In what would be his final press conference with reporters, Jason Garrett was asked about the challenges of working with an ever-changing offensive line rotation and the effect of having to change the protection so much.
"Football starts upfront in the run game and in the pass game. It’s about offensive and defensive linemen. That’s what it is," he said. "The best teams have built their teams that way. That goes back through history. The game is won on the line of scrimmage. We’ve had some guys, different combinations of guys playing and it’s our job to try to create an environment where they can have some success. I think those guys have embraced it."
During Garrett's years in Dallas, he was blessed with an All-World offensive line. That has not been the case with the Giants, whose current general manager, Dave Gettleman, has tried for four years to find the right combination of players t provide that unit with some stability and cohesiveness similar to what the group from 2007-2010 enjoyed.
This year, Gettleman thought the issue was fixed, declaring in the off-season that the organization saw its offensive line as being a bit more stable than those outside of the organization believed it to be.
"Listen, every player was a rookie at some point or a young player at some point," he said of the youth. "At some point in time, you have to have confidence in who’s on your club and you have to put him in there and let him play.”
The Giants tried that, but when youngster Matt Peart could not beat out veteran Nate Solder, that whole philosophy went down the drain. Add to that the summertime injury to guard Shane Lemieux, the retirements of Joe Looney and Zach Fulton, and then an early-season injury to Nick Gates, and the Giants were left scrambling to find veteran depth that could start on the line.
That whole upheaval admittedly made things difficult for Garrett, who didn't exactly deny that didn't deny that the constant changing of an offensive line that saw at least seven different starting combinations made things more challenging to plan protection schemes.
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"It’s just part of where we are. We’re trying to rebuild a team, and that’s a process. It was a process for us in Dallas. At different times, you have to make the decisions and say, ‘OK, we’ve got to allocate this resource because this is important to us,’ and we did that time and time again. All of a sudden, you built a really powerful, strong offensive line that’s still going today.
"They’re really good players, cornerstone players. So that’s what you have to do. In the meantime, you have to somehow, some way create an environment with the guys you have. The guys that we have here have done a hell of a job coming to work every day, practicing, doing everything they can to compete as well as they can on Sundays."
Garrett's honesty about an offensive line that currently ranks 25th in pass-blocking efficiency might not have sat well with Giants head coach Joe Judge. Judge has gone out of his way to avoid offering even the slightest hint of unhappiness with any player or position group.
Not surprisingly, Judge defended the offensive line, which allowed quarterback Daniel Jones to be pressured on 55 percent of his dropbacks against the Bucs.
"I like the way our offensive line is moving," Judge said. "They're working together, playing as a unit, and I've seen a lot of progress throughout the year. I love the job Rob and the offensive line guys are doing.
"I like the way these guys have battled throughout a lot of different moving parts. They play for each other. They have a good attitude, you know. They know how to block out the noise and play for one another. I'm very proud of that unit."
If it was a matter of Garrett not being creative enough to hide the deficiencies on the offensive line, Judge and the rest of the Giants are about to find out in these next seven games in which a greater collaborative effort seems on tap far as game-planning and game-day play-calling.
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