Mara reiterated Tuesday what head coach Pat Shurmur has said on multiple occasions: "Eli is our starting quarterback."
The plan is for Manning to be behind center on Sept. 8 for the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys with Jones as the backup. If the Giants season goes as they think it will, that won't change.
"I hope Eli has a great year and Daniel never sees the field," Mara said. "That would be, in an ideal word, you'd like to see that. At the end of the day, that is going to be a decision by the head coach as to when, or if, Daniel ends up playing this year."
Mara said the decision ultimately rests on the shoulders of Shurmur, just like it did for coach Tom Coughlin the last time the Giants were in this situation after trading for Manning in 2004 NFL Draft. Coughlin eventually inserted Manning into the starting lineup in Week 11 in place of Kurt Warner with their record at 5-4.
The Giants' record this season will determine if, or when, Jones gets on the field. General manager Dave Gettleman and Shurmur told Manning immediately after drafting Jones that it will be the two-time Super Bowl winner's job as long as he wins games.
That would keep Jones pinned to the bench.
"I'd be very happy about that because it means we're having a great year and Eli is having a great year," Mara said in his first full session with the Giants media since the draft.
The Giants have been ecstatic about what they've seen from Jones since April's draft, even if it's what they expected. He picked up the playbook and immediately looked like he belonged in the spring, has played well during training camp and was close to perfect in his preseason debut.
Jones went 5-for-5 with a touchdown pass on his only drive Thursday night against the New York Jets. It's a small sample size, but it's something.
"So far so good. He's everything we thought he would be," Mara said. "He's been terrific on the practice field, did a good job the other night.
"I think people need to temper their enthusiasm a little bit. It's one preseason game, one series, but so far so good."
Jones' time will come. Manning is in the final year of his current contract. The Giants don't appear ready to address that any time soon.
"I think we're in one year at a time mode right now," Mara said.
Manning, 38, knows his future is on the back-burner. Any decision will have to wait until the offseason.
It's a reality he seems to have accepted.
"Yeah, I think that is fair. I've never been one to ever be concerned or worry about contracts and things like that," Manning said. "Won't start now."
The future of Gettleman and Shurmur seem more secure. They're under contract past 2019 and they're now married to the new quarterback. Mara just wants to see progress. That means more wins -- the Giants have eight in the past two seasons combined -- and potentially competing for a spot in the postseason. They've made the playoffs just once in the past seven years.
Mara expects this team to do well. He seems to believe they're better than most expect, and even thinks they're better than the 2004 Giants that Manning joined with the young talent they've accumulated in the past two drafts, an improved offensive line and an improved locker room. Mara didn't think the locker room was as strong as it could have been during a 5-11 campaign last season.
The belief inside 1925 Giants Drive is that Gettleman has this organization headed in the right direction with their quarterback of the future in place. Despite the public criticism, there isn't a concern about the direction of the franchise or the job the controversial general manager has done.
"Not at all. I think the best thing for me about Dave is he makes decisions that he feels are in the best interest of the franchise and he doesn't give a damn what people think about it, be it the media or fans or anybody," Mara said. "He has the courage of his convictions. And you have to have that."
Mara believes in Gettleman and Shurmur perhaps as much as the coach and GM believe in Manning and Jones.
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