Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett
November 12, 2020
Q: When you got hired here, Nick Gates had never played center in a game at any level. What did you see to suggest he could play the position, and how do you feel like he’s developing there?
A: What was interesting about Nick was that there was a lot of enthusiasm about him as a player. The people who had been around him here in this organization felt like, hey, he could play one of five positions. He could be a tackle, he could be a guard, he could be a center, all of that. We were excited about him, we were excited about what he looked like in the limited snaps that he had played. You just try to look at someone’s skillset. To be honest with you, there was a little bit of a need. We needed to find a center. We felt like if we gave him a shot to compete in there, we thought it was a good idea, and he could always fall back on playing guard or tackle. We put him in there, he seemed to handle it well. He has a natural leadership quality about him. He’s kind of a guy who loves to play football, he has a contagious spirit about him. I think the guys have rallied around that. The more he’s played, the more command he’s had of that position. Making communication, making calls that are necessary, and then technically playing the game at a higher level week after week. He’s done a nice job in there.
Q: You’ve been a player in this league, you’ve been a head coach in this league, I’m curious, when one team seems to have the other team’s number, does that ever become psychological year after year? You just got here, but the Eagles have beaten the Giants 12 out of 13. If you’ve ever been in a situation on either side of that where you’re the team winning a lot or losing a lot, does that ever become psychological in the locker room and do you have to address that as a coach?
A: I think the thing you always think about as a coach, and certainly you try to think about as a player, we talk about it all the time, the mental toughness to be your best regardless of circumstances. That sets up well in our game because you can have success on one play, but you have to be able to put that play behind you and go play the next play. You can have adversity on one play. Okay, put that behind you, go play the next play. That applies play to play, series to series, game to game. Anything like this that comes up or we’ve had a streak where we’ve beaten a team six games in a row, we’ve lost six games in a row, the first part of that equation is many of the players and coaches weren’t involved in that, the success or the adversity. That’s one way to look at it. But the other way to look at it is, hey, it’s like a new down. It’s like a new play. Whatever we did before, good, bad or indifferent, is really irrelevant to what’s going to happen right now. You try to lock in and prepare that way for every situation you’re in, and this week will be no different.
Q: If I can change gears for a second here, Golden Tate obviously will play this week. Do you take into account like, ‘hey, let’s just get him involved early,’ or do you move on from that whole mess by getting him a target early? Or do you not change anything from your regular game plan?
A: Golden’s been a good player for us. When we’ve given him opportunities, he had the ball come his way, he’s done a good job making plays for us. That’s always an objective with him and with (Sterling) Shep and with (Darius) Slay and Evan Engram and when we get our backs involved. All those guys, when they play, we like to feature them at some point to give them opportunities. At the same time, everyone just play within the system. Typically, quarterbacks play their best when they read things out and throw the ball to the right guy based on coverage. We have a lot of confidence in any of our guys to make plays.
Q: Why do you think it’s been a quiet few weeks for Darius Slayton?
A: Hard to explain why anybody has a lot of opportunities or not a lot of opportunities. Like I said before, we play our best when we attack different ways with different guys and the quarterback just reads things out. He’s done a real good job for us when he’s gotten opportunities, really over the course of the year and even these last couple weeks. Obviously, we’re trying to run the ball a little bit more. That’s been good for us against some of these real good defensive lines to quiet them down a bit. We feel great about Slay. Anytime he gets an opportunity, he’s done a good job getting open, and typically he converts on the play, so we like him a lot.
Q: I was just kind of wondering if he’s receiving a lot more attention. He has the number one following him around now and the safety over the top kind of deal?
A: I’d certainly say he’s a guy that people have seen make a lot of plays over the course of the year. Often times, they’ll put who they regard as their best defender on him for portions of the game or they’ll roll coverage to him. That’s really just a tribute to him and the success he’s had.
Q: What did you think when you first heard of the rotating offensive linemen, like you guys are doing now? Is it something you’ve ever done in the past?
A: I think with our offensive line situation, we don’t really have any established players. We don’t have guys who have played a long, long time and are kind of locked in. We just talked about Nick Gates just playing center for the first time. Cam Fleming’s whole career has been play right, play left, all of that, be ready for any situation. Then when you’re talking about three different rookies playing, we’re looking to give those guys opportunities to play. Each of those guys has handled those opportunities well, and they’re deserving of more opportunities to play. Offensive lines through the years, when they’ve been established, five guys are in there and that can be really good for your team. But when you’re trying to build a team and build a line, you have to give guys opportunities to do different things. One of the things we always emphasize with our offensive line is the ability to play different spots. If you’re a one-hole player on the offensive line, that’s not real good for you and that’s not real good for our team. You try to use that to your advantage, give guys opportunities, and if they do well, they earn more opportunities.
Q: I’m just curious, how difficult is it as a play-caller to kind of walk the tight rope with your quarterback, wanting him to be aggressive and push the ball downfield but maybe also reigning him in a little bit to protect himself from turning the ball over and focusing on that ball security?
A: I don’t know if we ever really talk about that. Something we talk about a lot as an offense and certainly at the quarterback position is to aggressively take what the defense gives you. There are situations where we have to run it and they’re playing run defense, and we have to run it anyway. There are situations where we have to pass it, they’re playing pass defense, and we have to pass it to have success anyway. But for the most part, you want to be aggressive, but you want to take what the defense gives you. I think the best quarterbacks in this league do that, whether it’s reading a play out, maybe have a shot called on a play but they play out of there and you have to work your way through the progression and find the right guy and feel good about taking it. I think if you look at our offense, our guys have done a good job running with the ball after the catch. Think about the running backs catching and going north and south, some examples of Shep catching and going north and south. Those are good plays for us. Then when you get an opportunity to throw it up the sideline to a guy like Austin Mack and make a big play down the field, you cash in on those. I think DJ has done a good job of that, and that’s really the language we talk in. Aggressively take what they give you and keep trying to be efficient and move the ball down the field, and make a lot of little plays. Then when you get a chance to make a big play, go ahead and do that. We think the best quarterbacks do that.
Q: I know that Daniel put the ball on the turf twice, but you guys recovered it both times. But it really seemed like his decision-making in terms of just protecting the football improved dramatically from Monday night to Sunday. What went into that and do you think there’s starting to be a little bit of growth there in terms of his decision-making in the pocket?
A: Yeah, the quarterback has the ball in his hands on every play. He has to make decisions in the passing game on every play, and in our case, in the running game as well. You have to be a great decision-maker. That’s what this position is about maybe more than anything else. The more you play, the more you’re in situations, the more you’re playing in a system, the more you see defenses, hopefully that decision-making process gets better and better and better. DJ’s done a lot of really good things for us over the course of the first half of the season. There’s no doubt he’s a young player who’s growing and developing every week.
Q: It seems like the last couple weeks, you’ve really dialed up some trick plays and really gotten creative. I think you had a flea flicker sort of into a screen that didn’t work but I’ve never really seen that type of play. Just what’s your process there? How do you come up with these? I’m sure it’s probably kind of fun to sit there and draw them up. But I’m just curious how you do come up with them.
A: I think the biggest thing you’re trying to do is put your players in a position where we can have some success executing plays. Part of that is your deceptives. I think our guys are capable of handling those. You said it, sometimes you call that stuff and you don’t have success with it. We’ve run some arounds and reverses that haven’t been real good. But other times, they are good and you hope they’ll have a residual effect as well, that teams have to prepare for those kinds of plays. If you get a chance where they hit at the right time and you get a chance to cash in on them, you have to do that because they can be difference-making plays in the game. We’ve had a couple of those this year. You’d like to have more as we go here, the chance to make some explosive plays. I just think that’s a part of playing offensive football, your deceptives, along with the base stuff that you run in your run and pass game each week.