The playoffs are different. Right?
“Yeah, win, move on, lose, go home,’’ coach Brian Daboll said. “It’s not overly complicated.’’
That is one way to boil it down.
Daboll put the Giants through a standard Wednesday practice that was anything but standard for a franchise that has not needed to take to the field this late on the calendar since 2016. Daboll has been a part of 30 NFL postseason games as an assistant or coordinator; what goes down Sunday against the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium will be his first as a head coach.
In order to fulfill the first part of Daboll’s equation — win, move on — his quarterback will have to in some ways duplicate the performance he came up with three weeks ago, when the Giants tangled with the Vikings and lost 27-24 in Minneapolis. In some ways, Daniel Jones will have to be even better this time around.
In every way, Jones will need to rise to the challenge in a situation he has never before experienced. A first playoff game is a big deal for every player and an even bigger deal for the quarterback.
“I’ve coached a few of ’em,’’ Daboll said. “I think — it’s the next game. We’re privileged and honored to be part of it. The things that got you to have an opportunity to be here, that’s what you’ve got to lean on.’’
Most recently, Daboll coached Josh Allen with the Bills, and Allen’s first taste of the playoffs, following the 2019 season, was bitter. He completed only 24 of 46 of his passes, did not throw a touchdown pass (or an interception), ran for a team-high 92 yards but lost a fumble, took a bad sack late in the game and flipped an ill-advised lateral. The Bills lost to the Texans 22-19.
Allen wasn’t quite ready for the playoffs. That inadequacy has come and gone. In six career postseason games, he has 14 touchdown passes and one interception.
What does this have to do with the Giants’ quarterback? Maybe something, maybe nothing. Every quarterback is different but most of them tread lightly in their first playoff game.
“This organization has a long history of success, of winning, of postseason success,’’ Jones said. “For us to be a part of that, it’s about us as a group and what we can do as a team this year as part of that history and part of the storied legacy of this organization.’’
Giants ownership and the previous front office made no secret that they saw plenty of Eli Manning in Jones. Manning made it into the playoffs in his second season — his first as a full-time starter — while Jones finally got in after his fourth season.
“I think I was always confident this would happen and we’d have this chance,’’ Jones said.
The Giants hope Jones is able rally his team in his first playoff action more successfully than Manning did after the 2005 season. Manning was a flop, throwing three interceptions as the Giants, playing at home, were blanked by the Panthers 23-0. The next year, Manning was better — but not great — in his second playoff start as the Giants lost 23-22 to the Eagles. Manning carried his 0-2 playoff record into the 2007 postseason and, well, the rest is history.
Jones was solid in the critical victory over the Commanders. A week later, it was un-Giants-like the way he flung the ball around the dome in Minneapolis, throwing for a season-high 334 yards. But he also threw a damaging fourth-quarter interception. He was brilliant in the playoff-clinching rout of the Colts.
After completing the first pre-playoff practice of his life, Jones recalled this week the past three years he was “sitting at home’’ with the Giants eliminated and gone their separate ways.
“This certainly beats that,’’ he said.
“It means a lot to all of us. A lot of guys who’ve been here these past few years. To be on the other side of it, yeah, it means a lot.’’
Growing up in Charlotte, N.C., Jones said he watched plenty of playoff football, especially when the Panthers advanced through the playoffs and made it to the Super Bowl after the 2003 season.
“Growing up you’re always watching these games and it’s pretty cool to be here,’’ he said. “We’re certainly happy we are where we are but there’s a lot more work left for us.
“The games mean more from the sense that if you lose you go home. People understand that. People understand what’s at stake.’’
There is much at stake for the Giants. And for their quarterback.