Dave Gettleman believes in Daniel Jones as strongly as ever and is excited about the prospects for the Giants’ offensive line. He is also dissatisfied the team averaged only 17.5 points a game in 2020.
Because of that, the general manager today had no reason to be coy regarding the franchise’s objectives as it enters a critical offseason.
“At the end of the day, we need to find playmakers,” Gettleman said during his annual postseason news conference on Zoom. “That’s all there is to it. I’m not sugarcoating it. If you talk about philosophically doing roster building, it’s the Q (quarterback), it’s the big men who allow you to compete. On offense, it’s playmakers. We have to be very conscious of it. We’re going to find the right guys to help Daniel get us over that hump.
“We’ve got great leadership. We’ve got a young club, a new, young team. I understand that. At the end of the day, this is an important offseason, roster building offseason, for us. We’ve got some solid pieces. We’ve built up the lines. We’ve done some things. We have to continue to get good players and part of it is getting playmakers, because that’s what you’re referring to. This is a goal of ours, obviously, for the offseason.”
On his own Zoom call with reporters, team president and chief executive officer John Mara expressed a similar sentiment.
“I think we certainly need to help our offense a little bit this offseason, be it free agency and the draft,” Mara said. “I think we need some more pieces there. Part of the problem that we had is we had a brand new offensive line with new guys playing new positions. They had never played together before, we had no offseason, we had no preseason games for them to get to know each other and get the feel for playing with one another, and they struggled, particularly early in the year, no question about it. I thought they started to play better in the second half of the season. But there’s no question that we need to help our offense going forward and add some more pieces. That will be a priority for us.”
The Giants were 6-10 and NFC East second-place finishers in 2020. Despite the record, they would be preparing for a postseason game as division champions had Washington lost to Philadelphia Sunday night.
Gettleman acknowledges the roster must be upgraded before the 2021 season begins. But he strongly believes the Giants have the two elements most critical to any improvement with Joe Judge as coach and Jones at quarterback.
“The bottom line is, with Joe, is his big picture view and then the follow up on the attention to detail,” Gettleman said. “That’s what’s really critical. He starts at A and gets to Z. That is huge, that is really huge. Obviously, he is a very bright guy. That’s what really sticks out in my mind. Just the big picture and the attention to detail. No detail is too small, the old saying, ‘The devil is in the details.’ He and his staff, he is really tuned into that.”
Gettleman selected Jones sixth overall in the 2019 NFL Draft and he’s more convinced than ever that it was the correct decision.
“Obviously, he flashed last year,” Gettleman said of Jones’ rookie season. “He had some big games and played well. Then he had games that weren’t so great. This year, early in the season he was struggling with his ball protection. We all know that. The second half of the year unfortunately he had that blip with the hamstring (and missed two games). He finished the season very strong. He played well against Baltimore despite getting chased all over the place to a degree. Made some big-time throws.”
In the season-ending 23-19 victory against Dallas on Sunday, Jones completed 17 of 25 passes for 229 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a season-best 106.9 passer rating. That would have put the Giants into the postseason had the Philadelphia Eagles defeated Washington that night.
“Really and truly, it may sound trite, but obviously the last game of the year was a playoff game for us, it really was,” Gettleman said. “We have to win that game to force Washington to win their game. Daniel played very well. He made a couple of big-time throws. Protected the ball for the most part. The one pick was off of Evan’s (Engram) hands. He’s done a lot of really good stuff. He’s made of the right stuff mentally and physically. Again, we’re talking about a young quarterback who has had two different offensive coordinators in the NFL. Two different systems. Obviously, he had a different one at Duke, so he got three different systems in three years. I thought he got beyond the hamstring the last two games and he played well. We have complete confidence in him moving forward.”
Upgrading the offensive line has been one of Gettleman’s priorities since he arrived. This year, the group had three new starters in left tackle Andrew Thomas (the team’s 2020 first-round draft choice) left guard Shane Lemieux (a fifth-round selection) and center Nick Gates, a third-year pro who had never before played the position. Communication and continuity are considered critical for an O-line and as Mara noted, this group (which early in the season had Will Hernandez at left guard) had to develop a rapport via virtual meetings and training camp practices.
“We’ve got some really nice, young pieces,” Gettleman said. “Nick Gates stepped in there. He’d never played offensive center before. We drafted Will (Hernandez) and Shane Lemieux. You have (Kevin) Zeitler and Andrew Thomas who acquitted himself very well when he had that rough patch and then he got himself rolling again. I think this offensive line can compete. You can cherry pick here, cherry pick there, in terms of which game you want to pick and how the offense did. The offensive line showed very good progress. They’re big, they’re young, they’re strong and they’re tough and smart. This O-Line has a chance to be pretty damn good.”
The defensive line already is, most notably Leonard Williams. Gettleman was roundly criticized at midseason in 2019 when he sent three and fifth-round draft choices to the Jets for Williams, a first-round draft choice in 2015. Williams was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week twice following two of the final five games, including after his career-high three-sack performance against Dallas. He finished the season with a team-high and career-best 11.5 sacks.
“Leonard deserves a lot of credit for how he prepared this year,” Gettleman said. “Sean Spencer working with him as the D-line coach, the scheme that (defensive coordinator) Pat (Graham) had for him.. There was a reason that (Williams was the sixth overall selection in the draft). Leonard did a great job. He did a great job of working his fanny off. Again, the atmosphere for our players – one of hard work, you can have fun, you can enjoy yourself and Leonard did a heck of a job and his position coach, Sean Spencer, Pat Graham and Joe. The bottom line is he thrived in our atmosphere. I’m ecstatic. It’s like I tell players all the time, ‘I only want you to be successful and I want you to make me cry when it comes to negotiations.’”
While the Giants have numerous promising pieces on offense and defense, growing pains are always difficult to endure. Aside from perhaps Mara, no one has felt them more acutely than Gettleman.
“Of course, it’s disappointing,” Gettleman said. “It’s disappointing not just for me personally, but I’m disappointed for the organization. I’m disappointed for the players and the fans. Sure, it’s disappointing. Listen, last time I double checked, it’s about winning. I’m very disappointed. I guess the best thing I can say is – John said in 2018 we didn’t have a stellar year, didn’t have a stellar roster building season, it’s affected us. We’re on the right track right now. We’ve done some really good stuff the last two years. We’re going to fix this. We are going to fix this.”
Gettleman is a cancer survivor who turns 70 next month. But he is determined and motivated to lead the fix.
“I feel good, I feel strong. I had my 24-month review with my lymphoma doctor. He says you’re as healthy as a horse. Let’s just keep moving, so I’m ready to rock.
“It really is dependent upon the Lord how long I stick around for. We’re all day to day, by the way, in case anybody missed that point. I feel fine, I feel good, I’m excited. I just want to keep going. I don’t know where this retirement stuff came from. I have no idea what that’s all about. There are probably some people that… at the end of the day, I feel great. So, let’s keep going.”
The flexibility and multiple skills Julian Love contributes to the Giants’ secondary is perhaps best exemplified by his positioning and performance in the team’s first and final games of the 2020 season.
In the season opener against Pittsburgh, Love started and played all 64 defensive snaps and had three solo tackles at safety. Sixteen weeks later, he started at cornerback, missed just one of the 82 defensive plays and had seven tackles (five solo) in the season-ending victory against Dallas.
So, where will Love play in 2021, when he will be a third-year pro in a defensive backfield that is arguably the Giants’ deepest position group? Anywhere the team wants him.
“After talking to the coaches, the versatility role for me is kind of what will happen going forward as well,” Love said on a Zoom call today. “Kind of being able to play a lot of positions, and then we’ll see how the offseason goes. I’m going to keep working and try to really establish myself in a role. But right now, my role is the guy who can get it anywhere for us.
“I think that’s kind of what I’ve always done before college, high school ball and growing up. It’s kind of a fun aspect of playing the game.”
The drawback to not having a set position is that Love spends more time in some games on the sideline than on the field. He played no more than 50% of the defensive snaps in six games and played only on special teams at Dallas on Oct. 11. In the season’s penultimate game, he participated in only 11 defensive plays (16.2%) in Baltimore.
“They told us that’s kind of how things might operate,” Love said. “One week you might not play at all, one week you might play every snap. I thought it was kind of a joke, like, ‘Oh okay, yeah you need to be ready, you have to be flexible,’ all that stuff. But for me, it was pretty real. It requires some patience at times. But I knew there was always a plan. That kept me motivated, it kept me going. I was always really on the game plan and really ready to go. The ending, a lot of snaps played, I played the last game, it sent me into the offseason ready to keep working and keep growing.”
Love did play in all 16 games, starting six, and was on the field enough to finish fourth on the team with 61 tackles (45 solo). He picked up his second career interception – both in Chicago – and had three passes defensed.
Love made his first pro start at cornerback against Cleveland on Dec. 20, after James Bradberry was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. He played little against the Ravens but replaced Isaac Yiadom at the corner opposite Bradberry on Sunday vs. the Cowboys.
“He’s a guy that brings a lot of versatility to us,” coach Joe Judge said. “He’s just a steady, even-keeled guy. (Against Cleveland), we had a situation come up with the corner position. When we went to Julian and said, ‘Hey, you have to play corner this week,’ he didn’t blink. He said, ‘Whatever you need,’ and went out there and worked it. I thought he played a solid game for us right there. That just kind of shows his overall value to the defense, his ability to play nickel corner, perimeter corner, or deep field safety. He does a lot of things for us and that’s a strength.”
Love played cornerback at Notre Dame where, as a junior in 2018, he started all 13 games and was one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is presented to the nation’s best defensive back. The Giants selected him in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft and after playing as a reserve early in his rookie season, Love started the season’s last five games at strong safety, after Jabrill Peppers suffered a season-ending back injury.
This year, Love started the season’s first two games at free safety before veteran Logan Ryan replaced him. He started two games at midseason as an extra safety. When Love next appeared as a starter, against the Browns, it was at corner. He played there against Dallas and helped limited the Cowboys’ talented trio of wideouts – Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb – to 133 yards and no touchdowns on 15 catches.
“It was pretty fun,” Love said of returning to corner. “Kind of going back to some of the roots I established in college. I enjoyed it.
“Julian Love had to be prepared,” Ryan said. “He looked like he was up for the Thorpe Award again, like he was at Notre Dame. It was like his old Notre Dame days again. There was a lot of him.”
Ryan is a role model for Love. Prior to joining the Giants, Ryan played seven seasons for New England and Tennessee and started 95 regular-season and postseason games. Every one of them was at cornerback or as an unspecified defensive back. Ryan made his first career start at safety on Sept. 27 against San Francisco.
“Logan Ryan, having him on the team really helps me, football wise and just off the field wise,” Love said. “He’s a true pro in all he does. It’s easy to look at him and say, ‘Alright, this is kind of what I want to be. This is the type of player and person I’m striving to get toward, the type of career I’m trying to have.’ He was a guy I could always ask any question about, whether it was technical or not. He always had an answer for me. Him and Nate Ebner have really just helped me grow. Those guys, their careers are something you only dream of. Hopefully, I can learn from them going forward.”
The Giants have a talented group of returning defensive backs, including Bradberry, Ryan, Peppers, 2020 rookies Xavier McKinney and Darnay Holmes, and Love.
“We have some very talented pieces, and it does nothing but excite us going forward,” Love said. “We have a lot of players who have that just base of being ballplayers, and guys who are versatile, guys who can play different types of schemes. I know we’re going to use that to the best of our ability. We’re going to max out everything we have in the back end because when you look at it, we have kind of a young core. Logan Ryan and James Bradberry are experienced players. We’re young but we’re very talented. We feel the sky is really the limit for us. I think it’s perfect Xavier McKinney finishing the game (with an interception), finishing the season for us. That just shows kind of where our trajectory is, really.”
Many around the NFL are not happy with the way the Philadelphia Eagles handled their season-finale against the Washington Football Team on Sunday night. There was a lot at stake in this game. If Washington wins, they win the NFC East. If they lose, the Giants, who beat Dallas earlier in the day, win the division.
Here is what got a lot of people upset. First, with the Eagles down 17-14 in the third quarter, Philadelphia had an opportunity to tie the game with a short field goal, but Eagles head coach Doug Pederson decided to go for it on fourth down, and ultimately, Washington would stop them.
Finally, Philadelphia decided to remove their starting QB Jalen Hurts, who ran for two touchdowns on Sunday, and replaced him with Nate Sudfeld, who had not thrown a pass since 2018. Well, Sudfeld proceeded to commit two turnovers(fumble, interception) and finished the game 5/12 for 32 yards. Philadelphia would not score again and would fall to Washington 20-14.
With the loss, the Eagles secured the sixth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Washington won the NFC East, and the Giants were eliminated.
On Monday, Giants head coach Joe Judge addressed the situation, and he was not very happy.
“I’ll let Philadelphia speak for themselves on that in terms of how they approached the game,” Judge said. “Really simply, I was in my office last night. I watched our film from the game yesterday, and then I was actually watching our first Tampa game with the Philly-Washington game on in the background. There’s been a lot made of that game internal or from the outside. Let me just be very clear on this; we had sixteen opportunities this year, that’s it. It’s our responsibility to take care of our opportunities and perform better and execute the situations when they’re on our plate. We don’t ever want to leave our fate in the hands of anybody else. We’re not going to make excuses as an organization. Not now, not ever. We had our opportunities. We need to learn from the lessons we have from this year and carry them forward. That’s the experience you truly gain. That’s really the most important thing right there, our opportunities.
“That being said, obviously, players have asked me throughout the day. The one thing to keep in mind with this season is we had a lot of people opt into this season. We had a lot of people opt-in. Coaches, players, that includes family members as well. To look at a group of grown men who I ask to give me effort on a day in day out basis and to empty the tank. I can look them in the eye and assure them that I’m always going to do everything I can to put them in a competitive advantage and play them in a position of strength. To me, you don’t ever want to disrespect those players and their effort and disrespect the game. The sacrifices that they made to come in to work every and test before coming in. To sit in meetings spaced out, to wear masks, to have shields over those masks, to go through extensive protocols, to travel in unconventional ways, and to get text messages at 6:30 in the morning telling them practice was going to be canceled we have to do a virtual day. To tell them to please don’t have your family over for Thanksgiving, please avoid Christmas gatherings, we know it’s your wife’s birthday; let’s make sure we put that one off to the offseason. There’s a number of sacrifices that have been made by all the players and coaches in this league. There’s a number of sacrifices that come along as well for the family members of the people connected to them. To disrespect the effort that everyone put forward to make this season a success for the National Football League, to disrespect the game by going out there and not competing for 60 minutes and doing everything you can to help those players win. We will never do that as long as I am the head coach of the New York Giants.”
In life and in football, you never let anyone control your destiny, and in the end, New York did not do enough to control their destiny, and because of that, the Washington Football Team are NFC East champions. It’s that simple.
However, one thing for sure, when the Giants and Eagles play next season, it should be a lot of fun!
Watch Judge below:
The Giants were riding their train on the way home from Baltimore yesterday evening when they learned the results of the late afternoon games involving NFC East teams that left them with an opportunity to win the division title on the final weekend of the regular season.
But Joe Judge would prefer his players not think about the possibility of playing in the postseason but instead concentrate on their Week 17 opponents, the Dallas Cowboys.
It’s the same approach the first-year coach has taken all year.
“I actually met with the team last night when we got back to make sure we were set on what the plan for the week was,” Judge said on a Zoom call today. “Our focus still needs to remain on the Cowboys. That’s the priority this week. We remain focused on improving as a team. We have a division rival coming up ahead, it’s a big game for us. Obviously, there are implications. As I’ve said all along, those games right now don’t exist. Until I can talk about any kind of opponent coming up beyond who we’re playing, there’s not a conversation to be had. Our focus remains on the Cowboys.”
Dallas has won three consecutive games to improve to 6-9. On Oct. 11, the Cowboys defeated the Giants in AT&T Stadium, 37-34, on Greg Zuerlein’s 34-yard field goal as time expired. Dallas has won the last seven games between the teams.
The Giants are alive in the division race despite a three-game losing streak that has dropped their record to 5-10. The winner of their game against Dallas in MetLife Stadium at 1 p.m. Sunday must then wait for the result of the Washington Football Team vs. Eagles game that night in Philadelphia. A Washington victory will give it the division crown at 7-9. Should Dallas win and Washington lose, the Cowboys will stand alone at 7-9 and the Giants will finish third at 5-11. But if the Giants and the Eagles – who are eliminated – each win, all three contenders will be 6-10. The Giants would claim the championship based on their 3-1 head-to-head record vs. Dallas and Washington.
Yesterday, the Giants lost to the Ravens in the 1 o’clock window, 27-13. Dallas and Washington each played late in the afternoon, giving Judge and the Giants an opportunity to monitor their games as they returned to New Jersey. The Cowboys crushed the Eagles, 37-17, while Washington lost to the Carolina Panthers, 20-13.
“Being on the train, actually we had the game streaming in the background,” Judge said. “We had kind of a little conference room in the front car that I was in. Me and (defensive coordinator) Pat Graham sat in there. We went through the defensive tape together and watched like we do, we did the same thing coming back from Washington and talked some ball. We were kind of checking scores throughout the league with a lot of games going. That’s kind of normal custom right there. Everyone’s kind of checking scores around the league. Last night was no different. Obviously, there were some division games going on that we were conscious of. We checked those, we streamed those and watched the end of those games.”
Judge was asked what the team’s reaction was after learning their Week 17 games would potentially have a division championship at stake.
“To be honest with you, I was actually separate from the rest of the players,” Judge said. “They had us very spaced out in the cars. The front car was kind of more coaches than it was players. I saw the players on the back end when we got back to the facility. I called a quick meeting in the bubble just to address how we’re going to handle the week going forward, and kind of clear up any questions that may have come up. To be honest with you, look, the questions about the playoffs, these are things the players obviously have as well.
“We’re going to keep our focus on Dallas. We’re not getting focused on the playoffs. I truly believe what I said earlier. This is a hypothetical game. The only thing we can control is what we do against Dallas. At the same time, there’s a human nature that they’re very conscious of what’s going on around the league. It would be naïve or ignorant to pretend that they’re not paying attention as well. When we got back, I grabbed the team and just kind of let them know what the situation is, but really, reaffirm the importance of staying focused on Dallas. That’s all we can control.”
The players, no doubt following a directive from Judge, have virtually abstained from discussing the division race and postseason permutations.
“I’m just focused on Dallas,” center Nick Gates said. “We have to beat Dallas first to be able to even think about the playoffs. After we beat them, we have to see if Washington wins. I’m just focused on Dallas and trying to give ourselves the best opportunity.”
“Our coaches hit it best,” said middle linebacker and defensive captain Blake Martinez. “They said, you always want to have meaningful December football games. Obviously, this game will be in January, so meaningful January games. To be able to have that, every competitor, especially in the NFL, wants to have that opportunity.”
And what are Martinez’s thoughts about the Giants’ playoff chances?
“You just go about each and every week the same that we have been doing since the start of the season,” Martinez said. “Just making sure we get better. Going to work Monday, making improvements that we need to from the previous game. Just focus on what we can do as a team to be better than we were last week. Be better than we were to start the season. As long as we’re doing that and showing it the following Sunday, whatever ends up happening, happens. We’re ready to go and we’ll do the same thing if we get another chance to re-focus in and get back to work the following Monday after that.”
Martinez is one captain clearly following the orders of his general.
After losing to the Buccaneers in Week 8, the Giants were 1-7, and many thought they would be in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. Then, the team went on a four-game winning streak, including going into Seattle and beating the NFC West champion Seahawks, and at that point, the Giants were in first place in the NFC East, but since that win, New York is on a three-game losing streak after losing on the road to Baltimore 27-13 on Sunday.
However, even in a loss, the Giants still have an opportunity to win the NFC East. If New York(5-10) defeats the Cowboys and The Washington Football Team loses to the Eagles next Sunday night, the Giants win the division.
No one expected the Giants to have much success this season, but after the Ravens’ loss, Giants head coach Joe Judge believes the team needs to do more.
“I am not trying to take shortcuts, but we are trying to do it the right way,” Judge said after the game. “The results of the last three games are what they are. We are paid to win games. That is what it is, professional football. We have to do a better job coaching, better job playing, we have to do more things to help us win the games. Ultimately, in terms of the character of the team, the work ethic of the team, the toughness of the team, we have the right start to who we are working with, and the direction we are going right now. We just need to make sure we do more on the field to get the tangible results.”
What will happen next week? Washington is clearly struggling at the quarterback position after Alex Smith went down with a calf injury. Washington QB Dwayne Haskins struggled mightily in the team’s loss against Carolina on Sunday. The second-year quarterback threw for only 154 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions and was benched in the fourth quarter, but they will play an Eagles team that will have nothing to play for, so it should be interesting to see how Philadelphia handles this game.
The Cowboys are playing well offensively and have been over 30 points in the past three weeks, but defensively the Cowboys(31st in points allowed) are not the best. However, the Giants are having a hard time scoring(31st in points), so we’ll see if they can take advantage of the Cowboys’ defense.
No matter what happens next Sunday, a very mediocre football team will be representing the NFC East in the playoffs.
The Giants announced today that Ryan, the standout defensive back who joined the team on a one-year contract just prior to the season, has agreed to a three-year extension through the 2023 season.
According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, it’s a three-year deal for $31M with $20 million guaranteed.
“I feel super grateful,” Ryan said. “Thankful to the Mara family, the Tisch family, (general manager) Dave Gettleman, (assistant G.M.) Kevin Abrams, the coaching staff, (coach) Joe Judge, (defensive coordinator) Pat Graham. I really took a bet on myself waiting as long as I did and signing a one-year deal. I just wanted to prove to the fan base, the coaching staff and my teammates what type of player and leader I can be. And I honestly think I was proving it to myself as well. This year has been about a lot of belief. I always believed in myself and held my head high and worked out for me in the end and it worked out for the team in the end. I think it was a perfect fit from the beginning.”
So do the Giants. Ryan has been one of the team’s most productive and valuable defensive players for the 5-9 Giants, who face the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday. He has played in all 14 games with 13 starts (10 at free safety, including each of the last nine). Ryan is second on the team with 81 tackles (58 solo) and has 1.0 sack, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and nine passes defensed. He also had a game-clinching interception in the Giants’ victory in Washington on Nov. 8.
In addition to his contributions on the field, Ryan has become a vocal team leader, a presence in the community and was the Giants’ nominee for the Art Rooney Citizenship Award.
“I love the culture, the history, the passion, the fan base and the expectations to win here,” Ryan said. “I love being in the NFC East and the history of it. I believe the future is bright here. I’ve won championships. I know what good teams look like and we have a good team here. And I’m going to do everything in my power to bring championships to the organization and to be a good leader on and off the field. I do a lot of good work off the field that is equally important in my opinion, if not more important. And to have the platform and the spotlight that being a New York Giant brings me allows me to do everything I want to do off the field in the right light.”
Judge and Ryan were together for four seasons (2013-16) with the New England Patriots.
“He’s just a phenomenal person,” Judge said when Ryan’s Art Rooney Award nomination was announced. “He’s always been very direct, very honest. He’s just a genuine person. He doesn’t have a lot of time for fluff. He’s going to look you in your eye and tell you what he thinks, and that’s really what you ask of a man. But he’s a guy that puts his team first. He does a lot of things in the community that he keeps very quiet because he’s doing it for the right reasons, not for some kind of public acknowledgement. He has a tremendous wife, a tremendous family behind him. I think that says a lot about him, obviously, the people he’s closest to and what kind of people they are.
“He’s a great vet to have in our locker room. You talk about guys who can lead by example. He’s definitely a guy who comes in every day and works his absolute hardest. He empties the tank, and we couldn’t ask for anything more from him.”
Ryan, 29, spent four seasons with the Patriots and three with the Tennessee Titans before signing with the Giants on Sept. 4. He has played in 123 regular-season games with 98 starts and in 15 postseason games with 10 starts. His totals include 603 tackles (432 solo), 18 interceptions, including 2 he returned for touchdowns, 12.0 sacks, 87 passes defensed, 11 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Ryan played on the Patriots teams that defeated Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX and Atlanta in Super Bowl LI.
Ryan was raised in South Jersey, where he was a star quarterback and cornerback at Eastern High School. He was a first-team All-Big East defensive back at Rutgers. Now the Jersey kid and the NFL’s Jersey team are tied to one another for an additional three years.
“It means everything to me,” Ryan said. “We recently played in Seattle, I’ve been to London to play football, I’ve played in almost every state where there’s an NFL team. To come back home, I didn’t always think it was possible. To be financially secure and to give all those Jersey kids that are in high school like I was 10, 12 years ago an example to strive and to work like I was late nights and early mornings to become a New York Giant and make that all come true. It lets all those kids know what they accomplish if they work hard and put their minds to it.
“I’m the true fact of a kid born and raised in Jersey, to come on home and make his career be complete by coming back and being a part of a great team here like the New York Giants.”
The Giants’ tight ends coach will be the team’s de facto offensive coordinator on Sunday against the team for whom he was the head coach last year, proving again that in the NFL in 2020 the unusual and unexpected are imbedded in every game plan.
Freddie Kitchens will call the offensive plays when the Giants face the Cleveland Browns in MetLife Stadium in the home team’s first Sunday night game in more than two years. Kitchens, whose full-time job is the Giants’ tight ends coach, assumed the added duties because coordinator Jason Garrett tested positive Wednesday for COVID-19, is in quarantine and is prohibited from have having contact with the team during the game. So, Kitchens will match wits with the team he led to a 6-10 record in 2019 in his only season as a head coach.
“That’s kind of ironic,” Kitchens said on a Zoom call today. “But really, it’s the next game. It truly is just the next game. It could have happened… We’ve kind of prepared for this throughout the year in training camp and things like that. It’s just kind of the next game. It just so happens we had a guy go down this week.”
The Giants have not yet announced whether quarterback Daniel Jones will be another such guy – not because of COVID-19, but with the hamstring and ankle injuries that have limited his practice participation this week. Jones is listed as questionable. If he can’t start, Colt McCoy will, as he did in Seattle two weeks ago.
Their quarterback uncertainty notwithstanding, because remote meetings have become standard procedure this season due to the pandemic, the Giants’ have had a relatively normal work week – off the field. Garrett has participated in the meetings via Zoom. The Giants did cancel practice yesterday out of an abundance of caution but added extra meeting time. And the NFL’s decision to shift the game to prime time has given them additional time to prepare.
“It truly has just been kind of what we normally do,” Kitchens said. “Nothing will truly change until we get to Sunday. Jason is still in the Zoom meetings with us and things like that. Really, at the end of the day, on a weekly basis, our game planning for practice or the games, it’s really a group effort, which it should be. That’s continued. Nothing has really changed, except for Sunday.”
And during the game, the Giants’ attack will be structured and run as it has been all season.
“Nothing is changing with our offense,” Kitchens said. “Our offense is our offense, and we’re just going to try to execute on a consistent basis truly. I couldn’t be any more truthful than that.”
No two coaches will call a game exactly alike and Joe Judge acknowledged there will be situations when Kitchens might call a run or pass when Garrett might do the opposite.
“The offensive staff has done a good job putting together the game plan,” Judge said. “That’s a very cooperative process. They all work together, they share ideas, they ping things off each other. Obviously, I’ve been involved talking with the coordinators the way I may see a game being played or adjustments I want made as well. But once you get into the game, the play caller has to call it how he sees the game. You can’t script an entire game, you can’t go by some template of how the game is supposed to go. You have to have a feel within the game of how you see it, how the quarterbacks are seeing it, what’s working, what adjustments they have made and what we have to do to adjust on our own part. When he (Kitchens) gets into the game, he has to be able to call plays as he sees fit to help this team. We’ll discuss those situations and scenarios before we get to Sunday, like I do every week with all of the coordinators, and make sure that we’re on the same page.”
Although Kitchens downplayed the significance of him calling the plays instead of Garrett, one significant difference exists. Garrett was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in 2019, when Kitchens coached seven of the 11 defenders who started for the Browns in their loss to Baltimore Monday night. He is well-versed in each of those players’ strengths and weaknesses.
“There are a lot of guys that were there when I was there, but there is also a significant number that weren’t,” Kitchens said. “Of course, the ones that are there, I know a little bit more about than I would if I wasn’t there. I don’t know that you gain a tremendous advantage with that.”
No matter who calls the plays, the Giants’ offense needs to be more productive than it was last week, when it finished with 100 net passing yards, Jones and McCoy were sacked eight times and each was responsible for one of the team’s three lost fumbles.
“Protecting the ball and protecting the quarterback is of the utmost of importance for us, as in any offense,” Kitchens said. “That’s where it all starts. A lot of times, those two things go hand in hand. Of course, it’s always a priority for us. Cleveland is very good upfront. The better you are upfront, the more difficult that is. We have to do a good job of putting these guys in position to be successful.”
New York Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has tested positive for COVID-19, the team announced on Thursday. He will continue to work remotely.
Giants coaches and players did not meet on either Monday or Tuesday, and the majority of the coaching staff worked remotely. New York will meet remotely and will not practice today.
According to the team, tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens will serve as the team’s offensive play caller on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. Kitchens spent one season as the head coach of the Browns back in 2019.
The 54-year-old Garrett is in his first season as Giants offensive coordinator and spent ten seasons as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
The Giants’ recent good times were interrupted Sunday afternoon.
Soaring into their MetLife Stadium matchup against the Arizona Cardinals with a four-game winning streak, the Giants were grounded by an ineffective offense and lost, 26-7. The defeat dropped them to 5-8 and likely set up a wild three-week finish to the NFC East title chase. Just one week ago, the Giants earned their most impressive victory of the season, against the Seahawks in Seattle.
“I don’t think we had any kind of a hangover from going out to Seattle last week,” coach Joe Judge said. “I don’t think that’s the cause of it. Again, this game is completely independent of anything that has happened before. We simply didn’t come out today and we didn’t coach well enough and we didn’t play well enough. That’s the hard truth of it. We have to do a much better job.”
They’ll get an opportunity next Sunday night against the Cleveland Browns, who are 9-3 entering their clash tomorrow against the Baltimore Ravens.
Quarterback Daniel Jones, who missed the Seattle game with a hamstring injury, returned to the starting lineup, but his comfort level appeared to be less than optimal.
Jones completed only 11 passes, his lowest total in any of his 24 career starts. His 21 attempts and 127 yards were this second-lowest figures. Jones was sacked six times, tying the second-highest total he’s absorbed in a game. He fumbled three times, losing one. And for the first time as a pro, he did not have a rushing attempt.
“I think I wasn’t able to run like I normally do, but I felt good during the game,” Jones said. “I was able to move around the pocket and do what I needed to do throwing the ball. I think I got to do better with that still.”
“Something that has been very positive for our offense this year is Daniel being able to run the ball and extend some plays right there,” Judge said. “He had a few today. He got outside of the pocket. He had some passes down the sideline. He had a throw away and a completion down there at one point. Obviously, you take away part of the offense in any regard, it’s going to affect how everything else complements itself right there.”
Jones was replaced for the Giants’ final offensive series by Colt McCoy, who played the entire game last week.
“It (the injury) wore on me a bit during the game,” Jones said. “Just got to do a good job staying on top of it and making sure it’s healing up like it should.”
Judge had numerous conversations with Jones in the days leading up to the game.
“I thought he was able to protect himself in the pocket, which was the main concern as in can he step up and can he move in it,” Judge said. “We knew there were going to be some situations today where he wasn’t going to pull it down and just run like he’s done in the past. We knew that he was going to either end up throwing the ball away or take sacks at certain point. We knew that going into the game and we saw that early on. But I thought, overall, that he showed that he was able to protect himself in the pocket. I checked on him at halftime. I checked on him throughout the course of the game. That was really kind of the feedback we got right there.”
In response to a follow-up question, Judge said, “No, I have no regrets on playing him. We made a calculated decision based on what he could do as a player. We went out there, and as a team, we have to execute better.”
He’ll get no dissent on that final point. The Giants posted numerous season-low numbers, including 159 total yards, 81 net passing yards, eight sacks allowed (McCoy took two) and 10 first downs and tied another with three turnovers (all fumbles). They owned the ball for only 22:08. Wayne Gallman led the rushing attack with 57 yards. Dion Lewis scored their only touchdown, on a one-yard run in the third quarter. No receiver caught more than three passes.
The offense likely helped Arizona outside linebacker Hassan Reddick win the NFC Defensive Player of the Week Award. Reddick set a record for a Giants opponent and a Cardinals record with 5.0 sacks and forced three fumbles.
“They definitely did some things that we didn’t expect, but we did what we could,” Gallman said. “Of course, there are things that we have to get better at ourselves. They played good today, but I think there are things that we could have done better in terms of our IDs and stuff as our own unit. That’s just something that we have to go back and fix during our practice.”
“They had a good game plan going in, a few different things, but every team does every week,” Jones said. “We got to do a better job identifying, I have to do a better job with that and getting the ball out on time.”
The Giants’ defense had its own share of frustration. Arizona ran the ball 43 times for 149 yards, both the highest totals by a Giants opponent this season. The Cardinals never turned over the ball. Quarterback Kyler Murray constantly demonstrated his slippery elusiveness while getting sacked just once on 36 dropbacks. He completed 24 passes for 244 yards and ran for 47 more. Murray’s favorite target was DeAndre Hopkins, who finished with nine catches for 136 yards.
“Murray is a special player, we knew he was going to make certain plays here and there,” linebacker Blake Martinez said. “We needed to do better keeping him in there and making sure we had our game plan set, we just didn’t play as well as we wanted to.”
Arizona scored touchdowns on a seven-yard pass to tight end Dan Arnold in the second quarter, Kenyan Drake’s one-yard dive in the third and four field goals by Mike Nugent, who was in the Giants’ training camp in 2017 and played in his first game since Oct. 27, 2019, with New England. Nugent’s field goals traveled 34, 37, 34 and 30 yards.
“I think it just came down to they performed better than us,” cornerback James Bradberry said. “We didn’t execute when we needed to and that’s usually the name of the game. You’ve got to execute and make plays, and we didn’t do enough today.”
It doesn’t mean the good times can’t return next week.