By GEORGE WILLIS
Jason Garrett shouldn’t sell himself short if he wants to make the most out of his tenure as the New York Giants offensive coordinator and make Joe Judge a better head coach. Simply being a “yes man” isn’t what this organization needs.
Who knows what actually goes on behind closed doors and how much advice Garrett gives Judge about avoiding the pot-holes of being an NFL head coach whether it’s dealing with players, the media and the high expectations of fans. Certainly, Garrett’s experience as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys for the nearly 10 seasons is something that should matter even though Garrett acted like it didn’t during his first press conference on Tuesday at the Giants training facility in East Rutherford, N.J.
First he had nothing but good things to say about his tenure in Dallas, which ended with his firing after last season’s 8-8 record. “I just want to acknowledge my time in Dallas and how grateful I am for that whole experience and for everyone in the Cowboys organization for the opportunity and the support and the lifelong friendships that I’ve made,” he said. “The players, the coaches and the staff members who were with me and made my life way better, I am eternally grateful to them and really appreciative of having that in my life and for that experience.”
He didn’t mention Cowboys owner Jerry Jones or how he was strung along for weeks after the season ended before learning his contract would not be renewed. He took the high road. “I’m awfully proud of the program we built and the teams that we had,” said Garrett, who was 2-3 in three post-season appearances. “We had a lot of great days there. Again, I’m very grateful for that experience and for the people who made that experience what it was.”
With that, Garrett asked that any questions “be focused on what’s happening here with the Giants rather than in Dallas.” And though there were a couple of attempts to get him to talk about the past, he stayed focused on the present and future. He said nothing but good things about quarterback Daniel Jones: about how he admired his career at Duke and that he wasn’t surprised he was selected in the first round of the 2019 draft or the success he had as a rookie. “Playing quarterback as a rookie in the NFL is a real challenge,” Garrett said. “Daniel handled himself really, really well.”
Garrett, who had Dak Prescott as a rookie QB in Dallas, will not only be asked to produce an efficient offense, but develop Jones into a reliable franchise quarterback. He likes the work ethic he has seen thus far. “Since I’ve been here, he’s been a real joy to work with,” Garrett said of Jones. “There’s no question he is a football guy. He loves football. He’s always so prepared. He’s always studying his stuff. He always has great questions and wants to get better. My experience has been when you have that kind of approach and that kind of attitude, if you have some ability, you’re going to keep growing and getting better every day and he’s certainly done that.”
Garrett also needs to be a sounding board for Judge, too. It’s natural for an assistant coach to defer to the head coach, but Garrett seemed to be taking it to an extreme on Tuesday. He said he had “great admiration” for Judge “from afar,” even though the former Patriots special teams coach was hardly a household name when the Giants selected him to succeed Pat Shurmur. Then Garrett laid it on extra thick saying, “I’ve learned so much from Joe and from others in this organization right from the start. That’s really the mindset and mentality that I have. I certainly will try to contribute any way that I can. 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.”
That’s sounds like the perfect company man, but there will be times this season if they haven’t happened already where Garrett will need to speak up and utilize his experience as a head coach to help Judge through his own transition from assistant coach to head coach. It is doubtful Judge has taught Garrett anything he doesn’t already know from being a coach’s son, an NFL player for 12 seasons, an assistant coach for six and a head coach with a career record of 85-67, including NFL Coach of the Year in 2016.
That can’t all be dismissed to assume a subservient role. Garrett, 54, was a huge hire for a lot of reasons: not just to develop Jones, but also help Judge develop into a successful head coach.