Tony Romo and Ezekiel Elliott never played together, but they spent most of their careers as the most despised players on the most reviled rival that Giants fans know. Year after year, twice or even three times a year, the Giants had to face the Cowboys, and that meant trying to stop their quarterback and their running back.
Those two may remain unwelcome in the hearts of many who root for the Giants, but when it comes to the young players on the current Giants roster, they suddenly have become valuable resources. So much so that as Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley soak up as much as they can this offseason from the new playbook that offensive coordinator Jason Garrett brought with him after a decade’s worth of coaching in Dallas, they plan on turning to once-bitter enemies for advice, insight and even maybe a little bit of an advantage.
As the Giants' offense morphs into the Urban Cowboys, importing almost everything but the stars on the helmet, who better to lean on than those who have succeeded most in the system?
“I look forward to talking to some of those guys and hearing their perspective on it,” Jones said on Wednesday.
Neither of the Cowboys stars — Romo retired several years ago and now is a broadcaster; Elliott still is in his prime on the field — have divulged much. And it will be interesting to monitor just how much they do share. The Cowboys and Giants may share playbook DNA, but they remain bitter rivals in the NFC East.
Jones said he did speak briefly with Romo this offseason, although they “didn’t get into the system a whole lot.” He said he is sure they will talk more “as we get going.”
Barkley said he has yet to reach out to Elliott as part of his research into the Garrett offense. He wants to get a firm grasp on the system himself so he can ask smarter questions when the time comes. “I will definitely use him and try to learn from him and see what he was able to do,” Barkley said.
Barkley, who combs through tape of other running backs present and past, has taken up a special study of Elliott’s recent exploits.
“Zeke definitely stands out,” Barkley said. “He’s always stood out to me. I’m a fan of the game, I like watching running backs and learning from them, and it’s cool to be able to go back and see some plays [of his] that I’ve watched before and now actually be on this side and understand the play behind it and how it worked for him.”
Earlier in the week, coach Joe Judge made it clear that he brought Garrett on board to import the Cowboys’ old offense (they’re busy learning their own new system under new coach Mike McCarthy this offseason). “Schematically, the easiest way to describe it to the outside world is it’s going to be similarly based off what Jason has done in Dallas over the last 10 or so years,” Judge said.
He also said there will not be any carryover from last year for Jones “in any way, shape or form.”
Jones said he’s fine with that, and while the new system might not be “apples to apples” from his rookie experience, there are some lessons he can bring with him that are universal parts of most NFL offenses.
Jones also shrugged off the idea that the Giants should design their offense around him rather than have him adjust to the new playbook.
“I’ve only played in the NFL for one year,” he said. “There’s a lot out there I haven’t done, there is a lot out there I don’t know, so trying to fit a system a certain way because of me, I’m not sure it makes sense.”
Eventually, Judge said, the offense will mold around the players’ abilities and be shaped to attack specific opposing defenses. For now, the Giants are closer to clones of the Cowboys than they’ve ever been or, given their distaste for Dallas, ever cared to be.
And even if Romo and Elliott decide to clam up and keep their secrets to themselves, away from a Giants team they likely detest as much as they are detested by, they’ve already shown that the Garrett offense can be effective.
Now it’s up to the Giants to prove that they can make it work too. Perhaps even better.
“The biggest thing is it’s been successful and scored a lot of points and gained a lot of yards,” Jones said. “Guys have been successful in it. That’s the biggest thing. And I feel like we have a lot of guys who can make plays, so I think you’ll see that in the system like you’ve seen it in the past.”