Daniel Jones is not quite ready to say the Giants are his team, especially since his new coach wouldn't even say his name publicly for the first four months. But the reality is, it became his team the moment that Eli Manning retired.
Even Manning admitted as much when he said on t he radio last week that it should be "easier this year for (Jones) to step up as that leader. Last year, it was probably awkward for him (with) me being there."
Now Jones concedes that was probably true.
"I think looking back (it) was probably a little awkward at times," the Giants quarterback said on a Zoom call with the media on Wednesday. "But I think we did a good job of working together. I know I enjoyed working with him and certainly learned a ton from him, and appreciated everything he did during that year.
"But I don't know. It'll certainly be different."
It will, now that Jones is the unquestioned starter for the Giants -- for now and for the foreseeable future. It's not that Manning was looking over his shoulder last year, or that there was any threat of the Giants changing their minds and giving Manning his old job back. But Manning's shadow is long in the Giants' organization, and he was a presence everywhere in the building.
It couldn't have been easy for Jones navigating a rookie season knowing that the icon he was replacing was still there.
Jones, for his part, has always been appreciative of the chance to work with Manning. But he knows the dynamic will change when the Giants finally report to training camp this year.
"I really enjoyed working with Eli last year," Jones said. "I thought it was a huge advantage for me to be able to learn from him and talk to him every day. So it'll be different. It'll be an adjustment."
There will be a lot of adjusting for Jones this season, as he tries to learn his second offense in his second NFL season. He's also learning how to operate under a new head coach who didn't exactly seem to warmly embrace the quarterback he inherited when he was hired.
Judge refused to say Jones' name publicly and wouldn't acknowledge he would be the 2020 starter for four months, even as rumors (and sketchy reports) swirled about the Giants' supposed interest in Tom Brady, or drafting a quarterback (like Justin Herbert) fourth overall.
If Jones was bothered by that, though, he wouldn't say it.
"I think Coach Judge has a policy on that," he said. "He's got a way he's going to approach those situations. I respect that. I respect his emphasis on everyone earning their roles. I certainly wouldn't want it to be any other way."
Maybe that's why Jones was so reluctant to declare himself the leader of the Giants -- even though that's exactly what he is.
"Going into this year, I certainly feel the responsibility of being a leader," Jones said. "I think that's something I take seriously. But it's our team. I don't know if it's one guy's team. It's not Coach's team, it's not my team, it's not Saquon's team or anyone else's. I think it's our team and I understand that.
"Leadership-wise, I'm going to do my best to first take care of what I'm doing, take care of my responsibilities and be prepared and be playing at a high level. And then hopefully that rubs off on guys."