A lot has been made about Jason Garrett’s final media availability before he was fired and the way he portrayed the offensive line in some blunt, honest terms that are rare around the team when it comes to describing that unit. He essentially said they are not good enough for the offense to function properly and that only left tackle Andrew Thomas has much of a future in the NFL.
"It’s just part of where we are," Garrett said on Nov. 18. "We’re trying to rebuild a team and that’s a process . . . In the meantime, you have to somehow, some way create an environment [for success] with the guys you have."
Were the offensive linemen upset to hear those less than flattering remarks?
"No, not at all," Will Hernandez, the starting right guard, told Newsday on Wednesday.
It was, he added, really no different than the way the coaches talk to and about the line behind closed doors.
"We go through meetings every day and they tell us exactly how it is, how we played, how it’s going," Hernandez said. "It was no surprise to us. It was probably mainly a surprise to you guys."
It certainly was. Asking the Giants' coaching staff about the offensive line this season is like asking them if their significant others’ pants are unflattering from behind. Everyone knows the real answer, but they’re also smart enough to avoid a direct response. Instead, they talk about how hard the linemen work and what good effort they put into their jobs.
Joe Judge said those remarks had nothing to do with his decision to fire Garrett only a few days later, but they clearly run anathema to Judge’s philosophy of steering away from any kind of criticism of any player . . . especially this offensive line.
Since the change on staff Judge has been asked several times about the unit or specific linemen and replied with nothing but fondness and encouragement for them. On Wednesday he said "our offensive line has done a really good job of playing in sync and they’ve made a lot of progression throughout the year in terms of our pass protections" despite the reality that quarterback Daniel Jones has been under siege and it has become physically dangerous for him to drop straight back in the pocket. He also noted of beleaguered right tackle Nate Solder: "We’re pleased with the way Nate’s really progressed throughout this year and how he’s playing for us right now. He’s a guy who comes out and works tirelessly."
It’s such a glaring overcompensation from the reality that the line presents on the field that it’s difficult not to connect Garrett’s comments to his dismissal in at least some small way.
Of course, when the cameras are off and the video footage of the game is on, Judge is more straightforward, critical and, well, honest about the line. Hernandez said there is no sugarcoating the messages he and his fellow blockers receive.
"We talk about it all the time," he said. "We know what we have to do. We know when we’re not doing it right. He always let us know. All of the coaches are very clear about everything."
Only one thing made Garrett’s remarks different from what they hear in meetings throughout the week, Hernandez said.
"That they told you guys that."