When the Dallas Cowboys travel to face the New England Patriots this Sunday afternoon they will have a rare underdog status. But the biggest mismatch won't be between any two players or units on the field. The greatest disparity between Dallas and New England is on the sidelines; head coaches Jason Garrett and Bill Belichick.
Garrett has two playoff wins in nine seasons, with Dallas only getting three postseason appearances during his head-coaching tenure. The Cowboys have never advanced past the second round in those tournaments. He is 2-5 overall in playoff games and 83-63 in the regular season.
Belichick's won six Super Bowls and appeared in three others. He's 31-11 in playoff games and 270-124 in the regular season. He's third all-time in total wins and eighth in win percentage; clearly on the short list for greatest head coaches in NFL history.
Jason's career win percentage is actually not bad compared to some of his fellow coaches. He's 51st overall, with Bill Parcells at 50th and Chuck Noll at 52nd. Garrett's win percentage is higher than respected names like Marv Levy, Mike Ditka, Mike Shanahan, and even our beloved Jimmy Johnson.
Jason Garrett is not, and never has been, a bad NFL head coach. But he's one of many guys who will likely be forgotten fifty years from now.
The guy across from him this Sunday, Bill Belichick, is the modern-day Vince Lombardi. He is the new gold standard for coaching success.
Jason does some wonderful things at times. He's a great motivator and leader; the Cowboys consistently play hard and even when a situation looks hopeless. His influence has also helped Dallas become much better at team building and roster management than before he arrived.
Garrett has a good sense of the more global issues of coaching and building a winning team. But where he tends tends to come up short is in the heat of battle; situational coaching and decision making.
We saw that a few weeks ago on Tavon Austin's fair catch call against the Vikings. There was a communication breakdown between Garrett, his special teams coach, and the punt returner. Austin didn't take advantage of what looked like an easy return opportunity and may have cost Dallas the game.
We saw it last year in overtime against the Houston Texans, when Garrett elected to punt the ball on a 4th-and-1 situation on Houston's 42-yard line. Despite having the NFL's leading rusher, Jason played it overly safe and was even publicly disagreed with by Jerry Jones in the aftermath of the loss.
We've seen it many times with issues such as clock management or challenging play call. Garrett's not always wrong and sometimes it works out fine, but there have been enough blunders through the years that we're never entirely confident.
Bill Belichick is the master of situational coaching. He adjusts and adapts with the best of them; his defenses can have very different looks from week to week. And not only do he and his coaches know what to do in various situations, but his players show the same acumen and proper training to execute as desired.
Garrett is an adequate manager of talent. Belichick elevates his talent with masterful coaching.
That doesn't mean the Cowboys are going to lose today. Players still have to play and Dallas has some talent advantages on the field. They are certainly capable of winning.
But if this one comes down to which coach makes the best adjustments and calls in crucial situations, New England is probably going to win as they normally do. That's because their head coach may be the best to ever do it and Dallas' is just another guy.
Bill Belichick versus Jason Garrett; there is no comparison. And it's a good reminder of why the Cowboys will probably be looking for a new head coach this offseason.