Why the Jason Garrett Scheme Isn’t a Good Fit for the New York Giants

Jason Garrett

The hiring of Joe Judge as New York Giants head coach was met with surprise. The former New England Patriots‘ special teams coach came out of nowhere. During his interview, Judge impressed with his attention to detail and work with younger players. But, he’s got a huge job ahead of him. He must assemble a coaching staff. Then Judge must win back fans who’ve suffered through two years under Pat Shurmur. Shurmur’s Giants record was a miserable 9-23. In a shocking move, Judge hired former Dallas Cowboys‘ head coach Jason Garrett as his offensive coordinator. Garrett joined the ‘Boys in 2008 and led them to three playoff appearances. Garrett led explosive offenses with Tony Romo and Dak Prescott, but his play-calling was severely criticized. Can this former Big Blue backup quarterback’s offense win in New York? The short answer is no. The Giants roster currently doesn’t fit the Garrett scheme.

What Scheme Does Jason Garrett Employ?

Jason Garrett began his coaching career with the Miami Dolphins in 2005. The Cowboys then hired Garrett as their offensive coordinator in 2007 after two years. Garrett’s offense incorporates several concepts of the famous “Air Coryell” system. He learned the offensive philosophy from Cowboys’ offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who learned it from his predecessor Ernie Zampese. Garrett ran the Zampese/Turner/Coryell offense as Troy Aikman‘s backup quarterback for eight seasons.

Air Coryell was developed by former San Diego Chargers head coach Don Coryell. Coryell was the Chargers’ head coach from 1978 through 1986, winning three straight division titles and reaching the playoffs four consecutive times. The most famous iteration of the offense was led by Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts. Fouts’ targets included fellow Hall of Famers wide receiver Charlie Joiner, tight end Kellen Winslow, and stand-out receivers John Jefferson and Wes Chandler. The Air Coryell Chargers led the league in passing yards for six consecutive years. That’s still an NFL record. The Chargers also led the league in total yards in offense four separate times during the late 70s, early 80s.

What Does an Air Coryell Offense Look Like?

The Air Coryell offense attacks opposing defenses vertically as opposed to the West Coast offense. West Coast offenses attack defenses horizontally with precise route combinations. Air Coryell relies on dynamic receivers and their individual ability to separate from defenders. The offensive line must excel in pass blocking and hold up for longer periods of time. That’s because a majority of Air Coryell plays use five or seven-step drops. Sports Illustrated wrote, “[Air Coryell] relies on building timing patterns into the offense where the quarterback must be able to time his throws to connect with a receiver at a designated spot within the route.”

The Coryell offense base formation is one-back with two tight ends or 12 personnel. But it also relied on multiple formations, shifts, and motion to confuse the defense. Coryell believed the offense’s complexity gave the Chargers a strategic advantage. Opposing defenses couldn’t prepare well enough for the dozens of looks San Diego could call at any time. The offense also enabled Fouts to isolate favorable matchups for Chargers’ key playmakers, especially for tight end Kellen Winslow. And why not. Winslow was a freak athlete, with a rare combination of size, speed, and strength.

Can the Giants Run the Jason Garrett Scheme?

The Offensive Line

The success of Garrett’s offense will come down to the play of the Giants’ offensive line. Over the past few seasons, Big Blue has tried in vain to improve the line. Guards Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler have solidified its interior, but tackle remains a weak spot on the roster. Even the signing of high-priced left tackle Nate Solder from the world champion New England Patriots in 2018 did not improve the line play. Solder signed a four-year, $62 million contract, making him the highest-paid offensive lineman in the league. But the line has only improved marginally. The Giants’ O-line came in 17th in Pro Football Fantasy’s ranking of the 32 offensive lines in the NFL this past season. In order for Garrett’s scheme to flourish, the unit’s play must improve.


The Giants’ current lineup of wide receivers is miscast for Air Coryell. As Sports Illustrated wrote, “The Giants have primarily been a West Coast Offense, a team that has relied more on shorter, safer passes with the hope of having a receiver break free for the big yardage.” The trio of Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, and breakout rookie Darius Slayton are better route runners than deep threats. Sharpe and Slayton have the potential to get down the field, but the Giants offensive line must provide sufficient time for routes to come open. Evan Engram has shown flashes of being an elite pass-catching threat. But in two seasons with the Giants, he’s been beset with injuries and unable to complete a full 16 game season.


Daniel Jones will be entering his sophomore campaign and learning his second offensive system in two seasons. Jones had flashes of greatness as a rookie but turned over the football way too much. He fumbled 18 times and threw 12 interceptions in 13 games. In year two, he must secure the football. But in a passing scheme reliant on timing and anticipation, interceptions could plague Jones under Jason Garrett. Also, Jones must recognize defenses much quicker. In year two, Jones can not average close to three seconds to deliver the football. The Giants may be high on Jones’ poise and intelligence. But the Garrett scheme will be the ultimate test of his talents.


The Giants have some offensive pieces to run the Coryell/Garrett system well. Saquon Barkley, if healthy, can be a dominant playmaker. Barkley could be Garrett’s version of Marshall Faulk. Evan Engram, as discussed, can be a Kellen Winslow-like option for Big Blue. But with an inconsistent offensive line, an unproven quarterback and wide receivers better suited to the West Coast offense, the Giants could suffer severe growing pains in year one under Jason Garrett.

Embed from Getty Images