Giants have hard decisions to make on Jason Garrett’s failing offense
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The anniversary arrives Wednesday and no one around the Giants will be exchanging cards or sentimental gifts or even acknowledging what went down seven years ago to the day.
What was proclaimed on Dec. 30, 2013 by John Mara, the co-owner of the Giants, was stark and harshly accurate: “I think our offense is broken right now,” Mara said. “We need to fix that.”
Last we checked, Mara still runs the show around the Giants. And, last we checked, the offense of the 2020 Giants, orchestrated by coordinator Jason Garrett, is in dire need of repair.
Mara’s blunt assessment just before 2014 was ushered in came less than 24 hours after his Giants finished up a 7-9 season and were ranked 28th in the NFL in scoring offense, averaged 18.4 points a game and scored a total of 29 rushing and passing touchdowns.
“We can’t go into next season with the same personnel,” Mara said back then, and when the man in charge speaks like this, change is inevitable.
Today’s New York Giants are 5-10 and are ranked 31st in scoring offense, averaging 17.1 points a game. These Giants have a total of 22 rushing and passing touchdowns.
To state the offense of the 2020 Giants is broken is not entirely accurate. It did not break. It did not go from good to bad, only bad to worse, worse to decent and back to bad. It started out broken and never got fixed.
Three days after Mara seven years ago identified the problem, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride announced his retirement. That saved the co-owner the distasteful task of instructing head coach Tom Coughlin to fire Gilbride, architect of two Super Bowl-winning attacks. Less than two weeks later, the Giants hired Ben McAdoo as their new offensive coordinator.
What does this mean for Garrett?
Forget that these Giants, even after their noncompetitive 27-13 loss in Baltimore, can finish in first place in the NFC East and go into the playoffs with what would be the worst record (6-10) ever for a division champion. This is an anomaly that cannot hide the glaring shortcomings on an offense lacking in speed, playmaking and general functionality. The loss of Saquon Barkley six quarters into the season must be factored in here, as he was the one player the entire offense was built around. There was a brief stretch when the running game got cooking without him but the passing game hasn’t showed up all season and that is either an indictment of Garrett’s system, Daniel Jones’ lack of development at quarterback or the mediocre talent at the skill positions. Or a combination of all of this.
The knock on Garrett around the league is that his offensive system works only if there is plenty of talent to make it go, that his system is based too much on one-on-one matchup winning and not enough on scheming his players into advantageous scenarios on the field. It is no secret Giants ownership was enamored with the idea of bringing in the experienced Garrett, with 10 years as a head coach with the Cowboys, as a consigliere for Joe Judge, the 38-year old, first-time head coach. Make no mistake, Judge made the hire, but he knew it would be a popular choice in the building.
Judge got into a confrontation with his offensive line coach, Marc Colombo, leading to Colombo’s firing at the bye week. Colombo, of course, worked under Garrett in Dallas, but it is going too far to connect these dots to determine Garrett took a hit in Judge’s eyes for this.
It remains to be seen how much leeway is given after this COVID-19-infused season, with remote meetings and a lack of a normal offseason program and preseason all impacting teams in a variety of ways, mostly adversely. Also, making a change to the offensive hierarchy would put Jones in his third system in three years, which is how young quarterbacks fail.
What is already documented is a lousy offense is the main reason why the Giants lose so often. The Giants left Seattle three weeks ago with a four-game winning streak and in first place. They have a total of two touchdowns and 26 points in the past three games, all losses. Something needs to change and will change, playoffs or not. Broken things should be repaired, or replaced.
More that came out of the one-sided loss in Baltimore:
— Some of the numbers that came out of the loss to the Ravens depict a more accurate portrayal of the dominance than the 14-point final margin. The Giants were 1-for-10 on third-down opportunities. The Ravens were 8 of 11. That is all anyone needs to know about how this game went down.
— Here is another doozy: The Giants ran only three offensive plays in the first quarter. That is their lowest total in a first quarter in at least the last 40 years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
— Will Hernandez is now an afterthought in the Giants’ offense. He played only 10 of the 64 snaps on offense, with rookie Shane Lemieux again getting the start at left guard and playing 54 snaps. Lemieux was a fifth-round draft pick in 2020. Hernandez was a second-round pick in 2018 of the former coaching regime. It is difficult to see where Hernandez fits in 2021, given that this coaching staff sees no need to get him on the field. And it is not as if Lemieux is playing at a Pro Bowl level.
— During the four-game winning streak, the defense was getting contributions from a bunch of rookies, but that was not a sustainable course of action. Too many snaps for Tae Crowder (57 of the 68 snaps on defense), Xavier McKinney (46), Cam Brown (24) and Carter Coughlin (11) resulted in all sorts of breakdowns against the Ravens, in terms of setting the edge in the running game and passing off receivers in the passing game.
— The Ravens always do an excellent job of distributing quotes during the week and after games. They were at it again after this easy victory, emailing quotes from head coach John Harbaugh and seven players – TE Mark Andrews, CB Anthony Averett, LB Chris Board, RB J.K. Dobbins, RB Gus Edwards, QB Lamar Jackson and LB Matthew Judon. All the interviews came out to a total of 4,369 words and not a single one of them ever uttered the name of a Giants player. The closest any of the Ravens came to acknowledging the Giants was when Harbaugh lauded his running game against “a proven run defense with some very good players – the defensive line and the middle linebacker.” He did not mention Blake Martine by name. Why is any of this relevant? Well, the Ravens were never asked and never saw the need to explain HOW they beat the Giants. No need to say how they kept any of the receivers under wraps or how they limited Wayne Gallman in the ground game or how they pressured Daniel Jones in the pocket or how they blocked Leonard Williams or beat any of the defensive backs. It was as if there was no one on the Giants that in any way scared the Ravens and so there was no need to discuss how they handled those individual players.
— There it goes. The streak of at least one sack on defense ended at 18 straight games when the Giants could not get Lamar Jackson on the ground. After a fast start, the sack parade has dried up. With 34 sacks this season, the Giants might not match last year’s output of 36 sacks.
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