LANDOVER, Md. — It hasn’t exactly been the Harlem Globetrotters versus the Washington Generals, but you could understand if Daniel Jones belted out a chorus of “Hail to the Washington Football Team” prior to Thursday Night Football’s showdown at FedEx Field.
Jones, who since his rookie year has had difficulty locating the end zone and winning games – a slight drawback for a franchise quarterback – enjoyed the best day of his career and his first home win against the WFT.
His 4-0 mastery of the WFT began on Sept. 29, 2019 with a 24-3 victory over fellow rookie QB Dwayne Haskins, that followed his first NFL start after he replaced Eli Manning and evened his record at 2-2.
Jones completed 23-31 for 225 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs and ran for 33 yards.
“It was exciting,” Jones said afterwards. “To run out here for the first time and be in front of these fans, be in front of the crowd was a lot of fun. We had a lot of fun, it’s a lot of fun to win.”
Jones is 6-17 since as he heads into Thursday night, but I digress.
His finest hour came on Dec. 22, 2019 at FedEx Field, when he and Saquon Barkley demonstrated why they would be the twin faces of a stumbling franchise in a scintillating 41-35 OT win.
Jones (28-42, 352 yards, 5 TDs) engineered an 11-play, 66-yard drive in OT.
“You see it as a huge opportunity, and you’re excited for that,” Jones said. “That’s kind of what you look forward to, what you play for is an opportunity to do that — to go down and win the game.”
Barkley (279 total yards) was everything GM Dave Gettleman thought when he made him the second pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.
“I think that’s kind of what they envisioned when they drafted D.J. and drafted me,” Barkley said afterwards. “I think we both have the potential and the talent to play well together and open stuff up for each other.”
Jones wasn’t going to save HC Pat Shurmur, but he was celebrated all across the locker room.
Barkley: “He’s a dog. I think he’s going to be one of the best quarterbacks in the league one day.”
Jones joined Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton and Deshaun Watson as the only first-year players in NFL history with three games of at least four passing touchdowns.
Sterling Shepard: “Savage, man. That dude is going to be something special. We’ve been saying that since the beginning of the season, and he showed it today.”
Never mind that the Giants were 4-11. There appeared to be Life After Eli Manning.
There’s still a lot to learn, and I realize that,” Jones said. “I feel like I have improved a lot.”
The pandemic interrupted the best-laid plans of mice and Giants, and Jones regressed last season under new OC Jason Garrett behind a vulnerable offensive line and no Barkley, gone to reconstructive knee surgery.
Rookie HC Joe Judge was 0-5 on Oct. 18, 2020 when Jones (7-74 rushing) and the Giants defense did enough for a 20-19 win – again, defeating Washington.
“We have battled these first five weeks and haven’t gotten the results we all hoped for,” Jones said afterwards. “To get it was thrilling, and coach’s first win, it was a lot of fun to do that.”
Jones earned plaudits for managing to hold onto the ball on a blindside sack attempt.
“That’s been a focus of mine,” he said. “I obviously know the importance of holding onto the ball.”
Three weeks later, the 1-7 Giants beat the WFT 23-20 on the road.
“It just happened that we’ve come ready to play against Washington these four times and been able to get wins,” Jones said. “We’ll look to build off it.”
Jones is still looking to build on it as he readies to stare down Chase Young and Montez Sweat on Thursday night. Barkley is still chipping off the rust. No one could claim that the offensive line is fixed. Evan Engram is sidelined again. Jones and Kenny Golladay are still getting to know each other. For what it’s worth, the late, great Meadowlark Lemon always smiled at the sight of the Washington Generals.