The media pass issued by the Cowboys this week features a picture of a pumped-up Dak Prescott flexing and celebrating, which was not a difficult image to discover. There are highlights galore this season spawned by Prescott, so many opportunities to capture the $160 million franchise quarterback basking in the afterglow of another passing touchdown.
Prescott got busy last week, throwing just 22 passes against the Panthers yet coming away with four touchdowns for a passer rating of a cool 130.3. Yet Prescott did not win the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award. It went to Daniel Jones, and if you do not think there is anything significant in this, think again.
“Big-time,’’ tight end Evan Engram, a teammate and close ally of Jones, told The Post Wednesday after practice. “It’s big. It’s good for him. It’s just a testament to him weathering the storm.’’
This was a theme, three days after Jones threw for a career-high 402 yards and led a furious fourth-quarter comeback from an 11-point deficit in New Orleans, all the way back, to win it for the Giants in overtime, 26-21.
Jones was terrific, and that he gained a conference-wide honor cannot be minimized as no big deal. This is not an established quarterback accumulating another milestone. This is a 24-year-old in his third season, operating at a high level and starting to fulfill the promise his franchise believed was in his grasp even as boos from fans and guffaws from draft prognosticators accompanied his selection at No. 6 overall in the 2019 draft.
“It was an uproar,’’ said Engram, a Giants’ first-round pick two years earlier. “I remember.’’
Jones is on an upswing. Recognition in the form of the NFC honor is validation that others are seeing in Jones what the Giants are confident can be a weekly affirmation.
“When someone gets an award like that, that’s a team award,’’ coach Joe Judge said.
With that, Judge listed the protection for Jones, the receivers for Jones then got into the Giants’ defense and special teams, and their roles in making Jones look good.
Judge looked incredulous when asked if this achievement could help the still-young quarterback gain confidence.
“In terms of just national awards improving someone’s psyche, in our short time together, I’ve seen him weather a lot of storms,’’ Judge said. “In terms of anything on the outside influencing him, if he’s going to go ahead and have this make him feel good, what’s it gonna be when it crashes down the other way?’’
Um, is Jones allowed to, you know, sort of be happy with this recognition?
“Can he feel good about it? Yeah, absolutely, enjoy it,’’ Judge said. “Can it affect how you work, prepare and perform this week? Absolutely not.’’
There is no fear of success going to Jones’ head. The cloud of losing was lifted from him as he more freely discussed the past game — he praised left tackle Andrew Thomas as “playing great’’ — and looked ahead to facing the Cowboys in Arlington, Texas.
Jones first won the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award as a rookie, in Week 3 in 2019, after his first NFL start, coming back from a 28-10 halftime deficit to lead the Giants to a 32-31 victory at Tampa Bay.
This time around, Jones said he is “certainly grateful to be recognized’’ and added, “I think it says a lot about our offense and our team.’’
It says more about Jones. He took Judge’s “weather a lot of storms’’ comment to heart, striking just the right tone.
“I mean, we haven’t won enough games — that’s no secret — the first two years,’’ Jones said, “and obviously this season didn’t start how we wanted it to or expected it to. Those are storms we’ve all had to weather.’’
The struggles, Jones believes, made him tougher.
“Yeah, I think so,’’ he said.
It showed last week. Jones was more animated than ever as he willed his team to its first victory of the season.
“He gets hype when he makes a play,’’ Engram said. “We can score off a running play, he’s back there fist-pumping, he’s flexing. He’s been a dog in the weight room, so he’s gonna show off a little bit.’’
There is rarely any flexing inside AT&T Stadium for the Giants, losers of four consecutive games inside the palatial Texas football arena. Prescott is the NFL’s fourth-rated quarterback, as far as passer rating, at 116.9. Jones is No. 15 at 98.3.
The quarterback of the Giants is not there yet. But, for the Giants to have a go at the Cowboys and have a say in the NFC East race now and for years to come, this quarterback matchup cannot be a slam dunk for Prescott, as good as he is.