Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett had been head coach of the Dallas Cowboys since 2010 but stopped calling plays after the 2012 season. He began in Dallas as the play caller in 2007 when he was coach Wade Phillips' offensive coordinator.
From 2007 to 2012, Garrett's offenses finished lower than 11th in yards per play or game just once (13th in yards per game in 2008). Since, the offense has been altered by other coordinators but still shares some of the basic concepts Garrett installed.
"When we came to Dallas in 2007, we wanted to put in a system of offense that was something we would have with us regardless of the players that we had," Garret said. "A system that's comprehensive and flexible to cater to the strengths and weaknesses of our team. The early part of that tenure, I was the play caller and then three other guys were able to do that, but it was our system. It was flexible."
Bill Callahan called plays for the Cowboys from 2013-2014. Scott Linehan was offensive coordinator and called plays from 2015-2018 before Kellen Moore took on that duty in 2019. Moore, for example, added more pre-snap motion and bunch formations to the offense.
There's no way to know how much Garrett's offense and approach to play calling has changed since 2012 given his exposure to three different coordinators in the intervening years.
"There's no question it has evolved. There's no question the language over the years has evolved and grown. But that's part of the system. You don't want your system to be stagnant. This is the only way we can do it, this is the only way we can call it. You want it to grow, you want it to be flexible. I think that's one of the basic premises of the system we'll put in."
With Garret calling plays, the Cowboys passing offense was never ranked lower than 9th in yards per game or 11th in yards per play, including two top five finishes in both categories. The rushing offense was top ten in yards per play four times.
"There were some years we ran the ball a ton and that's what was best for our team at the time, not just for our offense but was for our entire football team. And there were other years, based on the personnel and makeup of our team, we threw it more. As a coaching staff, we tried to be flexible to what our team needed, not just our offensive unit but our whole team, to give us the best chance to win."
In order to get a really basic feel for what some elements of the Giants offense might be under coach Joe Judge and Garrett, I went back to 2012, the last year Garrett called plays, to look for some of the basics of his system.
One constant for the Cowboys over the years has been the use of the slant. Its a basic concept I saw on film that often results in easy yardage. One other play I saw consistently in 2012 was the deep in-cut off of play action. The play-action draws in the linebackers to open the middle of the field.
There were specific plays to win against certain coverages. Here is a simple concept to beat cover-2 with Dez Bryant finding the hole between the deep safety and shallow cornerback.
There were also good concepts to attack other types of zone. This came against the 2012 Seahawks that run a Cover-3 scheme and used a route combination to open Jason Witten on a crossing route in the middle of the defense.
They Cowboys offense is what I would consider a vertical offense. They want to get the ball down the field, including to the tight end. Here is a route they used with Jason Witten that would fit Evan Engram well down the seam.
The Cowboys also liked to get their receivers isolated one on one to give them a chance to win with their natural skills. Here are a couple of plays that complement each other targeting outside receivers down the field.
Pro Football Focus data on the frequency of run concepts Garrett's team used doesn't go back further than 2014, so it is difficult to get information on different concepts. Since 2014, Dallas offenses have used a variety of run schemes, with outside and inside zone the most frequent most seasons. They also mix in man and power schemes.
When the Cowboys had DeMarco Murray as their lead back, for example, they ran outside zone far more frequently. The last two seasons have seen more inside zone with Ezekiel Elliott at running back. There seems to be real flexibility to adjust the run scheme depending on the strengths of the running back and offensive line.
It will be fun to see how Garrett decides to scheme his offense around the Giants personnel on the roster.
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