The virtual offseason is fully underway for the teams that decided to have one, such as the New York Giants, but they're in a unique situation as one of only a handful of teams who are starting behind the eight ball in 2020. That's because they weren't allowed to physically begin meetings and conditioning on April 6 -- due to the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) -- a date that would've been two weeks earlier than teams who did not fire one head coach and hire another. This is one of the early hurdles first-year head coach Joe Judge must contend with, but it's far from being the only.
On the whole, he's tasked with repairing a Giants team that has just one winning season in its last seven attempts, none since 2016, and one that's entering its first full season of the post-Eli Manning era.
To help potentially accomplish the goal of turning the franchise around, he's hired Jason Garrett as his offensive coordinator -- almost immediately after Garrett split from the Dallas Cowboys -- hoping Big Blue's former quarterback and subsequent NFC East rival can push the offense to new heights. Garrett wasted no time in putting his imprint on the team, hiring former Cowboys compatriots like offensive line coach Marc Colombo, offensive tackle Cameron Fleming and quarterback Cooper Rush.
But the looming question is what will the Giants offense truly look like in 2020? Judge answered that question rather directly when it was posed to him, noting it'll look nothing like the one from Daniel Jones' rookie season when the team ranked 23rd in yardage and 18th in points scored per game.
Instead, it'll mirror what Garrett did in Dallas for more than a decade.
"Schematically, the easiest way to describe it right now to the outside world is it's going to be similarly based off of what [Jason Garrett] has done in Dallas over the last 10 or so years," Judge said on a conference call with Giants reporters. "There's going to be similarities with that, but it's got to be catered to the players we have on our roster. Right now we're installing all the base concepts and the shell of the offense. I think really you'll see throughout training camp and as it takes form -- as different players emerge -- and it's going to take shape throughout the season as well."
One thing Garrett was known for in Dallas was leaning heavily on the respective week's game plan for the opponent, for better or for worse. The blueprint often got the Cowboys in trouble due to an inability to break the mold as needed and adjust on the fly, choosing to instead hammer away at their premeditated approach with the hopes of the game somehow adapting for them -- instead of the other way around. The Cowboys often suffered mightily in the third quarter of games because of the approach, but Judge says for as much as he's looking forward to Garrett migrating his Cowboys' playbook to New York, he's also hopeful there will be a willingness to flex during games.
"We're going to be a team that focuses on gameplans, and whatever we have to do game by game," he said. "That may be running the ball every play or throwing the ball every play -- based on the opponent -- but we're going to make sure we're not too rigid in what we're doing that we can't adapt by gameplan."
Given Garrett's history, however, the latter feels like a big ask.
A talented offensive mind in his own right, admittedly, Garrett and the Cowboys offense were dominant at times during his tenure in Dallas, finishing in the top-10 on five of the last 10 seasons. But although they finished with the No. 1 offense in the league in 2019, and while it was Garrett's playbook on the table, it was offensive coordinator Kellen Moore calling virtually 100 percent of the plays in-game. The year prior, when play-calling was more a mix of Garrett and Scott Linehan, the Cowboys' offense was ranked 22nd-overall in both yards gained and points scored, and that was despite Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper all having been available for the full 16-game slate.
Additionally, it was offensive line coach Bill Callahan -- not Garrett -- calling plays when the team ranked fifth-overall in both 2013 and [mostly] 2014 before he was forcibly replaced by Linehan.
The Garrett and Linehan-steered offense did lead Prescott and Elliott to historic seasons in 2016 and a fifth-overall offensive ranking, but the wheels began to fall off immediately thereafter before Moore was promoted to play-caller and infused creativity and adaptation into the unit. So while Garrett certainly has the chops to be a successful orchestrator for the Giants, the questions surrounding his usual rigidity and if the Giants have the personnel to match the loaded front Garrett had in Dallas -- outside of Saquon Barkley, as one example -- are all justifiable.
"It's not the true West Coast system," Judge explained of Garrett's offense as it relates to what Jones will be asked to do. "Really, one thing that Jason does that's outstanding is that it's really his system that's formed over years collectively from where he's played and coached under. Those are parts of the conversation we had when we talked about [him] joining the staff, and we've talked along the way -- is it's really a collection of what Jason has put together throughout his own career."
Garrett has worked with a talented quarterback or two, to say the least, so on that note alone -- he could be beneficial for Jones.
That said, if Garrett remains true-to-form, it'll be Barkley doing the lion's share of the work going forward, much like Elliott in Dallas prior to Prescott's arm having been unleashed by Moore in 2019. Obviously, that bell-cow formula would be anything but new to Barkley, but the problem is that gameplan wouldn't be new to the Giants either; in a season that needs to see them become less predictable offensively. Whether Judge knows it or not, and until further notice when it comes to Garrett's style of offense, the Giants are going into 2020 not nearly as disconnected from 2019 as they might think.
Can Garrett adapt from here on out? It's definitely possible, but will he? Well, his history in Dallas doesn't offer a ringing endorsement. They are now married to Garrett though, and the team's new head coach doesn't appear to be a knee-jerk personality that would flinch if the union gets off to a rough start following the honeymoon.
With the addition of Garrett following the signing of Judge, the Giants now have something old and something new, hoping the something borrowed -- from the Cowboys -- is good for the something Blue.