Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett
October 1, 2020
Q: You had a young quarterback down in Dallas, obviously, with Dak (Prescott). He went through his struggles at times. Now you come here and you have another young quarterback with Daniel (Jones), and he struggles at times, too. He’s obviously coming off a game I’m sure he’d like to have a few throws back and all that. My question, I’m curious how do you keep a young quarterback’s confidence up going into the next game, in this instance the Rams?
A: That idea applies to all of your players. One of the things that’s part of the NFL is adversity. The guys on the other side are good. You’re going to be challenged every snap. Regardless of what position you’re playing, playing with the confidence that you’re going to have success on this particular down is critical. You want to do that with all of your guys, and you certainly want to do that with your quarterback. The quarterback has the ball in his hands every play. Things aren’t going to go perfectly, so you have to be able to handle the adversity of the game and just keep going. That’s one of the things we really like about Daniel. He just has that mindset mentality of a competitor. Whether he has success or failure or adversity on a previous play, he’s going to keep coming back. He’s demonstrated that over the course of the first three weeks.
Q: When you face a player like Aaron Donald who does so many things well, is it feasible to use some of the things that he does well against him when you game plan for him?
A: Yeah, he’s a great player. He’s one of those players that probably every week in every game that he’s played throughout his career, he’s gotten special attention from the opposing offense. Whatever that attention is, a chip, a double team, the way they slide protections, putting a back up there, and he always, somehow someway, finds a way to show up in the game, both in the run game as a run defender and pressure on the quarterback. He’s just one of those rare, unique players. To a certain extent, you like to use his aggressiveness against him, but his productivity week in and week out over the course of his career speaks for itself. He’s a great football player. It’ll be a great challenge for our team this week.
Q: What did you see from Devonta (Freeman) in his first game? What do you expect to see from him moving forward? Then if I can get a quick one too about you added Alfred Morris. You had him last year I think in Dallas. How are you going to use him? He’s on the practice squad now.
A: It was good to see Devonta come in here last week and do as well as he did with the work that he got, both in practice and the snaps he got in the game. He’s been a really good football player in this league for a number of years. It’s great to have him on board. He’s learning more and more every day, and getting better and better and more and more comfortable with our systems. You’ll continue to see more of him going forward. Then Alfred has just been a really good player. A 1,000-yard rusher three times in this league. We had him in Dallas as one our backups to Zeke (Elliott). He was one of those guys when Zeke was out and couldn’t play in a game for whatever reason, Alfred went in and was very productive. He’s a great person, he keeps himself in great shape, he had a good practice yesterday so it’s great to have him on board as well.
Q: Is it strange to have a 31-year-old running back on the practice squad?
A: The practice squads are a little bit different this year. We have more guys. That designation is probably being used a little bit differently than it has been in the past. It’s just great to have him on our team.
Q: What do you think when somebody says to you you’re averaging 12.7 points per game at this point? Then in order to score points, what do you view as the things that this offense needs to do to be able to get that done?
A: We just need to play better across the board offensively. Obviously, we’ve faced some good defenses in Pittsburgh, Chicago and San Francisco, so great respect for them. But we haven’t done anything well enough up to this point. It starts with controlling the line of scrimmage and running the football. We haven’t done that on a consistent basis. You have to be efficient both running it and throwing it. You have to be able to make explosive plays both in the run game and in the pass game. We haven’t been able to do that. At different times, we’ve done a good job sustaining drives. We’ve had some long drives in each of the games. We have to do that more consistently, but we have to make some explosive plays. Explosive plays typically give you great opportunities to score on those drives. We haven’t done a good enough job of that. Across the board, we just have to do a better job.
Q: If I can just follow up on that real quick, what’s going wrong in the running game? Daniel led you guys in rushing two games. I know you don’t have Saquon (Barkley) back there to kind of mask some of the issues up front with a big run, but what are some of the issues that are causing the running game to struggle so much and how do you fix it?
A: It’s across the board like I just said. It starts with the guys up front, but everybody is a part of the running game. The offensive linemen, the tight ends, the receivers, the backs, us as coaches putting them in a great position, calling the right stuff at the right time. We just haven’t consistently blocked them well enough and run well enough across the board. We have to find ways to do that to become a balanced attack, to be able to attack both in the run game and the pass game. We’ll continue to work on that as we go forward.
Q: Is your guys’ inability to run the ball affecting how often you run play action?
A: We’ve run a lot of play action, or a decent amount of play action, over the first few weeks. Obviously, sometimes you get into games and you’re behind, you’re in a two-minute drill before the half or two-minute drill at the end of the game or you’re down a couple scores and you get yourself into a different mode. I think it’s probably less about that, about the inability to run the football, than it is about game type situations. Even in games where we didn’t run the ball particularly well, the play action stuff was actually pretty good for us. We’ll continue to do that. Again, the goal is to attack defenses different ways, starting with run and pass, but then the varieties you use within that, the play action game, the run action game, the movement game are all things we strive to do each week.
Q: So it’s more about being behind in games than whatever is happening in the run game pretty much?
A: Yeah, sometimes you get into those numbers where you throw it a ton in a game because you throw it the last 12, 14 snaps of the game because the game is a little bit out of hand. That’s certainly what happened last week. We want to be balanced. The biggest thing we have to do is take advantage of our opportunities. If you look at that game last week against San Francisco, we had 18 plays in the first half prior to the two-minute drive. Three six-play drives, we kick field goals on two of them, and the other one we had the fumble on the around play. The biggest thing we have to do is when we get opportunities, take advantage of it to keep drives alive, to break through the fringe part of the field and get down to the red zone, give us some opportunities to score some touchdowns. We have to do our part in taking advantage of our ops. Again, run the football, throw the football, be more efficient, don’t turn the ball over. Those are all things that are a part of doing that.
Q: Real quick. Why Cooper Rush out and Clayton Thorson in? I know Cooper’s a guy you brought here who you have a lot of faith in.
A: Yeah, we like Coop. Coop did a really good job for us. He was in the practice squad role. We just thought, we brought Clayton in for a workout. Clayton was with us in Dallas last year as well. Gave him an opportunity to come in and see what he can do learning our system. But [I] like both those guys a lot. Both of those guys are good, young quarterbacks who can play in this league.
Q: With regard to Daniel, obviously, you just had him three games here, but your familiarity with him is pretty good from playing against him. With regard to the turnovers which seem to continue to happen for him, can you put your finger on what’s going on there? What are the things you’re trying to do to curve that?
A: It’s about the ball for everybody. Everybody has a responsibility to the ball. It starts with coaches, but the guys up front, tight ends, receivers, running backs, and certainly the quarterback when he has the ball in his hand. That’s a big point of emphasis for us. We just have to continue to focus on protecting it better, continue to focus on our decision-making, continue to focus on putting the players in a good environment where they can protect the football, and understanding the place that the ball has in the game. Last week, we had just over 50 plays in the game, but three of those plays were turnovers, and they were significant plays in the game for us. We all have a piece of it, we all have a responsibility for it. It’s important for us to continue to emphasize it and take that practice emphasis to the game.
Q: If I can just follow up a little bit, being more specific to Daniel, is there a common denominator with some of this stuff that you’ve seen with him?
A: I don’t know if there’s a common denominator. I think if you look at the turnovers this year, they’ve happened in different ways. Sometimes it’s been a sack in the pocket, it’s been a pitch on an around play, it might be a fumble here, an interception there for different reasons. I think if you look back at last year, you’d probably see them the same way. I’ve been around young players before, we’ve had issues turning the ball over. You just keep emphasizing it and you keep trying to put them in an environment where the ball is not at risk. Having said that, when you play that position, you have to make plays in this league, too. You’re always balancing those things. We never want to take the edge or the stinger off the player. But at the same time, I’ve seen it done where you can make plays and also take care of the football. That’s what we’re striving for with him and for everybody on our team.
Q: There have been some quarterbacks that have not been able to shed that habit. Is there any concern that he’s going to continue to do this?
A: Daniel has a chance to be a really good player. He has all the physical tools, he has all the intangibles you want. He loves it, he works hard at it, he’s tough, physically and mentally, and I think this is just something that the more he plays, hopefully the better he gets at it. I don’t think it’s a rare thing for young players who play quarterback to have these issues. We just have to keep working on it and hopefully he’ll continue to grow week by week.
Q: It seems like your receivers are having a hard time gaining separation from the defensive backs. I’m wondering if, as a play caller, there’s anything you can do to help them artificially gain some separation. The guy I’m really thinking of here is Golden Tate, who’s so good at yards after the catch but doesn’t seem to have any open space to run it.
A: Yeah, I think that’s an important thing. Receivers’ jobs are to get open and catch the football for you. You have to win one on ones in this league. But at the same time, we as coaches are always trying to put them in a great position where they have some advantages to do that. Whether that’s our formation use or how they align, whether you’re using motion, putting them in different spots, you’re always looking for ways to do that to help your guys. The guys are working hard. I do think they’re getting better and better and better. We have to continue to work in that area because making some plays in the passing game, just simply beating our guys, is a critical part of having some success and being efficient in that area of our team.