EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants’ decision to move on from offensive coordinator Jason Garrett encompasses numerous complexities but was made for one very basic reason.
“I feel we have to be more productive as an offense,” said coach Joe Judge, who has the final say on the composition of his staff. “Generally speaking, the offense’s job is to score points. I don’t believe we’re scoring enough points. It’s my job as the head coach to make sure I give our players the opportunity to go out there and make plays.”
Garrett was fired the day after the Giants scored a season-low points total in a 30-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Raymond James Stadium. The Giants also produced 2021 nadirs in total yards (215), first downs (15), time of possession (24:21), and third-down conversions (one). They did not score a touchdown on a drive longer than five yards. Only one of their 54 plays gained more than 16 yards.
The 3-7 Giants have seven games remaining, beginning Sunday at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. Judge would not say who will call the plays, but senior offensive assistant Freddie Kitchens, who took over as the Cleveland Browns’ coordinator for the final eight games of the 2018 season and was their head coach two years ago, is a candidate.
“We’re going to handle things collaboratively in-house with the offense,” Judge said, “and we’ll kind of go on as the week goes in terms of specific roles on a game day. … We’ll make those decisions and get everything ironed out before the game.”
Responding to another question later in his conference call, Judge said, “In terms of play-calling, we’ll talk with the offense and I’d say everything’s on the table.” Asked if that means he might call the plays,” Judge said, “everything’s on the table.”
How will the offense look different than it did under Garrett?
“We’ll have to see as we put the plan together going forward,” Judge said. “Obviously, we’re going to do some things and the goal is to score more points, be more productive, so we’ll talk in terms of game planning tonight specifically for the Eagles at this point and see how that looks when we get the call sheet together.”
It’s an open question whether changing coordinators will improve the offense’s performance if the quarterback, receivers and offensive line are unchanged.
“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,” Judge said. “There’s going to be a lot of the same players out there and it’ll still be elements of the playbook that we’ll have out there. We’ll see as new wrinkles develop and new schemes and concepts that may be included. Ultimately, we have to put the players in position to execute, but we’ve got to find something to go ahead and give us an opportunity to change things up a little bit. Obviously, at this point, what we’re doing, we’re not scoring enough points.”
Judge did not directly answer a question of whether personnel changes will also be made in the wake of the team’s performance in Tampa.
“I think there’s a number of things we have to correct and improve on,” he said. “You watch the tape, there’s always some good things you can build on and there’s a number of things you have to look at and just identify and say, ‘Okay, this is something that we have to correct and correct fast because Philadelphia is watching that same tape today and they’re going to look to exploit weaknesses.’ That’s their job. Our job is to fix it and make sure that we don’t get exploited. On the same note, in terms of personnel, we compete every week going through in terms of playing time. I talk all the time about taking guys to the game and giving them an opportunity to play. We’ll kind of see how the week of practice goes in terms of who goes ahead and plays throughout the game, but I want everyone to have an opportunity to compete for playing time.”
Garrett, a former Giants backup quarterback, was fired 26 games into his tenure as coordinator. He joined the staff in 2020 after 9½ seasons as the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach.
“I have a lot of respect for Jason as a person and as a coach,” Judge said. “He’s been a tremendous asset to me as a young head coach. He’s helped our development here. He’s built very strong relationships in the building with the players, along with other support staff members. He’s done a good job putting the team first. I have a lot of respect and appreciation for everything he’s done for us. That being said, ultimately I’ll make every decision based on what’s best for the team long-term.”
He indicated he had considered this change prior to the last night’s game – though choosing not to do it prior to the team’s bye week – saying it was not a “snap decision” and “there was no boiling point.”
But Judge has been doing a slow boil as the Giants’ offense has sputtered much of the season. The team is 25th in the NFL with an average of 18.9 points a game. The Giants have scored fewer than 20 points five times and haven’t reached 30 points since Oct. 11, 2020, in a 37-34 loss in Dallas; their 21-game streak with less than 30 points is the league’s second-longest, behind Jacksonville’s 24.
The Giants’ 17 offensive touchdowns tie them with Detroit for the NFL’s second-lowest total, one more than Chicago and Houston (the Giants have one defensive touchdown). No Giants wide receiver has more than one touchdown catch, and marquee free-agent acquisition Kenny Golladay and first-round draft choice Kadarius Toney have none. Daniel Jones has nine touchdown passes in 10 games.
The Giants are last in the NFL with a 44.4 red zone touchdown percentage (12 TDs in 27 trips inside the 20).
They are 23rd in yards-per game (322.8), 25th in rushing yards (92.9) and 19th in passing yards (229.9). In 2020, Garrett’s first season as coordinator, the Giants were 31st in total yards a game (299.6), 19th in rushing (110.5, despite Saquon Barkley missing virtually the entire season), and 29th in passing (189.1).
“I don’t think there’s ever an ideal time to make a change like this in a season,” Judge said. “You have to go ahead, and you have to be prepared to roll with it, talking in terms of we make adjustments all the time with players. When we lose significant players to injury or a loss in the game plan, whatever it may be, we have to make adjustments and keep on moving. I explain to the coaches all the time, I expect everyone to approach the game planning from a coordinator’s mindset so they understand the big-picture and they can greater contribute to what’s going on within the game plan.”
“In terms of entering the bye week, we had played a stretch of three games leading into it where I thought as a team, we were making progress overall. There were some things we had to address and change and improve on, but ultimately, I thought going into the bye week giving it a little bit more time going forward. I just want to make sure that we continue to make progress in the right direction. Again, this is not a snap decision or anything in terms of a reflection of last night, but we’ve got to make some moves to give our offense an opportunity to change some things up, be more productive and ultimately score more points.”