He hasn’t called a game as an offensive coordinator since 2012, so forgive Jason Garrett if he’s a bit rusty when the Giants open the season Monday night against the Steelers at MetLife Stadium. But know this about the former Cowboys head coach-turned-offensive-play-caller: He is as prepared as he could possibly be to dive into a role that is familiar, yet strange.
It is a lifetime of experiences from which Garrett will draw, both as player and coach, as he begins his role as one of the most important people in the Giants’ organization. Those experiences have shaped a philosophy that will go a long way toward determining whether Daniel Jones succeeds in his first full season as the Giants’ starting quarterback. Or whether the process will take longer than the Giants might have hoped as they prepare for the 2020 season.
“I’ve been really fortunate in my playing and coaching career to really enjoy every role that I’ve been in, whether it’s been as a backup player, a No. 3 guy, a backup quarterback, I’ve started games, a position coach, coordinator, head coach,” Garrett said Thursday. “There really has never been any role I’ve had that I haven’t really tried to embrace and tried to grow and develop in. That’s my mentality now as the offensive coordinator.”
Garrett will try and execute the vision put forth by coach Joe Judge, who wants a tough, physical team. But make no mistake: What you see from the Giants’ offense also will be a direct reflection of what Garrett has stressed over the years in his days with Dallas. Garrett became the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator in 2007 after a two-year stint as Miami’s quarterbacks coach, and he called plays for Dallas through the 2012 season before handing over the role to Scott Linehan and then Kellen Moore.
So, expect to see plenty of involvement with the tight end – replace Jason Witten with Evan Engram. It’s Saquon Barkley in Ezekiel Elliott’s role. A reliable offensive line. A group of receivers that might not have the second coming of Dez Bryant but will feature sure-handed wideouts in Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton.
And, of course, the quarterback.
If Jones is the second coming of Tony Romo or Dak Prescott, Garrett’s two primary quarterbacks in Dallas, then the Giants will be in good hands now and into the future.
Garrett is now more directly involved in the offense as the coordinator, different in large measure from his latter days in Dallas, where he delegated much of the coaching assignments.
“Obviously, it’s a lot of responsibility, big picture responsibility on the offensive side of the ball [with the Giants], but also some hands-on coaching opportunities,” he said. “When you’re a head coach, you try to do those same things. Obviously, you’re involved with the comings and goings and the function of the entire football team. But even when you’re in that role, I always felt it was important to get involved in coaching guys individually, technically and fundamentally and certainly getting involved in conversations with the coordinators talking about scheme.”
Jones’ development is Garrett’s biggest challenge, and if the coach can help solve Jones’ fumbling problem from last season, there’s a decent chance the 23-year-old quarterback will produce the kind of play that will at least give the Giants a chance to win – even if the results at the outset aren’t there. He has a willing student in Jones, a player who is driven to succeed and who is a workaholic in the mold of his predecessor, Eli Manning.
This will be Jones’ third offense in three years, dating to his run at Duke, so things may not come automatically for him. But from what we’ve already seen with the No. 6 overall pick in 2019, there won’t be many instances of him making the same mistake twice. The trick is to not make mistakes in the first place, something that may take some time.
Garrett likes what he sees from his quarterback, and vice versa. If the coach’s system suits Jones and the results are promising, it’s good for everyone. Good for Jones as he inherits the mantle from Manning. And good for Garrett, who enjoys going back to his coaching roots and perhaps stakes his claim to another head coaching gig if things go as well as he envisions.