EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It became apparent after Monday night’s 30-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that New York Giants coach Joe Judge couldn’t take it anymore. He was tired of coordinator Jason Garrett’s stale offense, which had continuously failed to get the ball to its playmakers in space and perform the most basic of services — like score points.
The result was 42 offensive touchdowns in 26 games for the Giants (3-7), the fewest of any team (including the New York Jets) since the start of last season. It ultimately got Garrett fired on Tuesday, the day after Judge was uncharacteristically critical of him following the loss to the Bucs.
Garrett was the first major piece to fall as a result of another disappointing season. He’s unlikely to be the last.
General manager Dave Gettleman better not leave his key card behind on a scouting trip. If he does, there might not be a new one when he returns. Not with an 18-40 record since he was hired to replace two-time Super Bowl winner Jerry Reese.
The scouting staff should also be on notice. That should be obvious every time it watches the struggling offensive line and the rest of the roster it assembled.
Even Judge, with Garrett no longer around and Gettleman’s dismissal all but a formality at this pace, better be careful. Tuesday’s move removed some of the built-in shelter that perhaps improved Judge’s job security.
With Garrett out, the spotlight becomes brighter on the Giants’ coach. Judge has a 9-17 record, and while his job doesn’t seem to be in jeopardy now, at some point soon he needs to start winning, because this isn’t good enough.
Not that Judge took this into consideration when firing Garrett.
“I hardly ever worry about perception on the outside,” he said. “I make moves that I think are in the team’s best interest, and when you’re in a leadership position, you can’t really ever worry about if it’s a popular decision or not.
“You have to make the right decision.”
It’s hard to argue with this move. Judge couldn’t afford alienating his biggest stars, who were growing frustrated by the team’s lack of offensive success in what seems destined to be another season out of the playoffs.
The Giants had running back Saquon Barkley and left tackle Andrew Thomas back against the Bucs. They had receivers Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney the healthiest they had been in a long time. Yet they managed just 215 total yards against a Tampa Bay defense that had struggled in recent weeks.
It was the final straw for Garrett, who according to sources seemed to be losing influence in recent weeks.
Stephen A. Smith sounds off on the Giants after their loss to the Buccaneers.
“I don’t believe we’re scoring enough points,” Judge said Tuesday afternoon. “It’s my job as the head coach to make sure I give our players an opportunity to go out there and make plays.”
Quarterback Daniel Jones is at the top of that list. He’s in Year 3 of his progression. Gone now is the excuse Garrett’s offense is holding him back. Judge said the Giants will use a collaborative in-house effort to fill Garrett’s role. A source told ESPN senior offensive assistant Freddie Kitchens is expected to be involved in the playcalling. Judge declined to name a playcaller publicly and implied he could be involved.
Maybe this is the answer. After all, Jones threw 24 touchdown passes during his 12 games in Pat Shurmur’s offense as a rookie. He threw 20 in 24 games under Garrett. And there is confidence in the building in the quarterback’s supporting cast.
“We’ve certainly got good players at spots and we’ve got to do a good job of getting them the ball,” Jones said after Monday’s loss. “Like I said, it falls on me to do that. We had chances. There were opportunities. I’ve got to do a better job of finding those guys.”
It’s hardly a surprise Garrett was a failed experiment. He and Judge always seemed like an arranged marriage.
Garrett was well-regarded by co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch after spending time with the organization from 2000 to 2003 as a player. They respected him from a distance as a coach when he was with the Dallas Cowboys. Ownership suggested Judge meet with Garrett after Judge took the head coaching job.
Judge agreed, the meeting apparently went well and Garrett eventually became the coordinator despite not being a part of Judge’s work circle and not having called plays since 2013.
“Just very simply on the staff, I hire the staff,” Judge said Tuesday in response to the idea Garrett was forced upon him by ownership.
It didn’t matter. Garrett always seemed on the wrong side of things. His fate seemed inevitable after the departures of two of his former assistants in Dallas: offensive line coach Marc Colombo, who was fired after an altercation with Judge last season and assistant running backs coach Stephen Brown was not brought back this season.
But Garrett’s relationship with Jones made the Giants give it one more try. It lasted 10 more mostly unsuccessful games as the Giants rank 25th in the NFL at 18.9 points per game.
There were signs last week the relationship was nearing an end when Garrett made some curious comments about the state of the offensive line, noting the unit was in the infantile stages of a rebuild.
The Giants’ rebuild will continue without him, but with others under the microscope.