The Giants never saw the version of Cooper Rash that Jason Garrett knew was in the journeyman quarterback.
Before Rush, 28, overtook Joe Burrow to lead the Cowboys to a win last week and threw for 325 yards last season in his first career start, he spent 147 days as a third- or fourth-stringer in the Giants organization. Less than two years after his breakout season in New York, Rush was replaced on the practice squad by Clayton Thorson. It starts with the Giants on “Monday Night Football.”
It begs the question: Were the Giants missing something special? In particular, one of Rush’s biggest advocates is Garrett — the former Cowboys head coach who entrusted Rush as the backup Rush for three seasons during Rush’s first stint in Dallas — on staff as offensive coordinator.
“Other guys might be more impressive athletically — he’s got good size, good athleticism, good arm, all that,” Garrett told the Post, “but that’s what we saw with him early on in Dallas.” Every time he got into an 11-on-11 situation, good things happened. He completed passes, moved the team, scored points.
Therein lies the bulk of the damage. When the Giants claimed waivers from the Cowboys on May 5, 2020, OTA practices and preseason games that were supposed to feature the Rush leading up to his release on September 29 of that year were all canceled due to Covid-19 restrictions. A lot of meetings have been taken to zoom and a truncated training camp hasn’t left many reps to evaluate the bottom of the roster.
“It felt like the decision makers with the Giants weren’t very impressed with how he played or what his potential was,” said Garrett, an analyst for NBC’s “Football Night in America” and the Notre Dame telecast. “To me, Cope is not someone who pleases you physically. Sometimes you get into that. Sometimes these decisions happen.
Other Giants coaches at the time, including Joe Judge, liked Rush’s makeup, sources said. The rest of the NFL is catching up now — three weeks after the Cowboys once again bested any team in the league to steal the Rush.
“I’ve seen somebody who’s a starting quarterback in this league,” first-year Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. Looking at him and the decisions he makes, I think he’s going to be a long-term quarterback in this league.
Daniel Jones, who will start opposite Rush, credits his counterpart as a “huge help” in learning a new offense in those early months of the Judge-Garrett era. He is not alone.
“Cooper knew the system inside and out,” said receiver David Sills, then a third-stringer trying to make his NFL debut. “A lot of us are just starting to learn, and he’s out there as ‘The Z.’ [receiver] F does this and F does that.’ “
The 2020 Giants moved forward with Jones backed up by Colt McCoy. Thorson was on and off the roster for two years before landing in the USFL. Alex Taney, who overlapped with Rush during the season, is the offensive quality control coach for the Eagles.
“It was short-lived, but I’m glad,” Rush told reporters. “I enjoyed being in the room with Daniel, and I’m happy to see him play well.”
Rush returned to the Cowboys a month after being cut by the Giants, who went 1-7 over the past two seasons with Jones as his backup. Garrett has been released by the Cowboys in January 2021 and the Giants in November 2022, and declined to discuss either departure.
“Where people have gone wrong at quarterback over the years is they love the wrong things,” Garrett said.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is hoping to have Rush play well, threatening the starting job of injured Dak Prescott. But Garrett is thinking back to the 2017 Hall of Fame Game, when a rookie led a 75-yard touchdown drive in his first impression as a pro.
“We all looked at each other and said, ‘That was great,'” Garrett recalled. “He knows where he’s going with the ball. His teammates respond to him. He’s ready. The guy you see is the guy we’ve seen from the beginning. That’s why we gravitated to him and made him a backup quarterback.”
Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has put several elements of the offense in place since Garrett’s departure from Dallas.
“He’s a guy who understands the offense,” Garrett said. “It didn’t surprise me a bit that he had success against Cincinnati last year or last week. He’s in good form when the game starts and he has a chance to move the team.