Joe Judge had little choice but to fire offensive coordinator Jason Garrett
Jason Garrett didn’t leave Joe Judge much of a choice.
With the Giants’ offense continuing a disturbing trend of futility in a listless 30-10 loss to the defending champion Buccaneers on Monday night in Tampa, Judge’s postgame frustration boiled over into a day-after decision to show Garrett the door.
It was time.
Judge only hopes it’s not too late to find at least a spark to an offense that has continually disappointed on Garrett’s watch. Judge made it very clear after Monday’s game that he pinned the loss on coaching, and it didn’t take much to read between the lines that he was particularly agitated about the offense.
"We have to do a better job of putting our players in position to make plays," he said. "We have too many good players. We’ve got to put them in a better position to capitalize. That’s it. We’ve got to make sure we sit down [Tuesday] as a coaching staff, understand how we have to play this game to give our players a chance to make plays."
Judge sat down with Garrett, but not to assess the game plan against Tampa. He told the former NFL quarterback and erstwhile Cowboys head coach that his services were no longer wanted. Judge said he’ll use a collaborative effort to run the offense, starting with Sunday’s game against the Eagles at MetLife Stadium. Judge said "everything is on the table" when it comes to figuring out ways of reinvigorating an offense that is averaging just 18.9 points per game and has produced just 10 passing touchdowns. The Giants are light years away from teams that make scoring look easy and not the slog that Garrett’s group had become.
Judge may be overestimating just how much talent he has on offense, because it’s really not a deep group that embattled general manager Dave Gettleman has assembled. The offensive line is average, Saquon Barkley hasn’t been right the last three years because of injuries, and Daniel Jones’ one-step-forward and two-steps-back progression/regression makes you wonder whether he is truly the answer at quarterback. But Judge needs more definitive answers about exactly what he has over the next seven weeks, and it’s worth making the change now.
Look for Freddie Kitchens to take the lead role in the design and play-calling of the offense, even if Judge seemed somewhat vague on what Kitchens’ exact duties will be. Judge lauded Kitchens, a former offensive coordinator and head coach in Cleveland, for his aggressiveness.
"Freddie has a very aggressive approach to the game," Judge said on a Zoom call Tuesday. "I think Freddie’s done a good job in terms of using his players and creating matchups and situations where they can have success, and he calls it with a degree of multiples and variables, which present problems to opponents. He sees it through the lens of a player in terms of creating plays for the player. I think that’s a valuable asset."
Giants players, including Jones and Barkley, repeatedly stood by Garrett, up to and including Monday night. It’s laudable that they didn’t point fingers at the play-calling or the play-caller, and they seemed surprised that Judge had so strongly hinted at his own dissatisfaction during his postgame news briefing before the players spoke. But Judge couldn’t afford to let the problems fester, especially after his team showed no life against a defense that had been vulnerable in previous losses to the Saints and Washington Football Team.
The Giants are mathematically alive in the wild-card race, even if they realistically have little chance of making it that far. But four of their final seven games are against divisional opponents, starting with Sunday’s matchup against an improved Eagles team. So if they are going to find some meaning in the rest of the season, Judge knew he had to shake things up now.
Nothing personal. Strictly business.
"This isn’t a blame game," Judge said. "I’m not looking for a head to roll … Real simple. It’s my job as a head coach to make sure that I give our players the best opportunity to go out there and be successful. We’ve got to find something to go ahead and give us an opportunity to change things up a little bit. Obviously, we’re not scoring enough points."
It may be too late for this season, but Judge felt he had to do this for his players. He also had to do it for himself, because his job may be on the line next. While the Giants’ ownership desperately wants to avoid making another head coaching change after just two years, Judge needs to prove he can find some answers for what ails his chronically underperforming team.