Jason Garrett doesn’t want to talk about the Cowboys. He doesn’t want to discuss the strange circumstances in which he left the team at the end of the 2019 season, kept hanging in a suspension of uncertainty while his contract expired and the team courted other candidates for the job he technically still held. Nor does he want to compare his experiences there with a dynamic young combination of running back and quarterback to what he will have now as Giants offensive coordinator, essentially swapping Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott for Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones.
He gave a cursory statement expressing gratitude for his experiences in Dallas and acknowledged the “lifelong friendships I made” and “the players, the coaches and staff members who were with me and made my life way better.”
But he’s clearly moved on.
“This is a new day,” he said in a virtual news conference on Tuesday, his first time speaking publicly since he left the Cowboys and was brought to the Giants. “I’m awfully excited about being part of the New York Football Giants and being back in this part of the country with this amazing organization.”
All of which, frustrating as it may be to have waited more than half a year from the actual transition to the first opportunity to discuss it only to receive little to no explanation, is...fine. Because all that really matters is what Garrett will do now that he is with the Giants.
He wants it to be a new day. But just how new will it be?
Probably not very for anyone who has watched the Cowboys in the past decade.
“We certainly have a system of football that has been in place for a long time,” Garrett said of the playbook he has brought to the Giants, “but it’s also a system that has evolved through the years and it’s evolved based on the people we’ve had on our team. There have been times in the past where we’ve thrown the ball a lot, there have been times in the past where we’ve run the ball a lot. The one thing that’s been consistent is we want to attack defenses in different ways.”
That, he said, will continue with the Giants.
As for those new players, Garrett seemed impressed by his initial interactions with the marquee members of the group. He said he didn’t spend much time diving into Jones when he entered the NFL in the 2019 draft because the Cowboys were pretty well set at quarterback, but “we admired his career and weren’t surprised one bit he was taken in the first round and has had the success he’s had up to this point.” Garrett said Jones “handled himself really, really well” as a rookie quarterback and has been “a real joy to work with” for the Giants.
“There’s no question that he is a football guy,” Garrett said. “He loves football...The thing you like so much about Daniel is his approach. He clearly has ability. He is someone who is big, he’s strong, he’s athletic. He has a really good arm and he has all the tools you are looking for, but the thing that jumps out is the approach he takes every day.”
And on Barkley, who Garrett has faced as an opposing coach, he said: “We had to try to tackle him in Dallas and all of our energy was put on that because he is such a difference-making player.” He called Barkley “a first-class person” and someone who is a “sterling example” for the team in terms of his work ethic.
“He’s been a real joy to work with.”
But as easy as it would be to simply transpose Elliott and Prescott for Barkley and Jones, expect plenty of new wrinkles in the playbook as well. Because while this may be Garrett’s offense, it’s not his team. He’s making the step backward from head coach to coordinator.
“I’ve learned so much from Joe [Judge] and from others in this organization right from the start,” he said. “That’s really the mindset and mentality that I have. I certainly will try to contribute in any way that I can just like we ask all of our players and coaches to. That’s my mentality. I have my notebook open every day and I’m taking notes in all of those staff meetings and continuing to learn from Joe on a daily basis.”
It’s the next step in the evolution of Garrett’s offense. And Garrett himself.
“I’m excited to be here,” he said, “excited to work for him.”
He stressed the word “for” in that last part.
It was just another example of Garrett putting Dallas in the past and embracing the new day.