parts narcissist and mad scientist. He loves to tell us how smart and savvy he is, about all the Super Bowls he's reached, even if he wasn't running the clubs involved. He booted homegrown star Landon Collins, shipped Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland, and snapped ties with Olivier Vernon.

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But Gettleman will be judged on his bedrock bromance with Eli Manning and, eventually, his ability to replace him. Despite their sinking place in the standings, and Eli's decaying skills, Gettleman insists that the two-time Super Bowl MVP could play another two or three years. Yet he also plucked Eli's successor, drafting Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the No. 6 pick in the latest NFL Draft. 

So with all his conflicting statements and sentiments, Gettleman has to fight his own impulse to play Eli until his limbs fall off. He also has to prove that Jones is the guy. And the only way to do that is to play him in an NFL game of import. 

Gettleman is already under the gun for drafting Jones. A Duke quarterback has never been drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft, much less in the top-ten. Jones was not ranked at the top of any notable draft boards, from CBS to ESPN to FOX Sports. Todd McShay, for instance, had Jones ranked 59th of all college players available. An NFL scout branded Jones a "pedestrian talent" and a backup QB. 

Most pundits figured the Giants would take stalwart pass rusher Josh Allen out of Kentucky at No. 6, and then snag Jones with the 17th pick. 

Giants quarterback Eli Manning and general manager Dave Gettleman

Jones wasn't exactly John Unitas in college. Over his final year at Duke (as a junior) Jones threw for 2,674 yards with 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Maybe that's good considering Duke is a lower-rung school in the rugged ACC, home of the national champion Clemson Tigers. But if you had to choose between Jones and Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, it would take two seconds to tab the latter. 

Ask anyone from the Giants and they will say Jones looks like a stud. No doubt that red jersey is snug and his spirals are tight. Most are during the summer, in shorts, with a warm breeze coming off the Hackensack River. Jones will be judged at some point in some game after some Halloween when the pass rush is rabid and the wind is cold and the rain slashes sideways across the gridiron. Assuming he gets some action. 

This is the Gettleman paradox. He loves Eli, trusts Eli, and has projected superhero qualities upon a player who turns 39 in six months. No one doubts the mutant Manning DNA, the sacred bubble around the family name, or Eli's perch in Big Blue's history. But even as Gettleman sings his awkward Eli ballads, he knows Jones must get in a game, particularly if the Giants stumble out of the gate this season. What is the watermark for a change under center? Is it a 1-3 start? 2-5? 0-8?

Despite his hunger and humility over the last 15 years, the laconic, iconic QB lives along the extreme edges of the fans' emotions. He's either the legend that two Super Bowl wins suggests, and an epic thrower of the football in the mold of another Manning; or he's the stiff who got hot for two winters and bagged two rings before anyone noticed. Eli's real legacy lives somewhere inside that wide historical chasm. 

As Jones inches toward his job, Eli knows something about replacing a Hall of Fame quarterback, nudging Kurt Warner to the side during his rookie season. Just as Ernie Accorsi would be forever tethered to Eli Manning, Dave Gettleman will be one day be judged on Daniel Jones. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel.