Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett
December 3, 2020
Opening Statement: Before we get started on questions, I just wanted to say one thing. They are actually doing the memorial service for Markus Paul right now, so just an acknowledgment of him and the impact he made on so many of us who were so fortunate to be around him. On a similarly sad note, a teammate of mine from college, a guy by the name of David Rose passed away a couple weeks ago from COVID. We had a memorial for him late last night over zoom as well. A really sad time to lose two special people, but really inspirational people. They will continue to have a tremendous impact on all of us who are so fortunate to know them. Thanks so much.
Q: You’ve coached a lot of tough running backs that fall forward and gain yards when they are about get tackled. How much do you value that in a running back and how special of a skill is it to have that?
A: I think it’s a critical trait. In so many ways, your running backs can be the heartbeat of your team. I was fortunate to be on a Cowboy team in the 90’s for eight years and our running back was Emmitt Smith. Every week we would play against defenses who’s really number one objective was to slow him down. Somehow, some way, he still made yards. He still made an impact on the defense. A big part of that was falling forward and really controlling the tempo of the game. We had similarly good running backs in Dallas when I was coaching there. Whether it was Marion Barber, DeMarco Murray or Zeke Elliott. I really think in a lot of ways Wayne Gallman has been doing that for our football team for the last month and a half. The O-line has done an excellent job controlling the line of scrimmage. Wayne and the other backs have done a really good job kind of providing that same kind of the physicalness that you’re looking for in your team. It starts up front, but it’s really everywhere. Tight ends, receivers, fullback and certainly the guy who is running with the football. One of the things about Wayne that’s so impressive is he’s a really good athlete, quickness, speed, elusiveness. He’s also demonstrating that physicalness that you’re talking about. His ability to finish runs has really been apparent to us. Certainly helped us a great deal as an offense and as a team.
Q: You’re looking at possibly Colt McCoy for your quarterback this weekend. As a coordinator and a play caller, what’s the biggest challenge tailoring your scheme and your offense around the backup quarterback?
A: I think the biggest thing you try to do for a backup quarterback is just try to create a comfortable environment for him. That’s what you’re trying to do every week for your starting quarterback. Typically, your starting quarterback gets a ton of reps with the ones all throughout training camp, all throughout the week. The backup quarterback has fewer opportunities to do that. You just have to be mindful of that and understand that he is going into a game that’s being played at full speed by guys who have been playing at that speed all throughout the year. He has to kind of catch up to that speed, if you will. I thought Colt did a really good job last week in the game getting comfortable and allowing us to function as an offense. I thought he handled himself really well. Depending on how this thing plays out this week, we’ll try to get him some work and some reps. If he does have to play in the ball game this week, hopefully he’ll be comfortable. You look for things in his past he’s comfortable with. With you or with somebody else. Just so when that ball is snapped, it’s all internalized in him. He’s just going out there and playing football.
Q: It seemed like Daniel (Jones) had been able to turn a corner the last couple of games. He was playing at a pretty high level. If he has to miss time, how do you make sure there is no regression there? That he keeps that growth.
A: The best way to grow as a player is to have experience playing in games. Daniel has gotten more and more experience here this year as a starting quarterback in this system. I think he’s really grown throughout the season. You said it, I think he’s playing at a very high level. He’s made a number of plays for us. He’s minimized the bad plays. The best way to continue to do that is you stay out on the field and you keep growing from the experiences that you have. One thing I know about Daniel Jones is that he loves football. He’s always incredibly prepared for any opportunity that he has. Whether it’s a practice opportunity or a game. He’ll continue to do that. Whatever his role or status is, he comes to work every day and he’s ready to go. He’s going to take full advantage of that opportunity. Hopefully, we’ll get him back out there soon. He can continue his progression. If he’s not able to play, I know he is going to be right in there with it. Trying to take advantage of the opportunity, nonetheless.
Q: As far as the run game, did you guys have to change anything once you lost Saquon? Why have you been able to find success with these other guys coming in?
A: I think they are good players. Back to the point of experience, you have a young offensive line with different guys playing. They are going to have a progression over the course of the year. I think about Andrew Thomas and not having an opportunity to play in the preseason and the first one out of the box you get Pittsburgh and Bud Dupree and (TJ) Watt. The next week you get Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack. Then you get the guys from San Francisco, guys from L.A., the guys from Dallas. That’s an indoctrination for a young player like that. Some of the other guys like Nick Gates not really playing center before, the guys he had to block early on in the year. The best thing those guys did is they learned from their experiences. They got knocked around a little bit, there was some adversity. They kept learning and growing individually and collectively as a group. I think they understood more and more what we’re asking them to do. They learned from their experiences, the practical experiences blocking NFL defensive linemen. I think they’ve grown. We all know that we’re so far away from where we need to be, but there’s no doubt here we’ve made progress in the last month and a half. Those guys have done a really good job and been a big part of that.
Q: I want to ask you about fourth and third and short situations or goal situations. You guys seem to have a high percentage of efficiency or conversion rate, especially when you have Eli Penny on the field at fullback. What is special about Eli and why are you guys converting these short yardage situations at such a high clip?
A: Well, they are hard situations, there’s no doubt about that. There’s those nut cutting situations in football that you have to be good at. Eli has been a really good player for us. Whatever we have asked him to do, he goes in and plays and is effective. As a blocker, as a runner, he’s just a good football player. He’s one of those guys that as a coaching staff you’re always saying, we have to find ways to get him more opportunities. Typically, good things happen when he’s out there. He had more snaps in the game the other day and again he took advantage of them. They are not easy situations. They are ones that you have to embrace and really you have to convert. I think it starts with the guys up front, and the progress they’ve made here over the last six or seven weeks. I think that’s a big part of it. I think our quarterback has played well. Our runners have played well. Everybody has got a piece of it. Just because we made one yesterday doesn’t mean we’re going to make one today. They’re still hard, they’re still hard every week. We try to prepare for them as best we can and put our guys in the best situations we can. They’ve done a good job executing.
Q: With regard to Saquon, obviously you went up against him a lot. Do you feel a little deprived not to have had him to coach this season? There have been some pretty high-profile running backs that have come back from this kind of thing. Knowing Saquon as much as you do, is there any doubt that he’ll be back as the guy that was before he got hurt.
A: My sadness comes from the fact that one of the great players in the league isn’t playing. He’s such a special person. We absolutely love him as a guy. Obviously, he’s a special football player. Just for him to not have the opportunity to play this year, I’m just sad for him, beyond anything for our team. He just goes about it the right way. Like you said, when we went against him in Dallas, he was clearly the focal point of what we were trying to do, trying to stop that guy. We had a few games where we felt like we stopped him for about twenty or twenty-one carries and then they would throw him a screen and he goes 68 yards. He’s that kind of a player. He gets so much attention and still is a productive guy. For us, he’s such a great person and you love him and he love ball. He wants to be out there. For him to not have that opportunity this year is certainly disappointing for him and everybody who cares so much about him. In regards to him coming back, obviously it’s a significant injury. I really have zero doubt in my mind that he is going to come back and play at a really high level. Just because of the kind of person he is, the kind of athlete he is. How important it is to him.
Q: I just want a bit of a clarification. You said making Colt (McCoy) feel comfortable if he plays. Does that mean scale back or cut down?
A: I don’t know that it’s scale back or cut down. There’s nothing mentally or physically that Colt is not capable of doing. I wouldn’t look at it that way. You’re always trying to create an environment where your players are comfortable with what they’re doing. There’s a lot of plays in football. Let’s run the ones that our quarterback likes to run and they’re comfortable running. Let’s run the ones that our linemen are good at, our runners are good at. The things our tight ends and our receivers do best. You’re always trying to do that regardless of who’s playing. Regardless of how many snaps they’ve played. You’re probably a little bit more sensitive to that with a backup quarterback who hasn’t had the backlog of reps that the other guys have had. I just think you’re trying to customize it. I don’t think you’re cutting it down in any way.