Tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens will assume playcalling duties against his former team less than a calendar year after the Browns fired him.
"I think Freddie's experience in this league of calling plays and coordinating an offense is something that fits into what we're doing now," said coach Joe Judge, who also noted that the Giants have allowed assistants to call plays in practice throughout the year to prepare for this exact situation.
The Giants canceled practice Thursday "out of an abundance of caution." They are working with the league's chief medical officer to determine the next steps. There didn't appear to be any close contacts as of Thursday morning.
The Giants' coaches and players did not meet in person on Monday or Tuesday. Per league guidelines, they worked remotely. The Giants did practice in person on Wednesday, but close interaction was limited to 10- or 30-second clips. There was nothing that warranted any other coach or player to self-isolate.
Zoom meetings were held on Thursday, with Garrett participating just as he would have had they been in the building. But he will not be with the team Friday when it gets back on the field for what Judge called a "hybrid day" that will involve traditional Thursday and Friday activities.
Judge said the Giants have been very thorough about making sure everyone keeps their distance this season. They converted their spacious fieldhouse into meeting rooms. They wear masks and shields during walk-throughs while making sure players are constantly on the move and don't congregate in one area during practice.
"The one thing we've been told continuously throughout this whole process from the league is it's all about spacing and avoiding crowds," Judge said. "We've made an emphasis this entire year about doing that."
Garrett was hired this past offseason to lead the Giants' offense after nine seasons as the Dallas Cowboys' head coach. But it has been a struggle, especially without star running back Saquon Barkley. Only the New York Jets have scored fewer points this season than the Giants, who are one game out of first place in the NFC East entering Week 15.
The Giants (5-8) are also unsure whether starting quarterback Daniel Jones will be healthy enough to start against the Browns. Judge said on Wednesday that it was too early to make that decision. Now, with Jones having missed a day of practice and evaluation of his ankle and hamstring, Judge didn't expect a final call on his quarterback until after Saturday's extended walk-through.
Jones was allowed to go to the Giants' facility on Thursday for treatment. Judge liked what he saw at Wednesday's practice but still needs to see more.
"I was encouraged with how he moved around [Wednesday] in practice. How he threw the ball, how he was in the pocket. That was very encouraging," he said. "That being said, we have to see him in a faster tempo. [Friday] will really be the day to evaluate that out there. It's two injuries. It's a little bit different situation than it was last week. He's making progress."
Kitchens, who has experience calling plays, will be working with either Jones or Colt McCoy, another former Brown. He has spent this season primarily guiding the Giants' tight ends, but Judge noted earlier this week that he had been a "tremendous aid the entire season in the way he helps with game-planning and scouting reports."
Garrett, 54, will continue to work remotely.
Kitchens' success with the Browns late in the 2018 season earned him a promotion to head coach last year. Cleveland finished 13th in total offense during Baker Mayfield's rookie season. He threw 19 of his rookie-record 27 touchdown passes in the final eight games under Kitchens, when the Browns went 5-3.
But Cleveland fired Kitchens after a rocky 2019 season in which Mayfield regressed and threw 21 interceptions.
Judge worked hard to get Kitchens on his staff. The two have ties from their time together at Mississippi State and Alabama, and Judge considers the former head coach a trusty confidant. He doesn't expect an entirely new-look offense with Kitchens calling plays.
"Our offense is our offense. We'll see how it adjusts based on the game plan," Judge said. "We'll see how it adjusts based on the rest of this week and how practice goes."
Sunday has now turned into the ultimate Freddie Kitchens revenge game. The Browns (9-4) are having a strong first year under new coach Kevin Stefanski, something Kitchens has noticed from a distance.
"I couldn't be happier for the fans of Cleveland," he said earlier this week. "They've waited a long time to have something like that to go to the games and cheer for. But there are no two teams that are the same. We say that every year."