Q&A: Quarterback Jason Garrett
Interview Conducted by BigBlueInteractive.com Reporter WalterB
QB Jason Garrett has been rumored to be one of the type of talents who could be our next offensive coordinator, if not someone else coordinator. Jason has been generous with his time to BBI and has agreed to take questions in the coming weeks. I decided to start by asking Jason a number of questions about league defenses, along with a few other questions of course. I hope to follow up with more BBIers inspired questions in the coming three weeks.
BBI: Do see any particular pattern with defenses in the NFL? And are there defenses where you can obviously identify specific patterns of play?
Jason Garrett: The past few years the general trend has been teams playing the Tampa two type defense. What that means they have taken on some of the ideas that (Defensive Coordinator Monte) Kiffin and the guys down in Tampa have used for a number of years. It’s a very sound defense where they do not play too many coverages. But what they do is let their really good players get into a scheme that is fairly simple, and then they play it really well. You also see some other teams adopt it as well, Smith went to St. Louis and they are playing the same scheme, and you see this defense sprinkled throughout the league.
BBI: In terms of linebacker play what do you see that is different? Are the linebackers purposely lighter and dropping faster in defenses like this? Are the defenses relying on them for better pass coverage?
Jason Garrett: It is hard to make a general comment on that. It seem like in that Tampa style of defense they like to have those fast linebackers who can really run well and get to the football. And that is important when you play that style of defense. You are really counting on guys to get to your quarterback, you are counting on the linebackers to cover a lot of ground. Yet, I think the hardest thing for a quarterbacks with any defense, and even since the beginning of football, is a good pass rush. The best pass coverage is a good pass rush. When defensive linemen are getting to the quarterback, and the quarterback has to get rid of the ball, and when the quarterback is more uncomfortable than he wants to be, or has to throw quicker than he wants to, that is what makes the pass defense really, really good.
BBI: Are linebackers then mostly playing zone and are the coverages then mostly zone?
Jason Garrett: I think teams will play both. Teams play both man and zone and that is the way it has been for a while. I don’t really think there is an overwhelming trend one way or another. There is that Tampa style defense where they will play some zone and rally to the ball. Yet, to make a huge generalization about all the teams I think is difficult. For example, there are teams still playing a lot of the zone blitz stuff – Don Capers brought that down in New Orleans. Pittsburgh, Carolina, Jacksonville have it, and it is in Houston. It’s a style of defense where your rushing linebackers and your dropping defensive linemen, and that is still something that is fairly prevalent in the league.
BBI: In down and distance situations like second and five, second and three, first and long, are there any defensive patterns that you can see in league or that you can identify? Or are defensive calls really being mixed up to the point where they are harder to predict from week to week?
Jason Garrett: Again I think goes back to the teams that you are playing. One of the things we do each week is we try to get into some down and distance tendencies of that particular defense that we are playing. Typically when it is third and short teams are not going to sit in a zone coverage, they are going to come up and contest you, and maybe bring pressure. But different defenses coordinators have different philosophies about that kind of stuff. Whenever you are in longer passing situations in the Tampa style of defense or the St. Louis style of defense they are going to play some more zone and get after the ball. They are going to force you to catch it and get first downs. They are not going to give you big throws down the field. And that is a philosophy that is prevalent in a lot of defenses as well.
BBI: The Giants have been running a two tight end offense more so now than before. What are the advantages from a quarterbacks point of view of having two fast tight ends who are quick and can run? How does that change things when attacking a defense?
Jason Garrett: I think more than anything else it is what you are showing a defense. And when you can show them different personnel looks, and when you can show them different formations, typically it can create situations for you. For example, we have a second tight end who can be a fullback and we have a second tight end who can flank out and be a receiver. When you have those kinds of options and personnel on your team you are just creating more problems for the defense. It just so hard for them to recognize what you are going to do. When you have those kind of athletes and when you have the kinds of schemes where you can put those athletes in the right positions, they can present problems for the defense especially in terms of the defenses ability to recognize and execute against you.
BBI: Do you see similar tight end sets developing around the league?
Jason Garrett: I think that goes back to the personnel issue. I think the two tight end sets have been around for a while. If a team has a great fullback, and they want that guy on the field every snap of the game, you are not going to see too much of a two tight end offense. When I played in Dallas we had a real good fullback, Daryl Johnston, so it was rare for him to come off the field. But every team does not have that luxury. You want to use the personnel that you have to the best of their ability.
BBI: When you bring a tight end in motion, what does that specifically do to a defense? For example, last year when Shockey was playing a moving tight end – what does that do to pressure a defense.
Jason Garrett: I think it goes back to the point we talked about: when we are using different personnel and using different formations it is hard for the defense to recognize where guys are and what the best coverage to play in is. Shockey for example can lineup at regular tight end then he can line up at split end, and then you can put him in different spots and create good match ups. What results is that defenses end up playing simple coverages, because they do not want to get caught trying to do something aggressively, and not account for players in certain areas of the field where it may be hard to recognize where they are. This could result in a blown coverage. And I think some defenses will have some general checks that will get them into a simpler safe coverage. That obviously works to your advantage as an offense.
BBI: What is the difference between an offense that you ran in Dallas and the one you have up here in New York in terms of scheme?
Jason Garrett: I think in general teams run a lot of the same kinds of plays. When you put them up on a board you can recognize them from around the league and be able to compare concepts. Basically you try to fit to the personals strengths and minimize some of the players particular weaknesses.
BBI: How much of the pass play calling is based on match up play calling?
Jason Garrett: I think it is all part of it. A lot of the plays that we have are progression reads meaning: you want the fullback first, if he is there take him, if not take the tight end, if not go to the third or one of the wide receivers. On other plays you can look for the match ups – do we like this best, and lets work this guy against this guy – especially if he has single coverage we may just take that shot. In an offense you usually have a mix of both of those concepts.
BBI: Why is it so tough for a young quarterback to come into the NFL now and be successful right away?
Jason Garrett: Well I think if you go back and look at history very few young quarterbacks have ever come in and played well. It is hard. It is really hard to do. You can be at the most advanced college program but the jump to the NFL particularly at the quarterback position is difficult. There are a lot of things you need to know. First of all you have to acclimate yourself to the speed of the game. But on top of that is all the mental stuff that you really did not have to do that much of in college. In terms of an expanded offense, there are more things that a defense is doing to you. There are more blitzes, more coverages and those sorts of things. The only guy that I can think of who made a smooth transition is Dan Marino- and that was 20 years ago. The advantage he has was that in his rookie year he was on a team that went to the Super Bowl the year before. There were a lot of guys who turned out to be great quarterbacks who struggled early in their careers because the jump is so difficult.
BBI: Troy Aikman “may have” once said that there were six NFL offensive coordinators that really made a difference in the NFL. Do you remember him saying anything like this, and if so do you agree?
Jason Garrett: I think what he may have meant there is that some guys get more attention than other guys, and there are guys that have been around longer. Guys like Bill Walsh years ago in San Francisco is a coach everyone pointed to. And when a team’s season was over they would look at what San Francisco was doing. The teams that do well typically get recognized for what they are doing on offense or defense, or even in the kicking game. One of the things that I found out about this league is that coaching staffs study the rest of the league. They look at what has been successful. Indianapolis is a great play action passing team, so we may look at what Indianapolis does to see if we can get anything out of that. We may also look at teams that are great high percentage passing teams – to see if we can get anything out of that. We may say we have that, we don’t have that, lets add this. So I think what he may have been talking about is that there are a handful of guys at the end of the year who have distinguished themselves. It might be different guys from year to year.