Jason Witten spent 12 seasons when Jason Garrett was either his offensive coordinator or head coach, so he is the right man to deliver a message about the man for Giants fans.
“You’re gonna be really proud to have him as your offensive coordinator,” Witten told The Post.
“He’s one of them — hard-working, determined, lunch-pail-type guy, brings it every day. Don’t be fooled because he’s an Ivy Leaguer. He is very fair, very honest, a man of integrity, and he’s gonna find ways to affect the defense within his scheme, and play to his players’ strengths over and over and over again.
“It’ll be a real exciting experience for him. So much comes across a desk of a head coach, that you get pulled away from football a lot of times. I was around there for a number of years and I experienced him as a coordinator early on with Wade Phillips [as the head coach]. I have so many fond memories of his ability within the scheme and adjustments in the game plan to give us a lot of confidence and allowed us to have success as a group.”
Witten is a Raider now, but he will one day enter the Hall of Fame as a Cowboy. During those 12 seasons, Witten caught 963 passes and 45 TDs. He caught most of them from Tony Romo and Dak Prescott — which tells him that Garrett and his system will be a bonanza for Daniel Jones.
“It’s built for the quarterback’s eyes, that system,” Witten said. “And I think any young quarterback likes the fact that this system is something that Jason played in, and then he’s seen a lot of quarterbacks have success in that. And then, just the track record, he had Tony in ’07, which Tony had started nine, 10 games prior to that, and went on and had a really successful career. He took Dak Prescott as a rookie, and you saw what Dak has done in his first four years in the NFL, so for Daniel Jones, I think he would be ecstatic.
“That’s all you can ask for as a player is that your coach is doing everything that he possibly can to put you in the best situation you can be in, and I think that’s ultimately what Jason does. He does it with the system, but he also does it within game of, ‘OK this is what they’re doing, how do we combat that, what adjustments are we gonna make?’ I think that’ll help Daniel tremendously.”
Garrett won’t have the formidable offensive line that he had in Dallas, but that won’t stop him from riding Saquon Barkley the way he rode Ezekiel Elliott.
“Jason had a little bit of success as a play-caller early on when our offensive line wasn’t full of first-rounders,” Witten said. “I think he’s gonna find ways to get him in space, get him downhill, and I think the other thing for Saquon is just as a receiver, he’s gonna find ways to get him the ball in open space through the passing game that will obviously play to his strengths because he’s such a dynamic athlete in open space. The rare combination of being able to putting him between the tackles, getting on the perimeter, misdirection runs, all that. I think the biggest thing is just finding ways to use him in the passing game to get him the ball in open space will be the biggest area that Saquon will benefit from having a play-caller like Jason.”
In his 2018 rookie season, Barkley rushed 261 times (for 1,307 yards) and caught 91 passes. Elliott has exceeded 300 carries in three of his four years and caught a career-high 77 passes in 2018.
“He wants to run the football, and he believes in the play-action game that comes off of that,” Witten said. “His system is not one that’s just gonna be a new scheme every week. It’s gonna be the fundamentals and the techniques — let’s get really good at these handful of things, and then impose that week in and week out by dressing it up and doing different things. I think he’s got a really good feel of ‘OK, this was our plan, and now we’re seeing something different,’ and adjusting in-game.
“And to me as a veteran player, that’s the main thing you look for in a play-caller, his ability to kinda adjust to what the defense is trying to do. And your ability to get to that, before the end of the half or before the end of the game and not wait till the next day and say, ‘Ah well, if we knew they were gonna do this, we would have done that.’ And I think within his numbered system offense, it allows you to move a lot of different guys around because once you learn the number system you can kinda play anywhere in the offense.”
Of course this can be a career year for tight end Evan Engram if he can stay healthy.
“Evan’s an extremely talented player, and I can tell you from playing in that system they’re gonna get the playmakers the football, and find a number of different ways to do that,” Witten said. “First off, it starts with when you want to run the football, the numer one thing that comes off of that is the play-action passing game. And for a tight end, that’s the No. 1 thing, because a lot of times when you do play-action, it doesn’t really affect the corners on the outside, it really affects the linebackers in the underneath coverage. And that’s really where the tight end kinda makes his hay, and so I think that’ll be really exciting for him.
“And then his ability to move him around, and play a number of different positions, will allow him to get a lot of different looks and to feature his playmaking ability. Last year [Cowboys TE] Blake Jarwin and some of those guys really shined just from the ability to move you around, having a strong running game, I think the tight end benefits tremendously from that style of offense.”
Garrett will be an invaluable resource for Joe Judge.
“He’s a really good person, his character is such that he’s gonna communicate that way and be a sounding board for the head coach, not trying to be the head coach,” Witten said. “I think he’s just got a really good way about him from that standpoint of he’s been a backup quarterback, he’s been an offensive coordinator before. He’s seen a lot, and he has a good way of being able to communicate that in the right tone, in the right way to a young head coach. If you take the idea and you run with it, great. If you take it and you don’t do it, his feelings not gonna be hurt, or anything from that standpoint.
“He communicates in a good way that a lot of the what-ifs, and how do you handle certain situations? Which I think Joe’s done a really good job of that being a young head coach walking into a situation of a pandemic and how you do that with a young football team. Everything that I’ve seen, he’s got a plan and he’s a bright person, but I’m sure there’s been times, and there will be over the course of a season, that he can lean on Jason.”
Garrett will never go into a game and not feel prepared.
“He takes a lot of pride in everybody being on the same page, there’s a saying he had — ‘If we’re all wrong, we’re all right,’ meaning like as long as we’re communicating it, we’re gonna be able to execute, but we can’t be doing our own thing,” Witten said. “I think that’s where that system really thrives, I think his ability to kinda communicate that so you go into the game and you have a lot of confidence that you’re gonna attack the weaknesses of the defense, and when you have success, it just continues to build from there.”
The Giants have been all wrong for too long. This time, Jason Witten believes they got it all right.
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