Jason Garrett is tied with most of us for regular-season pass attempts as a Giant – at an even zero. But over four seasons on the roster he played a key role on teams that reached the playoffs twice and the Super Bowl once.
“I’ve never been with a better teammate than Jason Garrett,” Kerry Collins said on Tuesday of the man who was his backup quarterback from 2000-2003 and who last week was named offensive coordinator of the Giants.
“He was so supportive and a great guy to help maintain perspective. He was very detailed and extremely bright. Understood the position, understood the game, and to have him as my backup for those years was just incredibly invaluable to me and to the team.
“On a personal level, he’s just as solid as they come. Integrity, character, intelligence, really just loved the game and loved everything about it. Loved the people, loved what the game represented and was just a phenomenal asset for me and for the Giants when he was there.”
Garrett was not even the primary backup his entire time with the Giants. Jesse Palmer eventually pushed him to No. 3 on the depth chart, which is unusual for a player who was 37 by his final season in New York.
So was he already acting as a de facto assistant coach by then?
“He still felt like a player,” said Collins, now 47. “But I think he was so important to the room . . . I mean, he remained extremely valuable to me and to us as a team and what we were doing.
“He and Jim [Fassel] had a great relationship as well as [offensive coordinator] Sean [Payton], so he was such a good guy to have around on so many levels.”
Collins, who played with the Giants from 1999 to 2003, said Garrett is one of the few former teammates he has been in consistent contact with over the years.
“We have a lot of good memories,” he said. “Those were great years for me personally. Things that come up, truthfully the texts I’ll send him and things we’ll talk about, there’s very little to do with football. It’s really about personal things that we shared.”
He called Garrett “a great fit” for his new role assisting Joe Judge after a decade as the Cowboys’ head coach.
“To be able to come in with a guy like [Daniel] Jones, who’s got, in my opinion, I think everybody’s opinion, a lot of ability, Jones will really benefit from Jason’s experience and his knowledge,” Collins said.
Collins ranks fourth in Giants history in passing yards behind Manning, Phil Simms and Charlie Conerly, each of whom played more than twice as many games for the franchise than he did. He is a fan of Jones.
“I love his competitiveness, first of all, and I love his accuracy, I love his playmaking ability,” Collins said. “His ability to run surprised me as much as anything. But he’s got the intelligence. He’s got the anticipation, the accuracy, he seems like he knows where to go with the ball.
“Obviously there is some stuff to clean up . . . There was such as huge stride for me from my rookie year to my second year. I think Jones will take that next step.”
After the Giants traded for Manning on draft day in 2004, Collins, then 31, went into general manager Ernie Accorsi’s office and in effect cut himself, saying he wanted no part of serving as a mentor. But it was nothing personal against his successor.
Asked about the sendoff Manning got during a victory over the Dolphins at MetLife Stadium last month, Collins said, “I thought it was great. He has had an unbelievable career and deserves all the accolades that he gets. He really handled everything that comes along with being the quarterback of the Giants extremely well.
“Hats off. The guy had a great career and he deserves to go out with the respect that he’s got.”
Now his old backup will play a big part in how the Giants’ third regular quarterback of the past 20-plus years fares.
“I’m thrilled for Jason,” Collins said. “I really don’t see any negative to it other than some of the pieces on offense that seem to have been lacking.”
Garrett, now 53, did throw one pass as a Giant, a four-yard completion to Ike Hilliard with about seven minutes left in a 41-0 rout of the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 14, 2001.
So, he left town with a completion percentage of 100. Now he is back.
“Certainly, it’s going to be an adjustment for [Garrett], but in some ways he’s probably going to like it,” Collins said. “Even though he’s going to do press conferences, he’s not going to do them every day. I would not be surprised if he enjoys that, just dealing with more football. I think a lot of that he’ll relish.”
And this, too: “I think Jason’s going to love the fact that he’s going to play the Cowboys twice a year.”