FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The fourth start of Eli Manning's career back in 2004 was an unmitigated disaster. He was lost that day against the Baltimore Ravens. He looked rattled, completing only four of his 18 passes. He threw two interceptions and was eventually benched.
On the train ride back to New Jersey that night, Manning had a long, heart-to-heart talk with offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, and the next day he met with Tom Coughlin to do the same. They figured out a way for him to get comfortable in the offense. They discussed the plays that worked best and the ones he liked to run.
One week later, things started to get better.
Sometimes rookie quarterbacks just need to bottom out first.
Now, this game wasn't exactly a disaster for Jones and he didn't really seem rattled. He also had a built in excuse playing the NFL's top-rated defense without Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard or Evan Engram on his side. But it was still an ugly, three-interception performance and the Giants' offense has definitely stalled (again) the last couple of weeks.
Or to put it another way: At the moment, Jones' arrow isn't exactly trending up.
"I didn't play well by any means," Jones said after the Giants lost 35-14 to the Pats. "But I don't think it was overwhelming. It was just bad plays and bad decisions."
There have been a lot of bad decisions for Jones the last few weeks. He now has six interceptions in the last three games since his brilliant start against Tampa back on Sept. 22. He's settled in to something less than mediocrity. He's completed 59 of 100 passes for 568 yards, three touchdowns and those six interceptions over the last three games.
That's a passer rating of 59.9.
But that's OK, because despite what the dreamers thought, Jones was never going to step in to lead this Giants team all the way to the postseason. The roster around him is far too flawed. And Jones is just far too raw.
On Thursday night, the word Pat Shurmur used to describe Jones' 15-of-31, 161-yard performance was "gritty". He said "You obviously can't throw the interceptions, but he made a lot of other good throws."
Actually, other than a picture-perfect, 64-yard touchdown strike to Golden Tate, he really didn't make a lot of other good throws. What he did was he blew an outstanding performance by a defense that even Shurmur admitted "gave us a chance to win the game."
Now, Jones does get some credit for having to perform against two of the NFL's top four defenses over the last two weeks. And if this was his rock bottom … well, it really wasn't so bad. When Manning bottomed out he did it by going 4 of 18 for 27 yards with two interceptions - good for a perfect passer rating of 0.0.
Jones was better than that. His passer rating was 35.2. Take away that one touchdown, though, and his passer rating would have dropped to 15.8. The defense kept giving him chance after chance to win this game.
Jones just couldn't get it done.
"I think to say that we're happy we're not scoring points or I'm happy turning the ball over is not accurate," Jones said. "We're pushing to play better. By no means are we panicking or questioning ourselves. We have to play better. I certainly know I need to play better."
The good thing is that there will be better days ahead. There will probably be some worse days, too. And chances are the 2019 season will be filled with more bad than good. That was the deal the Giants had to accept when they made the long-awaited quarterback switch. Growing pains are almost always painful - and they can be for everyone even peripherally involved.
But it's all worth it as long as there's actual growing. That's what matters the most the rest of the way. Because Daniel Jones is the Giants' future, and he's done enough good things to prove to everyone the future can be bright.
The future, though, just isn't right now.