When the New York Giants hired Jason Garrett to be their new offensive coordinator, he brought Marc Colombo with him to coach the Giants’ offensive line.
Garrett and Colombo have been together since Garrett was hired to be the Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator back in 2007, when Colombo was a player. When Colombo’s playing career came to an end, Garrett convinced him to turn to coaching.
“Coaching isn’t really a thing that ever came up when I was playing,” Colombo said. “After I got done with football. That’s something you realize how much you miss it when you’re done. Miss being around the guys. That’s the culture you grew up in and yet I didn’t realize until I was done about a year into it. And that’s when I got together with Coach Garrett. We started talking about getting into the coaching aspect of things and ever since that I love it. Just being around the guys. I’m an old line guy and when you close that o-line door, we’re a unit together. That’s what we’re trying to build around here.”
Of course, it isn’t all love between the two. In his own press conference, Garrett described Colombo’s taste in music as “harsh.”
“Harsh? I’m a heavy metal guy,” Colombo said. “That’s the music I love, that’s the music I sing, that’s the music I play, and believe me, Coach Garrett likes it.”
When asked for specifics, Colombo added, “I’m an old-school metal guy. Metallica, anything in the 80s, right? Master Of Puppets ...And Justice For All, Ride the Lightning, Kill ‘Em All.”
Obviously, Colombo has great taste and Metallica’s first four albums are all classics. Personally, I’m a bit disappointed in my colleagues for not pinning Colombo down and getting an answer on his favorite Megadeth lineup or whether Testament should be mentioned as a peer to the Big 4.
Colombo also talked about some offensive line stuff, too.
On what he’s looking to instill in the Giants’ offensive line
“It’s a work ethic and a nasty attitude going on out there,” Colombo said. “Just kind of imposing our will on the defense. All right flying around that’s non-negotiable that comes right from Coach Judge and this organization, we demand it here.
First thing we’re going to do is work around work your butt off and we’re going to play hard. That’s that’s that’s non-negotiable everything else the technique, assignment, stuff like that. We can get that stuff corrected but the effort is non-negotiable.”
Colombo is coming from, and helped coach, a team that has seen some of the best offensive line play in the NFL in recent memory. He was asked what he could bring to the team that would help consistently elevate the play of their offensive line. Predictably, his answer didn’t involve magic pixie dust, but did involve hard work.
Colombo said, “What I try to teach, and again our head coach is just like this, is that attention to detail is everything, every little step matters, right? I’m not to speak for every other coach in the NFL but every single step matters, if you’re not coaching every little detail of it, the player can’t get better. It’s a grind. You got to get in there with every one of these players. You’ve got to make sure they’re doing it exactly the way you want it and you can see even after a few weeks. These guys just eat it up, they love getting coached. That’s our job as coaches. Coach Judge harps on that, coach every little detail, and that’s the way we roll as a unit and that’s how you get better as an offensive line. So I’m really excited with the response I’ve got so far from this unit. I mean these guys have really taken on the challenge and they’re in every day trying to get better after practice working every little detail, every step. We just need to keep getting out there, keep getting the reps and I’m excited for the future of this organization.”
Ultimately, what makes an offensive line great is that it isn’t five great players, but rather one unit that plays great together. The devil is certainly in the details, and having all five members of the line play fundamentally sound football should help that. Players being in position, where their teammates expect them to be, and playing with the technique they all expect will help them all play as a single unit. And having a coach who knows how to be coached should help.
“I think relating to offensive lineman, that can happen because I played in the NFL for a while, and I think these guys respect that and respect the fact that I done it, I seen it,” Colombo said.
“Obviously mastering the techniques that I’m teaching, being able to show them exactly what I want, that’s important to me. It’s important for them to get a visual of exactly what it is, instead of watching another guy doing a technique that I was teaching. I’m able to get in there and do it myself at least right now, you know I’m 41, so I’m not getting any younger.
At the same time, I think that’s an important thing for them to get a good visual of exactly what you want, so you can correct it right there on the field instead of having to go all the way back to the film and correct it afterwards.”
On the Giants’ young linemen
The Giants expected Thomas to start right away when they drafted him at fourth overall. However, every draft selection is a work in progress, and despite the fact that Thomas was considered a “pro ready” prospect, he still has work to be done.
“Andrew is a tremendous football player,” Colombo said. “At this level, it’s fine tuning some of those details. One of the first things we talked about was use of hands, hand strike. Andrew’s aware of where he needs to get better. That was one thing he needs to get better with so it’s something we’ve been working on quite a bit and then just the type of pass rusher you’re going to see week in and week out, you know, it’s going to be a premier pass rusher, being able to study that rusher know how to study him and know what his moves are, know everything that he’s thinking.
“That’s some of the things that we’ve been working on, some of the things have been talking about. Love where Andrew’s heading, again, we got a long way to go but he’s got the right mindset. Smart. He knows where some of his deficiencies are right now and he’s working every day to get better and there’s not a lot of deficiencies. So it’s about cleaning up those little details and keep pushing every day.”
Gates recently signed a lucrative extension, all but ensuring that he would be starting at some position along the offensive line, though we still don’t know whether it will be right tackle or center. Colombo said that Gates is getting “a good share of reps” at center, and things will start to shake out once the pads come on.
“Nick’s doing a tremendous job,” Colombo said. “Never played the position before and he’s the alpha male, that you want at the position. Now, he owns it. That’s what you love about Nick. He’s smart. He’s tough. He’s versatile. You can play any position on the offensive line, which is which is a huge plus for this organization. Just love the kids so far. He’s done a good job but we got a ways to go, again, just getting started here, but we love a lot of things we’ve seen so far.
“He’s getting a good share of reps at center. So we’ll see soon, again, we haven’t put on the pads yet. So once you put on the pads a lot of things are going to reveal themselves.
“We like big centers. I worked with Travis Frederick in Dallas and he’s a big center. Big, athletic, strong. We’re looking for centers that can anchor the middle. One of the biggest things is getting depth right off the bat at center just so we can kind of be the ultimate helper in there.
It’s working his sets, working the depth of the sets. It’s working the calls, the line stunts, that type of stuff. He’s just gotta see it all, as he’s new to the position, so he’s seeing stuff for the first time. And as we get him more reps and give them more looks, he’s going to become more confident. That’s on us coaches to keep giving them, and keep pushing them challenging him every day, as he keeps getting better. So that’s something that we try to do every single day.”
As Colombo says, Gates has never played center before — and has only started three games at the NFL level — and there’s a lot on his plate in the transition. Colombo wouldn’t say whether that inexperience, compounded with QB Daniel Jones inexperience, makes it any more likely that veteran center Spencer Pulley will be the starter.
“We’re all just competing right now,” he said. “Again, it’s really early. We’re young team, a young line up front. That’s fine, these guys accept the challenge. They got to see the looks and stuff like that. You know, we don’t know where this line is going just yet. It’s a little bit too early to make that assessment. Again, the pads haven’t even come on yet things will start to reveal themselves. Inside, everybody’s battling for a starting position, no one’s just given a position here. So, you know, that’s come right from the head coach. Everyone’s going to get a shot because people play and right now we’re just competing to see who that is.”
The Giants face an interesting decision at center. Pulley is a fine backup, but he isn’t the kind of player teams want to be relying on as a starter. But while Gates may have more upside, his lack of experience makes him a riskier proposition. We’ll just have to wait and see whether the Giants choose to go with the safer — but lower ceiling — veteran, or a risky — but potentially rewarding — young player.
The Giants have another potential option at center in rookie Shane Lemieux. Like Gates, Lemieux has never played center before.
“Shane, he’s an extremely tough kid. He’s versatile, he can play the interior positions. It will be interesting to see when you get the pads on, that’s when you can start to see some of the character come out. Some of the stuff you saw on tape and that’s kind of where we’re heading right now with the pads here coming up soon,” Lemieux said. “So, you know, he’s done a tremendous job so far, just gotta keep pushing them all these guys to get better everyday work on something and get a little bit better every day and so far we’re heading in the right direction, we got a long way to go.”
Personally, I’d be surprised if we see Lemieux at center. It’s a lot to ask of a rookie for him to change to a completely new position in an unprecedented offseason. Beyond that, he doesn’t really profile as a center. While his play strength and competitive toughness leap off the field on tape, he doesn’t appear to have the quickness to handle the center position. Likewise, there are occasional lapses in awareness that show up as well. And as Colombo said about Gates, there are a lot of mental things on a center’s plate, such as identifying stunts and games along the defensive line, that a guard doesn’t have to do.