The play was a marvel. Every single Eagle bar Nickell Robey-Coleman bit on the fake handoff, trying to bulldoze their way to Wayne Gallman, who did not have the ball. Daniel Jones, who did have the ball, traipsed jauntily past all 265 dread lbs of Brandon Graham, who ignored him, saw his tight end throw a block on Robey-Coleman, and then wandered into open field.
The Philadelphia Eagles had invited Jones to go on a walk. He obliged.
Jones is not the sort of quarterback you should invite to go on a walk. He is the New York Giants’ premiere rushing weapon, and although this says some terrible things about the Giants, it’s hard to lead an NFL team in rushing yards without being able to run the football at least a little bit. Jones is comfortable rushing, he’s fast for a quarterback, and the Eagles gave him a 15-yard gap to blow through:
My favorite thing about that screenshot, incidentally, is watching the whole situation dawn on Eagles linebacker Nathan Gerry. Gerry is on the far side of the entanglement and therefore incapable of doing anything other than telegraphing ‘oh nooooooo’ via body language alone. Oh noooooooo.
Anyway, give a mobile quarterback a huge gap and nothing behind it save a blocked-off corner and you’d expect to concede a touchdown. That is not what happened.
Rather than trotting into the end zone, Jones suffered from some kind of terrible malfunction at the 25-yard line and was downed by contact at the 10. What the hell happened here?
“I tried to run too fast.”
“I just … I don’t know … I tried to run faster than I was running and I got caught up,” Jones told Ralph Vacchiano after the game. Jones is the primary source here, and we should take his account seriously. But why would he try to run faster? He was in the clear, nobody was catching him, and it’s not like he was going slow. While I don’t want to imply that Jones wasn’t telling the whole truth, we should explore other possibilities.
Followed Peppy’s instructions too closely
Sure, it’s unusual to be playing Star Fox 64 during a game, but QBs have earpieces in their helmets, and the Star Fox team has the technical wherewithal to patch the veteran pilot through to folks who need advice. And, as we know, Peppy only has one advice to give:
Sometimes you just have to do a barrel roll. Poor timing, perhaps, but who knows what dangers might have been lurking in the air. Trust Peppy.
Tackled by fate itself
Teleology can be a frightening concept. Did everything in Daniel Jones’s life lead up to this moment? Yes, as a matter of fact. Everything he ever did culminated in falling over for no reason while millions of people gawked. For one brief instant, Jones tackling himself was Daniel Jones apotheosized. If we’re being teleological, we can work back from there: for Jones to fulfill his destiny with Jalen Mills at the 10-yard line he must stumble at the 25-yard one. And so the hands of fate thrust forth through earth and grass, grabbed his feet and send him pitching forward in a tangle of limbs. It could not have been otherwise.
I’m giving this one a low grade because teleology is stupid.
Jones terrified of his newfound freedom
Jones is a surprisingly good rusher, but as far as I know he’s never before been afforded this much space in an NFL game (his longest career rush prior to this one was 49 yards against Washington, but while he fooled the camera in that play the Giants did a less effective job drawing away the defense, who swarmed him the whole way). Could that have had an impact his ability to control his body?
In the opening lines of Book VII of Republic, Plato produces one of his most celebrated passages (Jowett trans.):
—Behold! human beings living in an underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their necks and legs chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.
This is the Allegory of the Cave, in which Plato suggests that humanity is shackled, seeing only sensory impressions rather than the truth behind those impressions. Philosophy, he suggests, frees us from those bonds, allowing us to step out of the cave and into the light of truth. Something very similar, I might suggest, happens with rushing the football and good blocking.
But what happens to those who shift too quickly between the barely-punctuated darkness of the pocket into the full, dazzling brightness of the end zone? As Plato suggests, “When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities,” which is clearly code for “watch out dude might fall on his ass 10 yards out.”
(He says we’re welcome)
A leg mutiny
Does Daniel Jones take care of his legs? Of course he does. Daniel Jones is a professional athlete and takes care of every inch of his body. How dare you suggest otherwise.
But do his legs agree? That’s a more interesting question. As the quarterback for an NFL team, Jones cannot help but spend time on exercises that aren’t wholly focused on his legs. What if his legs are jealous of all the attention his brains and arms receive? What better way to make their displeasure known than by declaring a mid-run revolution, spoiling the glory of the whole out of sheer spite?
It’s short-sighted, yes, but legs aren’t known for their foresight, the fickle creatures. This could be Daniel Jones’s Spithead. Spitlegs? Unsure, but we can figure out the proper leg mutiny naming conventions some other time.
If you’re into quarterbacks who go on walks, Jon and Alex once took a look at one that didn’t end in humiliation (for the quarterback, at least).