By Arnie Leshin
Before he retired as a Hall of Fame basketball coach from Duke, Mike Krzyzewski knew where he wanted to spend his time during the football season.
“I enjoyed watch the Jones man as our quarterback and I took in every game I could, especially when we played at home in Durham, says Coach K. “He was crafty, had a strong arm and mixed in the run.”
Well, at this point, in his first year of retirement, Krzyzewski has found out where to spend National Football League days when Daniel Jones is playing.
And so as the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Jones simply silences his critics, Krzyzewski watched via television the impressive New York Giants wild card NFC playoff win at the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday.
“I though Jonesy was great,” K says. “He put on a show and Minny had no answers. His passes were right on target, he followed his blocks, and just took off for big runs. No turnovers on the road is remarkable.”
Yup, that’s the way it went, and Krzyzewski says his next stop is Philadelphia Saturday night when the conference’s top-seeded Eagles host their division rivals for the third time this season.
“Oh,” Jones says, “just great to see Coach K watching on the tubes gave me an added push, but during my first playoffs, it was even better.”
Now let’s see how the five-year starter, a sixth first round pick out of Duke, which is rare for that school on the gridiron.
At times it wasn’t seen as a good pick, there was always criticism, first round pick from where, are they kidding? As it went on, too many turnovers, too inconsistent, too few victories, plus Giants fans are about the more die-hard in the game.
But now they have come together to watch Jones silence most of the naysayers with a solid season and a history-making postseason debut, leading the franchise to their first playoff win in 11 years.
“Well, I don’t think I’ve spent a whole lot of time thinking about that,” he says while going through practice on Weday. “But if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s about what you do the next week, so I’ve focused on that and continued in trying to improve and play as well as I can on Saturday.”
Against the Vikings, he threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 78 yards in the 31-24 win. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to have 300 yards passing, two TD passes and at least 70 yards rushing in a playoff game.
The 25-year-old quarterback’s combination of throwing and running has turned him into an exciting playmaker – one of the most dynamic in the league at his position.
And he has come a long way from the game manager label he was being saddled with, particularly earlier this campaign with his passing numbers unimpressive.
But then the plays and yards started coming, along with the wins. Fifteen touchdown passes and a career-low five interceptions. Plus his fumbles became fading each time out.
And he’s dangerous in the pocket, and when he gets out of the pocket, he’s playing really good football.
It’s still going to be a tough go for the team whose home is in East Rutherford, N.J., which means it can bus it down the Turnpike right to the City of Brotherly Love.
They’ve already played twice. In the opener In Jersey, Philadelphia cruised 48-22. In the regular-season finale they played in Philly, Jones and most of the Giants starters were held out of a 22-16 setback.
In this offseason he becomes eligible as a free agent, but the way it looks now, they may be sticking with him.